The 5 Questions I started Asking Myself to Burn Back In: Part 3 of I Was Burned Out

I’ve been thinking all day about what I want to tell you about Habit #3- Put First Things First and how that habit has changed me, but FIRST, let’s recap that last 3 days. I have shared a lot with you and I know sometimes that can get messy.

On Saturday, I welcomed you all and let you know what my goals are for the blog that is The Burned-In Teacher!

Sunday, I began to let you into my world of being  BURNED-OUT. I told you a little about how I got to that point, as well as my decision to BE PROACTIVE about my situation and how I got out of it. I also told you about the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey and how much it influenced my life almost immediately.

Yesterday was all about BEGINNING WITH THE END IN MIND. I wrote about my desire to be SEEN and HEARD differently than I knew that I was. I made THREE big changes to my career life:
  1. I began with the end in mind. I changed my BEHAVIOR, so that I could change people’s attitudes and feelings about me.
  2. I changed my WORK HABITS. I began to use tools differently than I had before. I threw stuff out that wasn’t working for me anymore and brought things into my work life that worked more efficiently.
  3. I viewed my TIME as valuable. I made a decision that work was work. That’s where it was staying. If I had too much to do, then that was MY fault.

Okay, what I just did is part of what has helped me to become BURNED-IN again. Rehashing things that I have already done is one way that I am helping myself to be able to LOOK AHEAD and GROW MYSELF.

Stephen Covey says, “The challenge is not to manage time, but to manage ourselves.”

I told you on Saturday that I would share a little about why I left my old corporation. Without going into too much detail, one of the reasons I left is that I was not in a place that managed TIME, RESOURCES, or PEOPLE well. Rarely was there a time where everyone knew what was expected of them. There was no direction, except for when you did things wrong. Rather than being proactive, I lived in a world of constant reaction.

My entire first year teaching was the worst year of my teaching career. I was told that the team I would be working with was a great team to work with and that statement couldn’t have been farther away from the truth. To put it lightly, I was thrown to the wolves. I came to the point in that first year, where I didn’t ask anyone for/about anything, because I knew that I was nothing but an ambitious pest to my teaching partners. I was set up for failure TIME and TIME again by this “team.”. At the end of the year, I was certain I wouldn’t be asked back. When I was told, “We’ll try this one more year,” by my principal, I was relieved for my job and terrified to work another year with those people.
Looking Back, there were so many things that I could/should have said/done or approached differently. I SHOULD have managed myself better, but, like most of you new BURN-IN’s, I came into my new job with the triumph of the Titanic. I could conquer anything AND everything all at once. My ideas and intentions, fully outweighed any of the abilities that I had yet to improve.


PUTTING FIRST THINGS FIRST would have helped me to be more successful that first year. I should have:
  • focused more on teaching in my classroom, instead of worrying about my lack of relationships and asked “What can I control in my own classroom?”
  • planned ahead better, instead of day-by-day and asked “Where am I going with this?”
  • set up a system of reflection for myself and asked “What didn’t work today? What can I do better tomorrow?”

In addition to all of this, there were no curriculum maps, no plans, and (obviously) no one that was willing to help steer me in the right direction. I had to learn the hard way time after time. Luckily, I learned from my mistakes and mostly kept my head down for a lot of years.

Putting First Things First as a teacher is all about knowing what is important this hour, this day, this week, and this month. That all starts in a corporation and building that is, FIRST, willing to set your expectations up for you and then willing to HELP you if you aren’t meeting those expectations. If I wouldn’t have gone through what I did my first 8 years, I wouldn’t realize how sweet it is to work in a place that tells me their expectations had I not had those experiences before.

The goal of schools today is to teach to the high standards that are put in front of them. Whether it be Common Core or not. You know already that you have standards to teach. Be GRATEFUL if you have a curriculum map. The alternative is constant guessing and stress about whether you have met all of the standards or not. With all of the other responsibilities that we have as educators, we should FIRST be set up for success with a clear direction.

Here are 5 questions I asked myself when I began to put first things first:

  1. What is draining the life out of me at school or in my classroom?
    1. These are the things that you should put FIRST on your list of things to fix. TYPICALLY, for me, these are the things that I used to spend the least amount of time on because I couldn’t stand to think about them.
  2. What is going REALLY well?
    1. These are the things that you need to put on the BOTTOM of your “To Do” list. They are obviously things that you have spent time on in the past and have worked out a good system for.
  3. Are there any BETTER ways to do this?
    1. For example, I used to take 3 binders of data, a notebook to take notes, my computer and my iPad to meetings. Now I take my computer, because I created a system that works for me where all of my data and notes are together in one place! It’s GREAT!
  4. What can I ASK SOMEONE else to either look up for me or help me with?
    1. Hopefully, there is someone in your building that is willing to help you to feel more successful. If you don’t have someone OR they are equally struggling, then maybe you need to go to Sunday’s post and read about BEING PROACTIVE.
  5. Last but not least, What can I get rid of?
    1. These things could be physical or digital things. Teachers can be hoarders by nature, thinking that they will use something again that they used 3-4 years ago and never do. If you haven’t used it this school year, PITCH IT OR DELETE IT. That clutter can bog you down, leading you to feel even more overwhelmed than you already are.

There you have it! Take some serious time to consider these questions. Comment below and let me know what you are putting FIRST to either STAY or BECOME BURNED-IN!!!