The power that our mindset has is often overlooked. Our mindset and correlating thought processes have the power to make or break situations, support or eliminate opportunities for success, and even to keep you stuck in or get out of burnout. Having systems and support to not only guide you but show you how to change your negative thought spirals is vital in not only starting but continuing your journey out of burnout.
Welcome to episode 184 of the Burned-In Teacher Podcast! I'm so grateful that you decided to join us today for this Burned-In Teacher Student Spotlight Episode with Wayne Basinger. Wayne has been teaching for 21 years and he currently teaches Honors English 10 - with an emphasis on philosophy - and AP Art History. He loves meditation, the peloton, and gratitude journaling.
If you taught during COVID, then his story is going to be extremely relatable, but even if you didn't teach through COVID, you're also going to connect with Wayne’s great perspectives because he learned a lot through the hardships he faced and that overwhelming feeling of survival that plagued his mindset. I actually get a little emotional listening to his story at one point.
But before we dive into this interview, I want to remind you of a couple of things… Number one, the Hacking Teacher Burnout Summer Book Study Series is starting on June 3rd and I’m so pumped! In this podcast series, I am going to be taking you through the reflection questions in the Hacking Teacher Burnout Book Study Guide that we have on TpT. So if you haven't already, you should definitely get your hands on the book Hacking Teacher Burnout and the book study guide, and make sure to join The Burned-In Teacher Podcast Facebook Community.
Number two, if you’ve not yet left a rating and review of the podcast, I would so appreciate if you would consider it! Whenever you leave ratings and reviews, especially on Apple podcasts, it helps other teachers who are struggling with burnout to find the podcast. I did get this amazing review from a listener:
“I've been listening to Amber for almost two years after I discovered her book and website, she's helped me down a path of positive and consistent change. It hasn't been easy. But her support and advice have helped me to make so many changes in my personal and professional life. Amber doesn't just help people as teachers, she helps people as people. And you know, that is definitely the goal around here.”
Thank you so much to the person who left this amazing review, I appreciate it so, so much!
And number three, if you find this interview intriguing and you want to have a success story like Wayne had, consider joining the Burned-In Teacher University Course. I never closed the doors to the course because I want to help teachers when they need it, and when you are at your rock bottom moment and you want and need help, I want to be here for you. You can click here to find out more or you can send me a DM on Instagram or send me an email at [email protected]. I would love to hear from you and answer questions you might have about changing your life through this course because that's what it was designed to do. This course is exactly what I needed when I was struggling with my burnout. You know, 10 years ago there was nothing like this out there so I decided to become my own hero, and I want to help you to become yours as well.
Alright, without further ado, let's dive into my interview with Wayne!
Amber: Hello Wayne! Thank you so much for joining us today on the Burned-In Teacher Podcast. Will you tell the listeners a little bit about you?
Wayne: Sure. My name is Wayne Basinger. I'm an English Teacher at Cleveland High School and Receita, this is my 21st year at the school. I'm also the coach of the debate team and I work as a coordinator of my grade level in our magnet program, so I wear lots of hats, which can get a little stressful from time to time. But I’m so thankful that I found your podcast and all of your wonderful strategies to stay BURNED-IN instead of burned out.
Amber: Thank you so much for being here! You are a very busy man, for sure.
Let's start at the beginning. Did you always want to be a teacher? Or did you have a career before this?
Wayne: This is my second career. At first, I was a human resources executive, so I used to hire and fire people for a living.
I lived through the.com boom and bust. One startup company I worked for made $250 million, we had an onsite massage therapist and everything was amazing, and then the next company I worked for went bankrupt and I had to fire 163 people, including myself.
Amber: Oh my gosh, that's atrocious. So what brought you to teaching?
Wayne: I knew that I couldn't stay in a profession where I might have to fire 163 people which included grandmothers who were the sole means of support for their grandchildren, it just wasn't fulfilling.
I always had a desire, in the back of my mind, to go into teaching. I knew a woman who was a counselor at the high school where I work and so she's like, I think we're hiring in special ed, let me talk to the principal. I go in for an interview and in less than five minutes I have a job offer and I'm driving down to the district office and they told me, If you'll join an emergency credential program, I can hire you for next year. And so it was almost overnight that I went from being in the corporate world to becoming a teacher.
Amber: So you started your teaching profession in special ed?
Wayne: Yeah. I did five years in special education where I had this special day class which was for kids who read at a third to fifth-grade reading level. I also had to support students integrating back into into general education classes and providing them with the extra support that they needed to be successful.
Amber: That's fantastic. So is that part of your burnout story? What does your burnout story look like for you? Have you just burned out once or has it been multiple times?
Wayne: Yeah, I've burned out a couple of times. I left special ed because it looked like we were just going to become glorified paper pushers and assistants in the classroom. They took away pullout classes where you actually got to work directly with kids and instead, you were going to just sit in the back and basically write IEPs. That didn't appeal to me at all. That was the first time I knew I needed to make a change.
I decided to go back to school and got my English credential and then got hired into our magnet program here. Over my career, I've switched classes because I tend to get bored every five to seven years. I think I'm definitely Burned and Bored. Luckily, we have lots of flexibility between our grade levels and I've been able to teach a film class and a digital production class. I've been able to switch things up, but I've really found my sweet spot where I'm at now - both in philosophy and art history. These classes are just absolutely fantastic!
I really hit burnout most recently during COVID. It was just insane! We had somebody leave our program in the middle of the year. And so I had to take on an auxiliary that I didn't want, which meant I lost my conference period and increased my grading. So that meant I was doing all the prep and grading that I would normally do during my conference period at home on the weekends. I just felt like I was just getting more buried and more buried and more buried…
I remember, specifically, it was the third day of the semester last spring when the new variant was exploding and we did two days of social-emotional learning to help the kids deal with the crisis and then we were supposed to jump right back to the curriculum. One night I woke up from a dead sleep in the middle of the night, ran to my computer and the only thought that kept running through my head was I'm not ready. I'm not going to be able to teach today. I don't have what I need.
So I'm frantically looking through computer files just trying to find anything to supplement that lesson, and then I look at the corner of the screen and it is 2:30 AM. I was like, What on earth are you doing? I kind of sat back for a second and I was like, I think I'm having a panic attack. I’d never had one before, so I actually didn't know what a panic attack was. I Googled “What are the symptoms of a panic attack” and it was: a racing heart (which I absolutely had), an inability to sleep, and an inability to control your thoughts which are just spirals of negative thoughts. I was like, Well, I have the trifecta… I’m totally having my first panic attack of my entire life. And it was at that moment that I knew something was desperately wrong and I needed solutions, immediately.
My body was telling me to stop trying to teach the curriculum in the middle of an explosion of a pandemic and instead that I needed to ease back into it and let the kids ease back in too. The next day at school, 1/3 of the students were out because of either fear of the variant or because they had it. I was just like, Why are you trying to jump into the curriculum in the middle of what's happening? But our magnet coordinator and our principal said You got to get back to the curriculum. We got to push through it. It was crazy…
Amber: Isn’t it interesting how those stories that we tell ourselves really do affect our mental health and then eventually our physical health?
What's so scary about that situation, too, is that panic attacks are often confused for heart attacks, so you're left wondering if this is a panic attack, which is obviously serious, or a heart attack, which could be deadly. It’s terrifying that you went through that.
It's also so interesting to me that you were telling yourself the story that you had to jump right back in as if it was normal because the powers that be were telling you that you had to. I hope that now you see that you could have eased up on yourself a little bit, right?
Wayne: Absolutely. I was very lucky I had a therapist who I was able to reach out to. I had used her a few years prior but I reached back out to her and said, Hey, I'm really struggling, and she got me in and we really started working on those negative thoughts. That was the first place I had to attack.
To help me with this, she introduced me to the concept that automatic negative thoughts are the ones that just keep reoccurring and were the ones that kept hitting me:
You're not working hard enough…
You're not smart enough…
You're not good enough to do this job anymore…
You don't have it anymore…
The world's changed, and you're just not ready for it…
These thoughts were just on a repeat loop, and I almost quit. I had actually drafted my resignation letter, and would without therapy I would have turned it in.
Amber: I've been in a similar place and hearing you tell that story almost makes me emotional because when you get to that place where in your mind you tell yourself that there is no hope for you, it almost becomes a sort of “flight or fight” response, which is where panic attacks come from.
Thank you so much for sharing that with us because that's so deeply personal.
Leading up to the pandemic, were things okay? Were you feeling confident or were you just kind of cruising along? Or, was it that specific situation that you were put in during COVID?
Wayne: I’ve always had moments where I had burnout, but I was always able to bounce back. In our program, we're writing an intensive college prep program, so we have these massive essays that we give every 10 weeks. And when you're in the middle of that stack of grading, it's really easy to get burned out, but you figure out how to shuffle things in your classes and you back off of grading until that pile is done. So it was manageable, but when COVID hit, what was normal and manageable became completely unmanageable, especially when you throw in the stress of an additional class that you weren’t planning on.
What happened was, in mid-semester, a woman left in the middle of the fall semester., and I think I had three days' notice that I was getting this class. Luckily, it was a class I taught before so I had the materials, but you're just not in the groove when it hits you mid-semester.
So I decided to use all of the winter break to get prepared to get ahead of all of this, but then the variant hits and all of those lesson plans I had just done had to be thrown in the trash, or at least delayed.
Amber: That added a layer of frustration because you felt like your break was wasted, right? Like you did all of that work for free, and you can't just ignore that because it just eats away at you.
I have totally been there, too. I'm so sorry that you went through that. That just really sucks.
Wayne: In the moment, yeah, it was terrible; but in hindsight, I really realized how valuable that time was because it taught me I have to have boundaries. If I don't put boundaries around my time and around the things that I'm willing to do and not do, people are just going to always pile stuff on. They will give you as much as you'll take.
And I also decided that I had to start thinking about what I love and what do I not love about this job. I made the choice that I was going to embrace the things that I loved, and for the things that I didn’t, I would just have to say no.
Amber: I love it! And that's our podcast for today's people! Just kidding!
Wayne: That’s why I love your program so much. It does those two things almost right out of the gate. The course makes you really reflect on your thoughts by identifying the stories that you’re telling yourself, and if they are negative, determining if that is reality or if it’s just a bunch of BS.
My therapist taught me to do this thing we called “the anteater”. What you do is list all your negative thoughts on the left side of T-Chart, and then on the right write counters to each of them. And once you start writing the counterarguments, you realize that what you were thinking was ridiculous. That the story you were telling yourself isn't true and isn't reality.
Eventually, I didn't even need to write the chart because I could automatically tell myself that it was a lie and just move on. It’s made night and day. In doing this work, I became more creative. I’d go back through my lesson plans and realize, Oh, my God, this is a winner that I used to use and the kids loved it. It was low grading because it was one that I use during a stressful times. I was happy to be there and I was back in the groove!
But until I turned those negative thoughts off, I could not access the creative part of my teaching brain. Instead, I just felt like I was getting buried more and more every day. But once I just eliminated the negative thoughts, I could unbury myself.
Amber: Creating clarity is what you did. Burnout becomes this wall of fog where you can't see past how overwhelmed or frustrated or anxious you are about all of the things that are happening around you. It really does take you stopping and paying attention. And exactly like “the anteater” that you used with your therapist, we do a similar thing in the program but we call it “writing rebuttals” so we can determine what are lies or just basically BS. Naming it before it sneaks in and tears you down is so important.
Wayne: Absolutely. I see exactly why you put working on mindset first because it is absolutely the first step. You can't go to strategies until you tackle the mindset. Once I did that the lights came on.
Amber: That’s what’s so hard about doing this work because nobody wants to hear that you have to start with your mindset, right? No one wants to hear that you have to accept responsibility, not that I'm blaming you for this because it's not your fault, but you're the only one who can change this because you have to change your mind first. And no one can change your mind, but you
Wayne: Absolutely. When I start using the language, stop burning yourself out, people do put up those defensive walls. Yes, the system has lots of things going on trying to burn you out, but if you're adding to it and if you’re helping to build that wall, stop. Take the actions that will help you breathe and help you be creative and find those solutions that are there.
Amber: Absolutely. I'm going to sneak up on you here and ask about something I didn't plan on talking about. You asked such a great question on our coaching call last week, you said: How do I talk about these things that I'm learning and all these things that have helped me so much? How do I talk about them and tell people about them? How do I let them know about Burned-In Teacher? I said, Well, you can't. You can't preach to someone who doesn't want to sit in the pulpit, right? We're not there to change their mind, but we can continually show up and model what it looks like. So how has that gone for you?
Wayne: Pretty well. What I've done is I've approached teachers that I know are really struggling, who I think are open to suggestions because they're at rock bottom. I'll be like, Hey, do you just want to go out to dinner? I'll just listen and you can tell me what's happening. I took three teachers out a couple of weeks ago. And, you know, we met at 4:30 and we thought we'd only have some appetizers, but we stayed for four hours because they just kept telling their stories about how burned out and how underappreciated they feel. That was what made the dam break. And then they asked, "What can you share with me? So I started sharing little pieces of your workbook and I suggested that they listen to the podcast, and if they were really interested they should join Burned-In Teacher because it creates transformation.
Amber: I really appreciate you sharing everything that you've learned and spreading the message. Whenever people listen to these podcast episodes, my hope is that it feels like we're sitting down at the table together. But you're doing what I can't do, I can't be everywhere at once. I just really appreciate you spreading that Burned-In message. That means a lot to me.
Wayne: I'm happy to do it because I think you have really nailed the system. Like I wrote a book, it was really more of a memoir for me to kind of process what I went through during COVID, and literally, as I'm flipping through the book, going chapter by chapter, I'm like, Wow, that's exactly what Amber said. Wow, we are so on the same page. And I'm so glad you put it in such a condensed, easy-to-follow system, that can be handed to a teacher to work on.
It works. It's really terrific what you've put together.
Amber: Thank you so much. I really feel like it is my life's work. I never want anybody to suffer in isolation, and also in tandem very publicly, and not have a way out. We just have this one life and I'm just glad that it's had an impact on you in such a positive way.
We are going to back up a little bit. Tell me, how did you find Burned-In Teacher?
Wayne: At first, I thought I had some pretty good suggestions and my therapist really helped me dig my way out and I really started to see the sunlight again. But I knew there had to be more, I knew there were people that were experiencing what I did. So I just did a Google search for burned-out teachers and you were one of the first things that came up.
Then I saw you had so many podcast episodes and I started to listen. As I listened to more, I'm like, This is awesome. Does she have a course? So I bought the course, and then I saw you had the Mastermind so I decided I was going to do that. I've just progressively got everything I've needed. You have it all there and so I'm so happy I did that Google search and that you were one of the first things that came up. It was fantastic. It was like fate that I found it.
Amber: Thank you so much for telling me that. I'm so glad that it's coming up as one of the first things that you see because when I Googled things back in 2009/2010, it was just the same list of things to do: practice self-care, drink more water, get outside… And yes, drinking more water and practicing self-care, and getting outside are all good, but I needed to do way deeper work than that.
When I had that breakdown in 2014, that was my rock bottom moment. After that is when I dove into the idea of self-help/personal development. I was in my early 30s at the time and I had never heard of the book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. That's not a new book! That's like one of the OG books like Think and Grow Rich. There are all of these amazing books about your mindset and self-awareness, and I'm telling you I needed that when I was 10! Over the years I developed habits from the lack of self-awareness and blaming other people for my problems. And I never took action! Ao I lay all of what I learned out there in the book and in the course, and I'm so glad that you have found that valuable and that it's showing up right there at the top of the search.
Wayne: What you’re sharing is different from most other things that I've found because they’re either toxic positivity telling teachers You can make it. It's fine… You're going to be great, or it's the system that’s in the way and you can't do anything about it.
Well, neither of those helps fix anything, you have to do it internally. Yes, it would be great if teacher pay went up and if our class sizes were kept small, and you didn't have to take on auxiliaries or cover classes; but that's not the reality we live in. That's not going to change anytime soon. It's up to us if we want change. We have to change internally and then hope that external changes happen as well, and that's what I love about your program; it's hands-on things you can do yourself to make your life and mind better.
Amber: Thank you so much for saying that!
The first four modules of the course are a lot of that internal work: mindset, self-awareness, really reflecting on how you got to where you are, and who you want to be known as. It’s all the inner work. The last four modules are about action, planning, thinking about where you want to go and how you're going to get there, who you need to talk to and plan those conversations, goal setting, and manifesting. All of these things are setting you up to actually do something different.
So if you don't mind me asking, what actions have you been taking? And where do you see yourself in the next year, three years, five years, if you don't mind sharing?
Wayne: I have been the king of “shelf help”, instead of “self-help”. I read a book and then it goes on the shelf, and I read another book, and it goes on the shelf. But now I’m going deep and utilizing the strategies from the book and fully implementing the ideas before I move on.
I'm really digging into Burned-In Teacher and I’ve definitely gone from burned-out teacher to burned-in teacher. I'm excited to be in the room again. I love teaching, I love the material, and now I'm setting up systems so I can maintain that so when the heavy times hit - and they always do - I can bounce back. I know I can get through anything because I have the systems I can rely on to help me make it through that. As I said, your system just really puts it all into perspective. It’s like, Okay, now your mindset is good, now let's get to work to make the systems functional so you can keep bouncing back. We know that it’s going to get hard. There's no question about that.
Amber: Being a Burned-In Teacher doesn't mean that everything is going to be smooth sailing with blue skies, there's always going to be hardship. We can't tell the future. We're not perfect teachers and we don't have it all figured out, but we do have systems in place, systems of support even, to help to set us up for success.
Wayne: The other thing I'm really trying to do is be the light for other teachers. I see the other teachers at my school that are struggling, you can tell they're one bad comment or one negative evaluation away from walking out, and they're good teachers! They're good people who work hard and love kids, and if there's anything I can do to stop that, I will do it. I've just stopped caring what the administration might say, or what other teachers might say. I'm reaching out and going, Hey, I found some strategies. I found some ideas. You want to talk about what you're going through and maybe we can find a way to make it better?
Amber: I can tell you from experience, and we talked about this a little bit on our coaching call if someone is visibly upset I will definitely go to them and tell them, Hey, I'm here for you if you need me, but I'm not going to come in here and try to fix it. I'm not going to come in here and tell you exactly what to do, but I just want you to know that I'm here for you. It takes a lot of courage for someone that is feeling broken, hurt, frustrated, and hopeless to walk up to someone like you or me, who, although we have hard times, clearly are handling them very differently.
Wayne: I think there's a lot of shame involved, too, unfortunately. I think teachers tend to shame those that we think are struggling. We've been through the most insane times in education in well over a century, so it's time for us to put down the shame barriers and go, How can I help? What do you need?
Amber: We need to wrap our arms around these people. They need our love and support more than ever. Even though the pandemic has backed off, people are still hurting. People still need love. People are still overwhelmed and overworked. They're still underpaid. As we've talked about, the system is not set up for us to be successful. We need each other more than ever.
Wayne: That's definitely the message I'm trying to convey in my school: If you just need somebody to talk to, I'm here for you. If you need strategies to help, I'm here for you. I think that's my mission:
I just found this great quote that I think applies to you and to me that said: “You are always most powerfully positioned to serve the person you once were”.
Amber: That is exactly what it is. You can't possibly understand unless you've been there yourself, right?
So, if you were to talk with somebody that was struggling, what would you suggest their first step be?
Wayne: First start to reflect on the thoughts you have because it’s about mindset first. Asking yourself questions like, What are the thoughts that keep spiraling through your head? and really encourage people not to judge themselves. Your mind is going to send you thoughts that are completely and utterly untrue but until you capture them, you're just going to sit in that spiral and keep getting pulled further and further down.
Be honest with yourself: What thoughts are going through your head? Are they true? Are they accurate? Is it who you are or is it the circumstance you've been thrown into? Are there ways to change the circumstance to make that untrue?
Amber: What caused you to dive in and enroll in Burned-In Teacher University?
Wayne: The fact that you make overviews available so people can make informed decisions on how the course is going to help them is extremely helpful. Everything I read was things that I already knew were true, I just needed a deep dive and to get practical strategies to do it, and I totally believe that now I have the strategies to go achieve it. And that's what Burned-In Teacher does, it just gives you those practical strategies.
I also love that you drip out modules of the course. It's not like you get a whole course thrown on you to do it because you understand that I'm already overwhelmed.
Amber: Right, I put myself in your shoes and if I were given the whole course in my inbox - being an overachiever - I would try to binge the entire thing, but I wouldn’t necessarily take any action, and that's one big reason why I drip it out over eight weeks. And you have access to any lesson or any module anytime after that, and a lot of teachers who go through this go through it twice because they've got to hear it, let it wash over them, and then take it all in. And when they go through it three or six months later, they maybe grab onto something that maybe they didn't the first time, and it's really powerful stuff.
Wayne: What I love is you can take what you need at any given moment and then go back to it. For example, this summer, I plan to really do another deep dive because I grabbed the things I knew I needed to get through the year, but this summer, I'll have time to reflect and go, Okay, how am I going to set myself up to be successful all throughout the year and be even a better teacher than I was this year. That's what I love about the program, I can go back to it and grab the new things I need because you're right, you progress things differently and at different times, and so the things that I needed three months ago are not the things I'm going to need during the summer when I'm trying to prep and plan for the following year.
Amber: I love it. That's such a great idea. So Wayne, is there anything else that you'd like to share with the listeners of the podcast today before we sign off?
Wayne: The only thing I can say if you're on the fence about joining Burned-In Teacher University is to jump in - it’s so worth it. You make it so incredibly affordable - I can't believe you charge the price you charge! It’s worth its weight in gold! These strategies will make you feel good again because you know how you can take action to make your life better.
Amber: Thank you so much! Those words mean so much to me. I hope that anyone who's listening to this and who has felt hopeless, knows that there's hope for them, too.
Thank you so much for sharing your story. Thank you so much for saying such nice things about the program. It's my baby, and I will never stop, I just want to help as many teachers to heal from their burnout and to grow and to see it as an opportunity to change their life. And I'm so proud to be part of your journey. So thank you again so much for being here.
Wayne: It's my absolute pleasure and privilege. And believe me, I'm going to be your greatest sales evangelist. I'm going to tell everybody I know that I'll listen, Listen to Amber. She's got great stuff.