Jun 24, 2023

 Hacking Teacher Burnout Summer Book Study Series: Seeking Solutions for Today’s Teaching Challenges

Let’s be real, there are a multitude of issues and challenges teachers face today. I mean SO MANY! And it can be hard sometimes to not allow the weight of the challenges to weigh you down and become the driving force of the narrative that you begin to believe.  (I know, I’ve been there…) But it’s when we can flip the script and instead of focusing on what’s challenging us choose to focus on solutions that we can begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel of our burnout.  

Welcome to episode 189 of the Burned-In Teacher podcast! This is our fourth meeting of the Hacking Teacher Burnout Summer Book Study Series, and we're going to dive into chapter three of my book Hacking Teacher Burnout. We're going to talk about and reflect and take action on your challenges, and we're going to use this as an opportunity to rise through our challenges, rise from our challenges, and seek solutions. Let's dive in and start becoming solution seekers!

I have a lot of mini-stories about the multitude of challenges that I have faced in my life, and not just my adult life, I'm talking about high school, middle school, and even elementary school. One challenge that came to light - not in the way that I had planned it to - was close to after the dramatic breakdown I had in 2014. I remember I was in our kitchen with Jeff and I was just crying and complaining (again). At this point, I wasn’t even in the classroom anymore, I was working at the nonprofit.  

Finally, Jeff looked at me and asked, “What do you want?” And my response just flew out of my mouth and I said, “I don't want to live here anymore!” After I said that, I remember him turning ghostly white and I explained, “No, I want to live with you, I just don't want to live here anymore.” Now when I tell that story, it makes people laugh, but the reason that I'm sharing this story with you is that I was having all of these surface-level challenges - but when I dug deeper there was an underlying challenge and all it took was Jeff finally asking me that question to release it. This is what this chapter is all about!  Hack #3  is all about getting to the root cause of surface-level frustrations and challenges.

After I told Jeff that  I didn’t want to live where we were anymore, he tells me, “I don't either. Let's sell the house.” I told myself for so long that I couldn't be honest about the fact that this house we had dreamt of wasn’t what I thought it was going to be, and it turns out he didn't want to have that conversation either because both of us didn't want to let the other person down. And that's what this chapter is meant to do, it’s meant to help you to get to the root cause of your challenges so that you are empowered to have those hard conversations and to empower yourself to honor how you feel. Unless we talk about what is challenging us, it will continue to eat away at us. I told myself for years that we couldn’t move because we had only lived there for two or three years and we’ve moved several times before that, but it turns out it was pretty darn easy for us to move!  And I know that it was a privilege, but we sold our house on Facebook in three days!  All of these stories I was telling myself such as “I can't do this” “We will never be able to do this” and “I'm stuck here” were lies. And I was keeping myself stuck. We both were.

We've lived in the town that we live in now for close to seven years, and we still talk about how grateful we are that we did the “scary thing” and that we got honest with ourselves about what was causing us to be miserable, and I want that so badly for you. And let me be super clear, picking up and moving is not going to solve everybody's problems. Some people aren't able to do that. Sometimes it's not that easy. Sometimes that's not even what you want. But for our family, it really was the right thing to do. 

In this chapter (Hack #3), we are going to help you to rise from those challenges and to seek solutions. What are the three action steps from pages 81 - 86 that you are going to take this week? My favorite always, and forever, will be asking myself “Can I or can't I control this?” It's at the top of my list of things to do when I'm beginning to feel frustrated or victimized.

Let's jump into the Blueprint for Full Implementation. 

#1: How have you or how can you use radical acceptance in your life in the future? There are a lot of things in my life that I used to try to control or I would let control me or my mood that I simply had to accept as the way that life is. Radical acceptance is accepting life on life's terms. You might not agree with it, but it is truly the way it is and there is nothing that I can do about it - or at least nothing that I'm choosing to do about it because it's not my role. It's not related to my core values in life and it's not my mission. This has been extremely helpful in me slowing down and deciding what I will and will not get worked up ab about because there's a lot to get worked up about, right? I highly suggest that you put the definition on repeat in your mind because there is a lot of room for radical acceptance in our profession. 

#2: I remember learning about subjunctives back in 2012. I don't know why this lesson I was teaching my third graders stuck with me so deeply, perhaps it’s because I found myself going there so often. The subjunctives are the “shouldas”, “couldas”, “wouldas” we all can get lost in. Where do you find yourself adding subjunctives? For example, “I shoulda done this” “I coulda done this” or “If this woulda happened”. These can really drag you down. That's a different type of crab that keeps you stuck. I'm curious if you've noticed that language in your life.  

#3: We talked about personal and professional bias. Calling out our bias in ourselves is something we can all do better with. And this is HARD. It's a hard lesson to learn. It's hard to call yourself out on your own BS and your own biases. After reading this section, I'd like you to call yourself out on your own bias. List those relationships that you're struggling with and then write out what assumptions you could be making about that person, that population, or those kids in your class.  These assumptions could be controlling your outlook and your narrative about the situation. Be really honest with yourself about the biases you have been living with, because when you are, you can begin to make small changes, maybe even big changes, and those will have a ripple effect.

#4: Step four is all about breaking a challenge down and focusing on the solutions instead of the challenges. In this step, I want you to - using a T-chart - actually list the challenges that come to mind, those that are weighing the heaviest on your heart, on the left, and list possible solutions on the right. Rather than focusing so hard on the challenge, we’re instead focusing on what it is that we can possibly do about it if anything. 

#5: Is about becoming a solution seeker. Think about even the smallest solution-orientated step that you can take forward. This helps you realize if you are trying to control everything or maybe you are trying to be a fixer of everyone’s problems when you should really be focusing on your own. This step is going to help you to realize new ways of dealing with your challenge. 

#6: Step 6 is literally one of my favorites! When you LITERALLY physically sit inside of your challenges and think about how you feel versus writing out those solutions, it changes your perspective. It makes you decide if these are things that you want to surround yourself, with or do you want to surround yourself with solutions. I'm going to choose that option B every time! 

 I always want to see the possibilities and the opportunities. I always want to see a way for me to be able to grow. I live by this quote: If it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you. Now, this doesn’t mean that you’re smiling through the hardship. It's hard! I literally cried in my classroom the other day after my kids went to lunch. It was a hard day. And when I wondered about what I could learn from that situation, I learned even though I have a lot of patience and a lot of grace, I can only handle so much, and sometimes I need to step out and take a break. I learned that day that it's okay for me to say to my administration I need a break because I’ve reached my threshold.  

So, that’s all for this week’s book club meeting! I would love for you to join us next week when we dive into Hack #4: Nurture Your Habits and Strengths. I love this chapter! This is one of my top three favorite chapters in the book. Read pages 101 through 118 and let us know what's resonating with you in the Burned-In Teacher Podcast Facebook Community. And of course, you can always connect with me on Instagram at @burnedinteacher.  I cannot wait to dive into Hack #4 with you next week! 


Call to Action: Things You Can Do Tomorrow 

  1. Reflect on your personal and professional biases.  Think about who you are struggling with the most and consider what are possible assumptions that you could be making that might be controlling your narrative for that situation. 
  2. Become a seeker of solutions.  List out your challenges, and then - if they are things that you can control - come up with possible solutions to the things that are challenging you the most. 
  3. Sit inside of your challenges and possible solutions (check out page 94 in Hacking Teacher Burnout for directions on how to do this). Reflect on how this activity makes you feel. 


Resources Mentioned in This Episode 





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