The straight path to teacher burnout goes right through the district and the high school I work at.  There – I said it aloud to the public internets. My school and my district is burning me out.

I worked a 13 hour day this past week, and the rest were 10 hour days. These long days *only* include teaching five 60 minute periods, planning 3 different lesson plans (one of which is a college level course), and depending on the day, giving 100% attention to one hour-long department/grade level/staff/team meetings, and tutoring students during after school and lunch time office hours, all without a lunch break because students first. By the time my day ended at 8:30pm last Tuesday, with all lessons ready for the next day, I felt so stressed I could barely talk and when I could, it was only to pick a frustration fight with B.

One of the values I hear constantly in my school district is “students first”.  I’m totally on board with this – my teaching should be centered around what students need and how to facilitate their learning. But what it feels like, is students first, at the expense of teachers. It feels like we have a constant revolving door of teachers at my school, especially in the science department. In our district, there was a 22% teacher turnover rate from 14/15 to 15/16, well above the national average of 14%. At my high school, the science department has experienced an average 50% turnover for the past 5 years.

So what is the plan for teacher burnout? There doesn’t seem to be any plan in my district to retain teachers at all farther than “we are the highest paying district in the area” (which isn’t saying much, actually). This past week, our district superintendent came to visit for a Q & A session (don’t even get me started on how set up and fake it all felt), and when asked about his plan for teacher burnout and such low retention rates, he pulled a smooth move and basically said a lot of things without saying anything at all. Frankly I’m surprised my district is not more proactive about teacher retention, considering how costly a revolving door of teachers can be. I don’t even want more money – I just want the time and space to grow and be a better teacher. At least with my admin I feel heard, but not helped.

Instead, I’ve gone searching for help myself. I hosted a learning lab today where a group of experienced teachers came to watch a lesson in my class. Afterwards, we all debriefed, did some research, and discussed ways to increase thinking and build more inquiry into a science lesson. It was all together extremely inspiring, and I’ve agreed to host another learning lab in a couple weeks. I’ve also been asking teachers how they plan and will be searching more into how I can streamline my planning process and make it more efficient.  Lastly, I really need to just be ok with having mediocre lecture based lessons sometimes, because those are the ones I can get done quickly. It’s the only way I’ll be able to keep my sanity and not harbor bitterness, which leads to burnout.

Sorry for the big rant, readers, but I reached a big breaking point this past week. I need some self care, and some time. I will pull through. In the mean time, here are some old photos from before the break that I never got around to posting.  The dress is from Anthropologie, and the colorful pattern is really not my usual thing. But I loved the embroidery, and it just felt special, so I snapped it up from the sale section.






glasses: warby parker – dress and tights: anthropologie – boots: dr. martins

6 thoughts on “Teacher Burn-out

  1. This post spoke to my very soul. I’m also a high school teacher and feeling the burnout like nobody’s business. I expected winter break to revive me and it just barely started to when it was time to go back.
    I appreciate so much that you wrote about this because we have got to make teacher burnout part of the bigger narrative. In NYC, there is a huge pay bump at the beginning of your sixth year simply because 75% of us won’t make it.
    Also, long comment but in short, thank you for writing and I feel you on this. Hang in there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I also expected to be totally revived after winter break – but then admin added a new section for me to teach =(
      Thanks for the empathy – it totally helps when I hear other teachers can relate (commiserate?) with me.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I so feel you on this. I spend average 9-10 hours a day at school, and then often work a couple hours at home at night, plus some hours on Sunday. I also got really overwhelmed this week – all my lunches are full of duty, helping kids, running student council, and so many dumb committees. And then to never really feel on top of it, you know? I love so much of what I get out of teaching, but the personal cost is high. I think the self-care is so so important – I mean, how can you help the kiddos if you are a wreck? You can’t! That’s why your blog is called “Teachers Have Lives Too!”

    Your learning lab sounds so cool – what a great way to seek feedback. Those are the sorts of things that GIVE you energy, rather than take it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I can totally relate to this post! I work at private school from 7:45 to 5 p.m., besides teaching and meeting all the deadlines with lesson plans, we have ECA’s which is basically babysitting children 4 days a week.I thought after 3 week break I would have plenty of energy but I do not feel so…
    Hang in there and you are right it is not about the money, and all of us do know that children, their safety and well being comes first but we have a life too. I have 18 weeks to go, counting everyday till the summer break 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I, too, can totally relate to what you are writing. As I am a teacher in Austria and our school system is quite a bit different from yours I guess, I probably didn’t understand all you were saying, however, I think most teachers have similar problems when it comes to a healthy time management. I am teaching German, French and Media Studies at a very multicultural high school in Vienna, I am also the Homeroom teacher (hopefully, that is the correct term in English…) for a bunch of 17-year-olds and I am in charge of some small administrative tasks at our school.
    As far as lesson planning is concerned, I had to learn to be a bit less perfectionist last year as I had to sort out some personal issues and I had to use most of my energy to pull myself together. I was actually surprised how well everything went even if I sometimes felt so underprepared for my lessons. In retrospect, I don’t think that the fact I spent less time on preparing lessons caused my students to learn less. I am of course not suggesting that you should switch to door handle pedagogy (when you turn the door handle and decide what to teach 🙂 ), but I think we have to cut ourselves some slack sometimes. The best preparation is useless when you don’t have any energy left for the actual teaching in the classroom.
    Apart from the administrative stuff that I am willing to do as long as it helps to increase the quality of the education we are offering to our students (however, I don’t understand the purpose of half of the forms or the statistics that I have to fill out…), the thing I am struggling with the most is correcting. It is so time-consuming, even more so because many of my students have enormous difficulties in German which is the language of instruction in Austria.
    Anyways, I guess it might still take some time until I figure out a healthy work-life-balance that will not turn me into another case of a burned out teacher. Meanwhile, I’m going to keep stopping by at your inspirational blog. It looks like you are a wonderful teacher – keep up the good work but don’t let it swallow you up. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I wish I didn’t know how you feel E. The saddest thing is that we teach because we love it and then the system gets in the way and spoils everything. All the administrative stuff does little to improve student outcomes or enjoyment and in the end it’s the curiosity and the love of learning that you pass on to the kids that ensures their success. I used to say quite often, “I just wish they’d leave me alone to teach”! Check out who’s telling you how to do your job better……burnt out teachers who have taken on admin positions! Funny that. Hang in there. XX

    Liked by 1 person

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