12 Essential Questions You Need to Answer to Overcome Teacher Burnout

With all we have to do as teachers every day, we sometimes slip into survival mode. And “surviving” the day has become a common statement in our classrooms and schools. When you’re merely surviving, you don’t have the mindset or energy to think about what you might be doing instead. You don’t have the time or energy to think about being proactive. 

It’s time to change the conversation surrounding burnout. To do this, you must give your burnout the respect, time, and reflection it deserves so you can figure out how you got to where you are in the first place. What caused your burnout and why is it persisting?

Ask Yourself:

  1. When did I start feeling frustrated, out of balance, bored, anxious, unappreciated, apathetic, ashamed, or isolated?
  2. What’s happening in my personal life that could be impacting my happiness and fulfillment at work?
  3. What personal, family, social, and global changes have occurred that could be affecting my mood, beliefs, and overall attitude?
  4. Have I tried anything new since these feelings arose?
  5. Have I talked to anyone and asked for support, advice, or mentorship?

Identifying why you are burned out and answering the questions above gives you the jumpstart on building your own self-awareness. Having strong self-awareness is essential to beating burnout because if you don’t know who you are, it’s impossible to get your feet under you and figure out how to go forward. For further educator self-awareness, you need to understand your teacher brand.

Branding yourself means consistently behaving, speaking, and living in a way that creates a certain perception about who you are and what you can do. This means you need to identify what is most important to you.

  1. What are your core values? Start with two words. What two words will help ground you when you’re deciding to say “yes” or “no” to something? 
  2. Why do you want to be in education? In the business world, your people are your customers. You work for them, even though they don’t sign your paychecks. In education, your people are those for whom you do all of this incredibly hard work and strive to impact the most every day. 
  3. Who are the people that inspire you? When you believe that you are worthy and capable of a different way of thinking, feeling, believing, and living, you will begin to feel like you need to surround yourself with new people. Identify the people in your life who build you up and keep them close. It will be hard, but getting out of burnout means letting go of relationships with people who tear you down. 

In a teacher's life, the challenges are vast. They are seemingly unending, and they come from different directions and show up unexpectedly every hour, day, and week. Reflecting and taking action on your challenges means identifying challenges as soon as they arise. It’s about choosing what to focus on and what to do about the challenges. Do that, and you can begin to solve the problem by actively engaging in each challenge. Answer these questions and take action.

  1. What are your personal and professional challenges? Let it all out. Take those thoughts, frustrations, worries, and things that cause you daily stress and put them somewhere other than your brain. Writing down all of your challenges can help declutter your mind and ready you for solution making.
  2. What is the root cause of these challenges? Find the root cause of both your personal and professional challenges by asking yourself why this thing is a challenge to you. Ask why over and over again to get to the root of that challenge.
  3. "Can I or can't I control this?" As much as you’d like to, you cannot solve some challenges. So you must decide which ones you can let go. Overthinking and replaying stressful situations (both past and present) that are out of your control will cause you to call on the same negative thoughts you’ve been thinking to yourself.
    • Things outside of your control:
      • Anything from your past
      • Your students' choices
      • Your administrations and colleagues' beliefs and choices
    • Things in your control: 
      • Your focus on solutions
      • Your preparation
      • Your reactions to your administration’s, colleagues’, and students’ choices
      • Your effort
      • Your attitude
  4. What are solutions you can seek? For those challenges that you can control, write down all the possible solutions. Unfortunately, if one or more of your challenges results from someone else’s actions, thoughts, or beliefs, you must decide if you’re going to rise above it, change your perspective, or get away from it. When dealing with these challenges, it is your choice regarding what you let roll off your back and what you separate from yourself.

Portions of this article were excerpted from Hacking Teacher Burnout.

Overcoming burnout and becoming a BURNED-IN teacher is no easy task, but by answering these questions and following the teacher burnout hacks from Amber Harper, you can start the rewarding journey of learning to love teaching again. 

Main post image by Nataliya Vaitkevich from Pexels

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