Thursday, July 18, 2013

TEACHER BURNOUT: Four Warning Signs + You are not a failure. You are not alone.

  • TEACHER BURNOUT: Four Warning Signs

Nicholas Provenzano’s blog | Edutopia |

Image credit: iStockphoto

May 22, 2013  ::  I'm just going to come out and say it: I'm burnt out.

I didn't realize I was burning out. I only noticed when it was too late. I've always been the type of teacher who's tired at the end of the school year because I've given my all -- every day -- for the past nine months. I've learned to master that type of tired when May and June roll around. However, being burnt out is something completely different. It is something that needs to be caught as soon as possible so that steps can be taken to put the frazzled teacher back in a good place. In this series of posts, I'm going to share with you the different ways to identify, deal with and prevent Teacher Burnout for you and your staff.

This time, let's talk about calling the problem by its real name. After all, one of the most important things to do with any problem is identify it. Teacher Burnout is actually a sneaky guy. He will creep up out of nowhere and pounce on the most vulnerable of teachers. Following are some key signs to look for in yourself and in other teachers, signs that can help identify when Teacher Burnout has become a problem.

1. Missing in Action

Teachers dealing with Teacher Burnout will often stop attending social gatherings and lunches. They feel overwhelmed and have no desire to be around other people that seem to be doing great. These teachers will also start to take mental health days to try regrouping for the final few weeks of school. They will stop participating in meetings and will no longer join the email exchanges during the school day. Teachers dealing with burnout will cut themselves off from the rest of the world until the end of the school year.

2. The End of Sharing

Sharing is no longer a priority for a teacher dealing with burnout. The emails sharing lessons or ideas for units will stop as all focus turns to just making it through the day. The confidence level drops and the fear of sharing bad lessons is high. These teachers find it hard to talk about new ideas or plans for the next school year. They are mired in funk and can only think about the next 24 hours. Even that is tiring for them.

3. Complaint Department

A teacher who is dealing with burnout will rarely talk with peers. However, when he or she does talk, it is nothing but complaints. These complaints will be about students, parents, staff and people in the room. Everything is wrong, and nothing is going to be fixed, so why bother? This attitude will persist for the rest of the meeting and the rest of the school year. Teacher Burnout is a dark place, and only complaints can live there.

4. The Spark is Gone

This is one of those things that only educators can really see. When you have The Spark, you can see it in others -- and you can tell when it is gone. The Spark is something in a teacher's smile when he or she greets students. The Spark is there when a teacher high-fives a student who does well on a test. The Spark is in those tear-filled eyes when a graduate returns to thank that special teacher for caring. There is nothing worse than seeing a teacher who has lost The Spark. The Spark is the driving force in everything we do as teachers. It carries us through the bad times and the darkest times. When The Spark is gone, it's up to other teachers to reach out and help as soon as possible before it's too late.

These are not the only symptoms of Teacher Burnout, but they are the most glaring warning signs that teachers can use to identify colleagues who might be dealing with burnout. In future posts, I will share with you the different ways that teachers and administrators can help combat burnout. The most important thing I want to leave you with is that you are not alone. Educators around the world are dealing with burnout -- and it can be overcome!


  • TEACHER BURNOUT: You are not a failure. You are not alone.

icholas Provenzano’s blog | Edutopia |

July 18, 2013  ::  As we relax into summer, and hopefully feel less pressure than we did during the school year, it's a good time to check for signs of Teacher Burnout.

When burnout hits, you tend to feel very lonely. You think that you are the only person dealing with these feelings, and you're also embarrassed that you have "failed" by allowing yourself to get this way. In this post, I want to address these two thoughts.

First, you are not a failure for succumbing to Teacher Burnout. I know I went through the phase where I thought I was such a loser for feeling that way at the end of the school year. "I must not be a very good teacher if I get this way," I told myself. Those thoughts seem so crazy now that I understand what the problem was. One of the reasons I was so burned out was because I tend to put my all into everything I do, and I didn't know how to bring that passion in a way that saved some part of my mental health for June. Burnout can happen to anyone at anytime. There are ways to help prevent it, but nobody is completely immune to it.

Second, you are not alone. Every teacher deals with some form of burnout from time to time. You are not a failure if you go to a colleague and share your stress with him or her. In fact, sharing these feelings with other educators is crucial to your professional development. Teachers in your building can help you deal with some of the issues you are facing at the moment.

If you don't feel comfortable talking to your colleagues because the burnout has something to do with them, then reaching out to your PLN might be the way for you to go. There have been many instances where I have helped friends deal with their different levels of burnout through social media. I was just another set of ears to help them as they vented about their stress and considered the reasons for it. It's never bad to have multiple people to listen to your issues and offer advice, and social media can be a little less embarrassing than face-to-face.

I would never be able to make it through my instances of burnout if it were not for my network of friends and colleagues to help me work through the stress of my teaching life. Everyone talks about the value of being a connected educator to make you a better teacher, but these connections can serve to help you personally as well as professionally.

My name is Nicholas Provenzano and I'm a high school English teacher and edublogger. I write for Edutopia and my own site  |

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