The One Question You Should Ask Yourself Today to Understand YOU Better: Part 5 of I Was Burned Out

Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People goes into a lot of detail about the different kinds of listening that we do every day. What he really emphasizes is EMPATHETIC LISTENING. He defines it as listening with the intent to understand, both intellectually and emotionally. He also gives a clear outline of the STEPS to take to understand before being understood.

If there is one habit I wish that I would have learned as a child, it would be this one. Trying to understand before being understood is one of those habits that I still struggle with today, especially with my students and my own children. I tend to be very reactive to their choices and am quick to correct, blame, or assume the worst before even attempting to understand.

Asking yourself this question will help you to understand A LOT about why you are feeling BURNED-OUT:

If your classroom was a workplace, would you want to be an employee of it?

In my 9 years of teaching, I have worked with some of the most amazing educators. They are fun, pleasant, and are some of the most understanding individuals that I have ever met. I would LOVE for them to be my boss. On the flip-side, I have worked with some who, if I was an employee of theirs, I would quit the day I started.

Think of your day. Think of your expectations. Think about whether you are REALLY trying to understand your students and their abilities and needs.

*PAUSE* This is NOT a blog about teaching strategies. You will not hear me harp about differentiation, tiered lessons, RTI or any other buzz terms that are out there right now . All I am asking you to do is to be REFLECTIVE about your attitude and expectations of the children in your care each day. *UNPAUSE.*

Ask Yourself:
Would I want to work for me?

If you have been following this blog for the last few days, you can clearly see that I was very unhappy with who I was working for in my first years of teaching. I did NOT want to work for them. Although after that first year, I improved my communication and teaching skills and gained more respect from my administrator and peers, he and I could not see eye-to-eye when it came to how I wanted to be led. That fact was clear all of those years.

If I flipped my question of the day on its head and asked, “Would I want to be a student in this classroom?” in reference to my past workplace experience. N.O. That’s why I sought better for myself and found it. Other people are doing fine there. It just wasn’t a place where I felt that I could grow. All those years we just couldn't understand one another. I was exhausted. I just burned out. My attitude stunk, my motivation tanked, and I was in a dark place.

Understanding before being understood is really all about communication. Communicating that you understand what you are hearing or seeing. Communicating your feelings. Communicating your message back.

If you are BURNED-OUT, you are probably conveying the message that you don’t really CARE if what you are asking of kids is inappropriate for their age or not, you just do it because that’s the way it has always been done OR because it’s the way you see others doing it. Would you want to work for a boss whose attitude is that patronizing? That, my friend, is not just a way to burn-out, but a quick way to burn your kids out too, therefore affecting their behavior, causing more feelings of frustration in you, and that just causes the kids to be more frustrated, etc, etc.

If you have time, go back and reread all of my posts from this week. Are you REALLY seeking to understand what this blog is all about? It’s meant to help me, yes. I have had all of these thoughts for YEARS. However, it is mostly meant to cause a ripple effect. I want you to become BURNED-IN too! The first step to getting there is to understand WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT. YOU are the only one who can change how you feel. Start with burned-in behaviors and the attitude will follow.  

As always, please comment below with any questions or comments about this post. If you have ideas for a future post, you can email me at Also, follow me on Twitter @burnedinteacher!