Jun 10, 2023

Hacking Teacher Burnout Summer Book Study Series: How to Not Burnout as a Teacher by Beginning Where You Are

How to not burnout as a teacher is a question that many educators are faced with.  With the overwhelming workload, unrealistic demands, and lack of respect, not falling into burnout seems like an impossible task. 

So what are you to do? Where should one start? 

Welcome to episode 187 of the Burned-In Teacher Podcast. This episode is the second meeting of the Hacking Teacher Burnout Summer Book Study Series, and we're going to dive into Hack #1: Begin Where You Are. Today, we're going to reflect on what brought you to where you are right now.

 But before we jump into this episode, I want to start with a story… and I will NEVER forget this day. I don't remember the exact date, but one day I went home when the kids went out to recess to just quickly let the dog out and be back to school to finish the day, just like I had done days and days and days previous. But this day was DIFFERENT. This day, my dog decided to crap in his kennel and roll and sit in it. To say that I was frustrated with the situation is an understatement. If you've heard this story before, then you know that this was my rock bottom moment and you know that I was hysterical. You know that I couldn't stop crying to the point where my team thought my husband had died. Imagine their underwhelm when I told them that Oliver pooped in his kennel. 

This was my rock bottom. 

This is what I call my “Oliver moment”, and a lot of teachers that I work with have had similar moments, and I hope that you never do if you haven't. But it’s in this moment where I truly believe Burned-In Teacher was born and this is why I do what I do.  In the days, months, and even years leading up to this rock bottom “Oliver moment”, I was just surviving. I was surviving my career. I was surviving until the weekend. I was surviving until breaks. And I don't even know WHY. I don't know why I was fighting so hard to continue waking up and feeling the same way about my career in education and my life in general, every single day. And that's what we're going to talk about today. 

Today, we are going to reflect on where you’ve been and begin where you are. When I had my breakdown - that very public, very embarrassing, very emotional, very raw breakdown in front of my teacher friends - I had a stark realization that something big had to change. And it wasn't any of the things that I was saying needed to change in order for me to be happier,  It was ME. I had to change. But I had so many things to change that I didn't know where to start. 

This moment is honestly something that I now look back on and I'm so grateful for because, without that rock bottom moment, I wouldn't be here. I would not be sitting behind the mic coaching you and walking you through this book. In 2014 If you would have told me that I was going to write a book about surviving burnout and coaching teachers, I would have laughed at you! (I probably would have cried.) 

If you’ve ever felt these feelings, you're not crazy. I felt crazy in that moment, but you're not crazy. You just have to begin where you are and that's what we're going to do today.  When I was at my rock bottom moment (and I was there for a long time) it just took that one single straw to break the camel's back. I was so burned out. I had lost sight of who I wanted to serve. I lost sight of how much I loved teaching. I lost sight of my values. I lost who I was.

There are so many times when I've asked teachers what they wanted and they don't even know. If someone were to ask you right now “What do you want?”, what would you say? Be honest with yourself. That's why in the “What You Can Do Tomorrow” section I give you several things that you can choose from to help you to decide what YOUR next best step is. You can choose to list out people who could become your “Burnout Buddy”, people who go on this journey with you, or you could jump into the Facebook group and ask people to be your Burnout Buddy for the rest of this book studies series. Or perhaps you really want to do a deep dive into your core values. There are several different options in the “What You Can Do Tomorrow” section for you to dive into. Which of these action steps shared do you want to do? 

This is the beginning of thinking about how you got here. And again, what you want going forward. You creating a vision for yourself that begins with you reflecting on where you've been, and what is causing you to decide that you’ve had enough of this burned-out life is such an important step. Sometimes it takes that rock bottom moment, and sometimes it doesn't.

Also in this chapter, we address some of the negative things that you've been saying that are keeping you stuck in this burnout cycle. These are things that could be causing you to either keep feeling worse or keep you stuck in that rock bottom moment. I challenge you in this chapter to replace those negative thoughts and words with critical questions that I want you to ask yourself. So give it a go and let me know how it goes!

So here's what I want you to do as soon as possible. In the “What You Can Do Tomorrow” section of this chapter, choose three out of five of those things to do. I encourage you to share what you're doing on social media and tag me at @burnedinteacher or post an image of what you're doing to Begin Where You Are inside of the Burned-In Teacher Podcast Facebook group. There is nothing I would love more than cheering you on and for you to have others cheer you on as you take even the smallest step out of this rock bottom place that you may be in.  And if you're not in that rock bottom place and you're feeling good and your goal is to continue to feel good, then you can identify how you're going to keep going. In the Hacking Teacher Burnout Book Study Guide, there is a lot of space for you to think deeply about what you believed caused your burnout based on your Burnout Type. Use that space because when you get all the things that are jumbled up in your head onto paper, you can start to find clarity. And that's what I did not do pre-2014, but I saw things in a whole new light when I started to write things down. Now, this is different than making to-do lists, this is reflecting on how you're feeling and how you're going to move forward. 

I also encourage you, in this chapter, to decide who you want to bring on this journey with you, those Burnout Buddies that I mentioned, and to think about those people who you go to work for. I want you to think deeply about what you do and why you do it every single day. Okay, hear me out… We are NOT going to spend the entire book explaining your “why” for teaching, we're going to go so much broader than that. And in this section, we do talk a little bit about whether or not you are serving who you feel you want to be serving. Check out pages 41 and 42 for a deep dive into this concept. 

I am going to pull a small snippet from “Overcoming Pushback” to read to you because I know there are some who either haven't gotten the book yet or who have the book but you are thinking that you’re never going to finish it because you never have time for yourself, and I want you to know that I see you. I'm going to read you this small section from page 43. I love these sections of each of the Hacks because it really does address the pushback that we either get from other people or that we even get from ourselves. This, specifically, is some pushback you might get from YOURSELF as you're starting to move forward. 

“There's so much to do. I don't have time to do any of this. As you'll learn in Hack 2, what you choose to believe will be your reality. So if you choose to believe that you aren't worthy of taking the time to move through these steps and put them into action, then that will be your truth. However, I encourage you to believe that you are capable, and you are worthy of the time it will take to reflect, act upon, and grow because of this book, it will take time. But the momentum you will build by taking small steps each day will be worth your effort, I promise.” (43)

If it's been a challenge for you to build the habit (we’ll be going deeper into habits in a couple of weeks) of reading maybe a page a day, or two pages a day, or you want to sit down and knock out the whole chapter, stop telling yourself the story that you can't because typically what “I can't” means is “I won't”. I'm starting to get ahead of myself, but all of these things run together. So take this time, if you haven't already, to read Hack 1. Dive in deep. Do the reflection in the Hacking Teacher Burnout Book Study guide, it is worth the time to write everything that’s jumbled up in your mind down. I promise you. 

That's all for this book club meeting! Join us next week when we dive into Hack 2, “Understand Your Teacher Brand”. It is one of my top three favorite chapters! I love it so much and it's also the favorite of a lot of people who read this book. So for next week, read pages 49 through 75, and let us know what's resonating with you or what questions you might have in the Facebook group. You can also connect with me on Instagram at @burnedinteacher. I cannot wait for our next meeting!


Call to Action: Things You Can Do Tomorrow 

  1. Reflect on where you are (both physically and emotionally) and why you may be feeling the way you are.  Make sure to write it all down! 
  2. Find your Burnout Buddy!
  3. Choose 3 to 5 things from the “What You Can Do Tomorrow” section of the book (p. 35 - 37).  Share your plan for completing them and updates on your progress in the Facebook Group


Resources Mentioned in This Episode 






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