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Thoughts from Ben Johnson’s outstanding blog on 10 Steps for Avoiding Teacher Burnout

April 28, 2014

Preface: This is an experiment.  Normally, when I write a blog, I spend about a week thinking about the topic in order to develop my understanding by writing several drafts.  Today, I’d like to try a different approach because I would love to get feedback from my fellow teachers.  Here is the challenge: Can I write up my notes to the article I listened to on my way into work this morning in less than 30 minutes so I have time to prep for my Period 2 Spanish Class?  Let’s find out!


Thoughts from Ben Johnson’s outstanding blog on 10 Steps for Avoiding Teacher Burnout

Step 1: The only thing I would add about having fun in the classroom is when making connections with the students to use topics that are exciting to them.  By making the students the center of your attention.  you will be better able to engage them  while at the same time drawing from their inherent enthusiasm and energy.

Step 2:  I agree completely.  I would add that as a young teacher I would often pay attention to the number of hours spent outside of the classroom preparing for classes and providing feedback to my students as I graded their work at home.  The later I worked and the more feedback I provided, the more effective I saw myself as an educator.  After nearly burning out, I now believe that it’s more important to constantly monitor the work-life balance because you will have more energy for your teaching by doing less.  If you find the right balance, you will have the energy to be a good teacher throughout the year.

Step 3:  I completely agree.  I would add two things: First, it’s important to connect with your students by learning more about topics which interest them.  If you have a student that you’re trying to connect and build rapport with, it’s always great idea to spend time learning about their particular passion.  For example, I have connected with students by learning more about horses, rap, and engineering and then using that knowledge to connect with them in class.    Secondly, I would try to find a topic for personal development which would allow your students to become more passionate about your own subject matter.  By finding unique and interesting factoids, your class will be enriched and more interesting.

Step 4: Amen!

Step 5:  I might add that it’s also important to give phone calls to parents of students who are “rocking it” in your classroom.  By praising the efforts of your high flyers and not solely focusing on students that need extra support,, you enrich the quality of your class and help all students become more successful.

Step 6 and 7: I completely agree!

Step 8: The only thing I would add is the importance of putting effort into personally influencing positive culture in school.  By being positive, you will have a positive impact on others and will lighten the negativity that can often pervade the faculty room.  Having worked at schools with negative paradigms, I can safely say that it’s a lot more fun to work at schools with a more positive vibe.

Step 9:  Feel free to turn off the classroom lights.  I learned this trick from Erika Chaset at Carroll School.  A change in ambiance will allow your students to be more present for learning and will reduce their stress levels.  Think about playing music between periods or when they are working independently and in groups.  Also, consider asking the students to help decorate.  They will feel more empowered when given the opportunity to make a better classroom for themselves.

Number 10:  All I would add is to say that trusting the students will make them more responsible for their own learning.

What I would add:

#1 Create a teacher mission statement in order to become more focused on the areas that you are most interested in.  By defining what’s important to you, you’ll be able to: 1) Be a better teacher and 2) Give yourself a regular opportunity to rejuvenate yourself by reviewing your mission and seeing how well you’re doing.

#2 Remember your priorities:  Earlier in my career, I believed it was more important to improve the lives of my students rather than my own kids because not only was it my job but I would spend the most time with them early in the day.  Often, I would come home tired and burnt out and didn’t have as much energy to devote to my three children.  It’s really important to focus on the work-life balance because if you feel that you’re neglecting your kids at home it’s going to have a negative impact on your ability to be present at school.  So, consider taking some time to spend with your children.  Use a personal day to take your kids to a ballgame or feel free to take a couple periods off to go to your son or daughter’s play or ballet recital.

#3: Be part of the Team:  Whether your school is divided by disciplines or by grade levels, it’s important that you make connections with your team not only professionally (in terms of cross-curricular teaching) but also outside of the classroom as well.  It’s amazing how restorative a few cold ones can be after work. The connections you will make will create a support network for you to lean on when things get tough at school.

#4:  Make the Most of Your Commute.  I don’t know about you but commuting is a killer.  I’ve tried to make peace with my commute by listening to books on tape, Ted Talks, and articles such as this one because professional development is restorative for me.  So instead of looking at my commute as a drain, I see it as a benefit. So feel free to use that ride to and from work as a chance for personal reflection or personal restorative time.  Find something that suits you whether it’s learning something new or listening to music on the radio.  Simply rolling down your windows and feeling the wind blow through your hair can do wonders!

#5: Make the most of your summer vacation: Let’s face it, teaching is an incredibly hard and draining profession, so feel free to make the most of the two months in between school years to take care of yourself.  Spend time with family and friends in order  to prepare yourself for the upcoming school year. There is power in doing nothing.  You’ll be surprise how much energy you will have come fall.

#6:  Read the book, Teach Like A Pirate by Dave Burgess.  It’s outstanding!

#7:  Share these restorative techniques with your students:  Your students are just as tense as we are.  In fact, they are probably more stressed.  So as you search for restorative practices,  share those techniques with your students and go on the path towards being more relaxed together.

#8:  Reward Yourself: Every Friday I stop at Dunkin’ Donuts to get a bagel and a coffee.  I’ve earned the extra calories!


Results from experiment – It took me longer than 30 minutes.  But I was still able to finish much more quickly than usually.  Question for those reading this blog – how important is spelling and grammar?  I’m a perfectionist and maybe I don’t need to be.  Thoughts?


  1. Great ideas here. Thanks for drawing my attention to Ben’s original post. I will focus my comments on your additions. First, I love the idea of a teacher mission statement. I would have to really think about the truly essential aspects of teaching and learning I would want to include, and I’m sure it would be very different now from when I first began teaching 11 years ago. A mission statement could/should be a living document that is revisited, tweaked, and updated each year.
    Second, I agree that priorities, aka work/life balance, is so very important. It truly is a balancing act. Some teachers sway too far to the work side. They are more than team players but seem to run themselves ragged and often don’t have time or energy left for their families. Others go too far the other direction. They stick rigidly to “contract hours” and rarely contribute to the team at all, leaving their colleagues feeling resentful that they’re not pulling their weight. I’m not sure where I’m going with this comment, except to agree with you that it does take some time to figure out what the right balance is for yourself.
    My last response is in reaction to your suggestion to take a break during the summer. This past summer I worked as a teacher for a preschool summer program. It lasted 8 weeks, and the kids were ages 3-6. I was worried that this school year I would feel tired, run down, burnt out, etc. from not having a summer break. In a surprising turn of events, this school year has been the most energizing of my entire career! I’m have tons of ideas, am excited to try new things, and full of positive energy for teaching. This is also the year that I discovered Twitter, so that might have something to do with it, but I believe it’s also that I kept my mind and body active during those summer months. After 8 weeks of teaching little ones, I was appreciative of my adolescent middle school students, despite their many challenges and difficulties. While I won’t be teaching again this summer, I’m desperately hoping that the learning opportunities I have planned provide the same sort of energy for the coming school year.

  2. Endre Polyak permalink

    Spelling and grammar are absolutely essential for learning to speak, read, and write in English.

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