Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Tid BiT: I'm Saying No, So I Can Say Yes

Saying no is so hard. 

I hate saying no. It makes me feel icky and harsh. I especially hate saying no when, for the last two weeks, I have been listening to Tina Fey's 'Bossy Pants' and Amy Poehler's 'Yes, Please' and both of them discuss the idea of saying "Yes, and..." and how it can change your life for the better.

But I have to say it. And I have to say it now. Because if I don't, I can't say yes to what has become a never-ending thought in the back of my mind. What if Burned-In Teacher was more than just a blog? I want so badly to say yes, but I haven't. I haven't for many reasons, but it boils down to one simple word: TIME.

Since I left the Google Innovator Academy, ready for anything, I have done nothing. I haven't touched my project and I haven't reached out to other Innovators who said that they would help me. I haven't said yes once, to any part of what I was so psyched about two weeks ago. That academy changed me, but am I proving it? Have I done anything to prove how serious I am about my passion? Nope.

I am the first to admit that I have stretched myself too thin over the last year. Balancing teaching, BiT, being a mom and wife, and taking care of my home has taken its toll on me. I am back at school, sick already, and am feeling that pit in my stomach that can only be filled if I would leave my family and friends, hole up somewhere with wifi and my computer, and just work. That's obviously both unrealistic and unfair to everyone involved.

Therefore, I am going to say no to a couple of things that I like, in order to say YES to something new that I can't stop thinking about. I am going to be pausing, yes PAUSING, the blog for a while. I plan on coming back when I can be more focused and have something more solid to offer educators just like me who need a voice in this noisy profession.

I appreciate those of you who have been dedicated readers for the past year. Thank you so much for the emails and texts telling me how much you appreciate my honesty and the honesty of the teachers who I have interviewed. They have changed my perspective and have caused me to realize how truly difficult our profession is. I now know that I am not alone and that there are thousands like us out there, wondering what they should do about how they are feeling and living.

So, burn on, my friends. I am excited for what's to come, although I don't know how long it will take or exactly what it will look like.


Monday, July 31, 2017

How McDonald's and A New Friend Can Change Your Life

Let's get something straight... McDonald's itself didn't change anything, but the restaurant provided a space for a now good friend and I to lay our stresses and goals on the line and start making progress that has changed both of our lives. I can't speak for my friend, when it comes to her feelings about that night, but I can tell you, I come back to it often.

With the beginning of a new school year starting soon, I have been thinking a lot about goals. So much, in fact, that I thought I would tell you the story of what happened that put me on the track of getting my shit together and deciding what I wanted for myself.

We had talked for weeks about getting together to talk about our goals and make some plans and, like most things, it got pushed back and pushed back. It finally happened on a really snowy late-January night and I almost didn't go, because I was at a low of lows. I thought that talking over hot chocolate and making empty goals at that cliche' time of year was going to be a waste of sleep for both of us. But, I wanted to get to know this person better and I figured, "What the heck, if nothing else, I'll help her." I did genuinely want to help.

We had decided, before we met, that we would come with a notebook and a list of things that we wanted for ourselves, either personally or professionally. I could have written a freaking book of a list of all of the things that I wanted to change for myself. I was so unhappy with my career. (This was January of 2016, so after I had gone back into teaching after quitting, a year before, to work at a non-profit, which failed six months later.) I wanted to do something other than teach and I felt all alone, like I was the only person who was struggling with burnout and that I couldn't talk about it. Ever. But, I made my list. It turned out, I had other things on that list that added up to my unhappiness at work. There were a lot of things that I needed to work out, including acknowledging that it was up to ME to do something!

My goals/planning notebook. I take it everywhere with me and it now contains all of the progress I have made as I have decided what I want for myself professionally. It's messy, not fancy, and all mine. 

I'll share with you my list in a minute, but the reason I am posting this has more to do with the fact that I had to decide. I had to make the decision to become my own hero. No one was going to save me from the misery that I had chosen to wallow in. I was a self-pity machine. The universe was against me. It was everyone else's fault that I was so sad and couldn't quit crying. Or so I thought.

Teachers, administrators, (insert your title here), we have to stop living for everyone else's goals. We are constantly pushed and pulled in all directions. Pushed to do things we don't want to do, because they are a waste of our time, and pulled back whenever we find something that we are really passionate about and told, "No, wait. You can't do that right now." There will NEVER be a perfect time to make a change. Ever. If you're comfortable, you have to make a change. That's the only way to grow. I had become comfortable in my discomfort. It was easier for me to cry and wallow than to take charge for a long time. WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!

-We Made SMART Goals-

So, here is my list. While my friend and I talked, she insisted that we make these SMART Goals.

-My Goals Were Simple and Multi-Dimensional All At the Same Time-

Obviously you can tell what goals were really important to me. 
I am happy to report that I have reached five of these goals. A few of them were reached, but have evolved, so I am still working to reach the new goals that have been born from my first ones. 

This was the first time that I had ever sat down and planned goals for my life. It makes me curious of how many other teachers haven't taken those steps. Ahead of the game, I was ready to make the changes I needed to make. They involved calling doctors, putting a house on the market, moving, getting out of my comfort zone, trying new things, FAILING, trying again, and I am such a happier person for that cup of hot chocolate and the conversation that we enjoyed that night. 

-The Blue Sky Brain Dump- The Next Step In Goal Setting-

Now, if you look carefully, you will see that part of the "Decide what I want to do! (Career) is that maybe start my own business? My friends, meet the infancy of Burned-In Teacher. From that night until April, I knew what I wanted to do, yet, couldn't find my niche. That all changed, of course when I went to GAfE the following April. 

Entrepreneurship is something that I have been learning a lot about in the last couple of years. I am part of an amazing community called Fizzle and can excitedly say that I am part of the Google Innovator Tribe. If you are interested in hearing about "The Blue Sky Brain Dump" that took me to the next level of goal setting, go to or check out their podcast.. I thought I would share it with you. It, of course, is geared toward business planning, however, that doesn't invalidate it for planning your career and personal goals. I promise.  I am learning that no matter what advice you get, you can always apply it to any part of your life. 

This link will take you to the podcast page of Fizzle and there are worksheets and a summary of the podcast below it. It was such an AWESOME eye-opener for me. Listen to it. You won't regret it.

After following Stephanie's advice, I have a whole list of very ambitious goals that I am working hard to reach. I am so excited to see how far I have come in one year, as I continue to check back in with these goals! I hope you have the same positive experience as I have had. 

What I want for you from this post is to ask yourself this question, "What goals do I have for myself?" If you are really unhappy with the way things are, you need to take a serious inventory of how often you have thought about your growth. You are in control. Become your own hero and take the steps necessary to make yourself happy in your career and in life!

Burn on!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Burned-In Teacher's First Guest Post: This BiT Wants You to Ride Out the Storm

Scuba, Flowers, and a Reception Hall

written by: Joantha Smith – 5th grade teacher – July 17, 2017

It was mid-year of the 2000-2001 school year when three of us sat around the teacher’s lounge lunch table considering pursuing second careers – all three of us. We had only been teaching for about 5 or 6 years and we had already hit a formidable wall. Teaching wasn’t supposed to be this difficult – admin expecting more from us to the point we wanted out - and FAST! Our conversation revealed secret passions containing a common thread which we discussed at length that day at the lunch table.
One of us talked about beginning a business being a scuba diving guide for newlyweds in exotic honeymoon locations. Being a certified scuba instructor/diver was his passion and hobby (still is). He was working long hours at school away from his wife and kids doing unfulfilling work. He wasn’t going to stay in education if this was going to be the day-to-day grind.
The other colleague shared wanting to manage a reception hall. How hard was that? It wouldn’t be long hours away from home almost every night. She wouldn’t have to submit lesson plans by 8am every Monday morning. And would certainly take her out of the daily grind we called teaching. Helping people celebrate life’s special moments sounded better than teaching – heck, anything sounded better than teaching. Finally, the fascination I have for flower arrangements prompted me to share that I would love to pursue being a florist at a local flower shop. There’s just something about a nicely balanced, fragrant, embellished bouquet of flowers. Flowers bring smiles, and that’s exactly what I wanted to feel – like smiling.

Do you see the theme here? The common thread? We weren’t smiling. We weren’t content. We weren’t present. What we DID have was the makings of a reception venue where folks could order flowers and plan their honeymoon all in one place! Making people happy and doing what we loved together – because we certainly weren’t in love with what we were doing. Grand plans were created around the table that day. We were geeking out about being happy. Does this sound familiar?

Situations changed. People changed. Administrators changed. We changed. The storm had passed.

When someone says, “When one door closes – another one opens.” Believe it, but sometimes you have to wait for it. A year or two later, a science position opened up for my friend to teach at another school. He was thrilled to be closer to home and would even have his daughter in class. Another elementary position opened for the other colleague that needed a change of principal and scenery – I miss her every day. And me? I stayed put.

I love my school and my school family. I always have. Families have their ups and downs like the stock market, and folks tell you to ride it out and that’s what I did. I relied on my coworkers, students, our new principal, and my personal family to renew my confidence that I had chosen the right path. I WAS supposed to be a teacher. And I was the captain of this ship. I was finally given an opportunity to be me.

If or when your thoughts begin to stray, and you begin visualizing an alternate career, take a personal inventory. Are you confident enough to wait out the storm? Or should you change your course? Don’t wallow in self-pity. YOU are the only one to decide your path and find true happiness.

Want to write a guest blog post and tell your story? Email it to me at

Want to tell your story, but want to remain anonymous? Email me and we will set up an interview. 

Burn on! 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Burned-INterview #5: This BiT is Burned-Out by Lack of Growth and Respect: Something She Found Easily within Another Company

BiT Interviews are completely anonymous and are conducted to get to know what burned-out teachers or current teachers are feeling and going through before they have either left or leave the education profession. 

AH: (Me!) Amber Harper   BiT: Interviewee

AH: How many years have you been teaching?
BiT: 16 years, most years at the same school, same building, same grade, even the same classroom.

AH: What do you feel is the best part of your job?
BiT: The kids and the relationships. Nothing else really is intriguing or important about teaching, in my opinion.

AH: Can you give me an example of a relationship that you have established?
BiT: Two students come to mind. This is the first year that I have been recognized for a relationship that I have build with a student at Junior Honor Society. One student still comes down to talk to me on a regular basis. After being recognized by a now senior this year, I was like, "Oh! Wow! It really does matter what we do!" You know, we go years and years without being recognized and all of the sudden, you have graduates reach out and tell you that you made an impact on them and you're like, "Whoa, really?"

AH: What is the worst, for you, about teaching?
BiT: Personally, this year has been hard for me because I am recently divorced and you know what teaching is like. You give and give and give all day and then you come home and you have nothing left to give. Well, before, I had my husband who could kind of help a little bit with our daughter, but now, I come home and I look at her and I think, I am so tired I can't even be a mom that you need. So this year has been hard because I feel like all of my most important energy should be poured into her and by the time I get home, I don't have anything left to give her. At this point, I only have 50% of her life and I keep thinking that either I'm going to be a really great teacher and pour it all into my kids at school, or am I going to be a really great mom and pour all of that energy into my daughter. I think part of it is too, that I want to be able to pour into her.
And, with this job, I don't know if I can give for her what I want to financially. When I retire, I won't have much there, you know? Part of it, also, is that I want to be able to provide for her. If I keep teaching, I don’t know that I can give her what I want to give her in the future, monetarily. I got my first raise this year in eight years and it didn’t even cover the hike in our insurance expenses. So, I’m like, what am I saving for? I’m not going to have much to retire on. So, I'm thinking, "Is all of this worth it... I mean, I FEEL SO HORRIBLE SAYING THIS!

AH: (I interrupt the teacher…) Every time that I have a conversation with teachers, they feel, at first, that they can’t be honest. But, THAT’S WHY I’M DOING THESE INTERVIEWS! We have GOT to start having these conversations and addressing these things. We can’t keep feeling bad about talking about our feelings! I have felt in the past, the same way. I have felt that if I say what I’m really feeling, then I’m a terrible person and I’m a terrible teacher. But, this is our job and this is our LIFE! If we can’t be honest, and we go to work and keep all of these things inside, we can’t be our best for our kids, because they ARE our kids! I’ve heard a lot, and I want you to be open and honest. This is totally anonymous and you are safe to be real with me.

BiT: That brings me to my next stressor. I feel like when we are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, there is NOTHING to support you. For example, we are now considered a “B” school, but now the stress to perform well has gotten so high. But, the kids that I have this year are not the same kids that I’ll have next year. I keep hearing, “We have to get a B, we have to get a B, we have a B!” But I don’t feel that it’s in the best interest of the teachers or the kids. I don’t feel that we should have to feel so stressed about it. I mean, I’m shoving stuff down these kids throat for three weeks, they are barely retaining it past the three weeks and what’s it for? Is it for the kids or for you? And, who’s going to take credit for it? (You being administration.) Or is it me who’s doing the work for you? I feel like our admin is all about claiming the success, but the teachers, ultimately, are the ones putting all of these things in place. They are only looking at how my kids are performing. It was just recorded, not acknowledged. I had a rough year, admittedly, but I don’t feel that I was supported when it was tough for me.

AH: So, how would you like to be supported?
BiT:  So this is a little strange, but I recently started selling beauty products. I know this is weird, but it actually brought back some of my passion for teaching, because of the team aspect of this company. I mean, at school, I am constantly pitted against other teachers all the time. We test the kids and then our results are slapped up on a board against the other teachers and then I am judged based on how well or how poorly my students performed against yours. So this teacher is giving a study guide, and this teacher is keeping kids after school. So, I’m thinking, what am I supposed to do? Is this supposed to be authentic? Because if it is, then I teach it and then I post test it.  I feel like the teamwork is completely gone. I feel like we used to collaborate together and now it is,“Who is teaching it best?’ When we get into that room and your percentages are the best and everyone is like, “WOW! You must be a rockstar at teaching that. How did you do it?” And, I feel like, yes, you might be a rockstar, BUT what if the kids already knew it or they just got it really fast. I mean, there are so many other factors. I felt judged for things that I believe are ultimately out of my control. I feel like usually my kids perform pretty high, because I teach High Ability, but this year they haven’t. They are weaker in math especially, and now I feel judged instead of supported. Administration is sitting in the meetings and I was approached like, “Are you worried about ISTEP?” And of course I am, but what am I supposed to do? That’s just where they’re at. I don’t know what to do with what you are saying to me!

AH: I’ve always been so confused about that. Like, how can you REALLY compare my students’ scores from this year to my students’ scores from last year? I don’t have the same kids, at all! How can you compare brains like that?
BiT: That’s where I feel like that school score is a joke. When our kids move to  high school, the makeup of our school changes by the kids that are coming in. It seems ridiculous to me that you can compare last year to this year.

That whole way of looking at my success has really burned me out. I know that you want me to get these kids to perform, but you aren’t telling what to do other that teach them what you are telling me to teach them and then giving them these tests and then hoping that they retain it. The energy level of my daughter and the lack of teamwork has really burned me out. Between teachers and between administrations. Even three to four years ago it was like, how can we get through this together? What can we do about this? And now it is just full-bore, full steam ahead without support from other teachers and administrators when you are having a hard time.

AH: I want to back up a minute and talk more about the beauty products that you are selling. You said that it helped you spark something. Can you tell me more about that?
BiT: It is really team oriented. It is so great because everyone is helping each other and they tell you what to do and you do it and it works! And I’m like, “Well, that was easy!”

AH: Did that help you feel better about school? Having that separate entity that was going really well?
BiT: It did! I just started in May and I’m already ‘leveling up!’ I have already been growing and climbing the ladder!

AH: That is so interesting to me that you get to grow so quickly, because you have been teaching in the same classroom and the same school for so long and have seen no professional growth, and you’re seeing growth in this company so quickly. That has to help you feel better about life, right?
BiT: Yeah, and you have all of these people around you, supporting you and wanting you to level up and grow quickly. It’s mostly women and it’s really empowering!

AH: This makes so much sense to me and I am so inspired by this! I have had conversations with so many other teachers and they all have the same  struggles: lack of support from administrators, other teachers,  and parents, poor student behavior.  I’m hearing you talk about how this other entity, seperately from school, is making you feel empowered, helping you to have a more positive outlook on your professional life. That’s so huge to me! I am so happy for you!

AH: Besides the beauty products, which sounds like its own sort-of therapy, have you sought out any help?
BiT: I’ve done some reading, but there isn’t a solution. I’ve even sought out jobs that I can do with an education degree.

AH: I hear you! I think we have all searched for things we can do that could make us feel more empowered, more respected, and make us more money.
BiT: I know! I mean, I am an educated person and I am struggling to pay my heating bill in the winter! I feel like that’s ridiculous! So, that in addition to all of the other stressors really makes it hard for me to stay in education.

AH: So with the extra money that you are bringing in with the beauty product sales, are you hoping to continue teaching?
BiT: Yes, I would like to.

AH: If you could wave a magic wand, what would you need to stay?
BiT: I think to become a team again. I don’t know how to do that, but I feel like we aren’t anymore.  I think to be able to be real. I feel like everyone has this fake, school persona that they walk in everyday and ‘everything’s great!’ And I don’t know what your population is like, but with our kids, things aren’t great at home and you have to be the positive thing in their life and you can’t crack.

I started looking for different jobs the second that I felt like I couldn’t trust the people that I worked with.They don’t see me as a human. If they see me as only a producer of goods, then why am I here? Yes, I love these kids and I love that I can be someone that they can look up to. But, if I can’t be a WHOLE me, then I can’t be anyone that they can look up to. I mean, when I was having a really rough time, I was pulled into the office and told that I need to change my attitude. I wasn’t even asked what the problem was, and you know what? If I would have been honest, IF they would have asked me, I would have been accused of being negative.

I feel like, “Just replace me.” Really, you are giving me a written curriculum, no creative power, do the pre/post test, and move on. And we also have the computer tests and I’m just done! The kids are done. It’s just too much pressure.

Take Aways and Tips


This interview was really powerful. We had a really deep conversation about the power of true teamwork, the need to trust, and be honest. What I also took away from this interview, more than the need for teamwork, was the need for growth and the need for encouragement from those around you when you need help.

There have been so many times, in my 11 years of teaching, where I have had a rough go of things, whether it was my class or personal obstacles that were effecting my attitude at work. Rather than being asked what was wrong, I have also been pulled into my administrator’s office and told that I need to quit being disrespectful and fix it. No questions. No worry about my well-being. Just fix it. Respect us. Complete apathy for my situation. It’s really hurtful to know that I don’t really matter to those that I work with.

Now, on the flip-side, I have also had coworkers listen, relate to, and cry with me because they understand what I’m going through. THAT is the kind of empathy that needs to be in our schools for our teachers. Am I saying that our principals should cry for us? NO! But at least ask questions instead of making assumptions.

I am completely intrigued by the outside business that this teacher has gotten involved in too. The fact that passion is being brought back into her teaching because of an outside entity is so exciting and further deepens my opinion that teachers, just like students, need encouragement and growth opportunities where they struggle.

A couple of tips from this interview:

  1. Find a place, whether its within your school or not, where you can grow and go for it! What are your passions in school? What are your passions outside of school? I guarantee you, you find that something and see growth, your life will change! I have experienced it!
  2. I’ve said it before. Not all grade levels, buildings, or corporations are created or run equally. Think of your personality type. Are you someone who loves change and you just realized that you have been teaching in the same grade level and classroom for 15 years? Maybe what you need is a big change in grade level, building, or… dare I say? Career.
  3. Respect yourself. What I love about this teacher is that she is not willing to live her life being someone else’s pawn. She knows what she needs to be her true self and love life and she is going for it. She knows what is important to her and she is respecting those truths. You should too.

BiTs, we have to be our own heroes. No one else is going to save us. We have to demand control of our lives.

Tony Gaskins, Jr. says- “If you don’t build your own dream, someone else will hire you to help them build theirs.”

This could be translated to : “If you don’t build your own beliefs about yourself as a teacher and human, someone else will build them for you; whether or not you give them consent or believe them yourself.”

That’s no way to teach, work, or live. So, I leave you with this call to action:

Let’s have a conversation.


Monday, June 19, 2017

Burned-INterview #4: Burning Out? Make a Friend!

Burned-INterview #4: 

This BiT Couldn't Hack It Without Her Teaching Partners: 

Who do you go to when you need support?

BiT Interviews are completely anonymous and are conducted to get to know what burned-out teachers or current teachers are feeling and going through before they have either left or leave the education profession. 

AH: (Me!) Amber Harper   BiT: Interviewee

AH: How long have you been teaching?
BiT: I have taught for more than 10 years.

AH: What do you love the most about teaching?
BiT: The ability to embark on my deep personal beliefs during our school day, outside of academics. The strong faith aspect of our school day.  Sharing my faith with my kids. At the end of the day I want my students to go out into the world as good, caring people.

AH: What is the hardest thing about being a teacher for you?
BiT: The toll that it takes on my family. I have given my students everything, emotionally, physically. My family gets the short end of the stick. That's what gives me to most guilt as a mom, because I am spent. Honesty, I really want to be the best, but my family SHOULD be the thing to come first and at the end of the day that’s not the case. My husband says things like, "How can you be so tired? How can you snap so easily?"

I feel like on of the biggest problems is that administration doesn't listen to their teachers. They pay thousands of dollars for experts and professionals, but they aren't listening to the teachers who work with these children daily. How many sticker charts am I going to do before I pull my hair out? I feel like if we were listened to and our voices mattered, we could save money and teacher sanity, because we know what is realistic to do with 30 kids. A lot of pressure is put on us, because we are a private school, to perform at the top. Like, in the top tier.It's frustrating when those people are making decisions for us and they are not in our classrooms for hours at a time, having to try to carry these things out with so many kids.  
I will do anything. I will do whatever is best for the kids, but I wish teachers had more power to say what needs to be said in front of administration. It's very hard to always be completely open and honest without fear of having others say that we don’t want what's best for the students.

I can say that at the end of the day, I have done everything that I can, but it still isn't enough. When I first started teaching, everything bothered me. I know things are the way that they are, and we can't change them, but I want to.

AH: How is your relationship with your admin?
BiT: I work in a huge school. Admin are kind and loving, and they lead with the best intentions. They are spread way too thin. I've only had one observation this year and only because I am up for renewal. Otherwise, I have gone years without being observed. Very visible in the building, but in our classrooms, very little.

AH: Do you like that?
BiT: I wish it was different, I don’t want to be micromanaged, but I wish the kids could form a good relationship with the principals. I think the principals want that, but it just isn’t possible.

AH: What advice would you give to administrators, if you had the chance? 
BiT: If you don’t have happy teachers, no one is happy. They are going to prevent their students from being happy and they are not going to be at their best for their students. I mean, I constantly wonder, "How long can I keep doing this?" I feel that teaching is at the expense of my family.

AH: Have you sought out anything to help you with balance?
BiT: I've tried setting "rules" for myself. Trying to get everything done at school and take NOTHING home. But then I'm at school until 8 or 9. I've also tried leaving early and taking stuff home and it doesn’t get done. It doesn't seem to matter what I do, I can never keep up.

AH: Have you sought out help?
BiT: I've read blogs on how to balance, nothing that I have found has been realistic for me. The dynamic at my school is different. The support staff is very limited. I feel like we are responsible for modifying all of their work, who have special needs. It’s a lot. I have to modify every piece of work for the kids.

AH: If you could wave a magic wand, what would help you the most?
BiT: More parent support. I have both extremes. Both ends of spectrum have extreme needs. I feel like school and home is a partnership and yet some parents think that dropping their kids off is their only job in educating their kids.

AH: Who do you feel that you have to support you?
BiT: I have someone to lean on, and she is fabulous, but she has her own job, so she is limited in how much she can help me. I also have two teaching partners who have worked together for eight years. We all plan together and just get each other through some things. I feel so lucky to have them, because I can’t imagine what it would be like to not getting along with who you work with or if it was just me.

AH: Is there anything else that is hard for you?
BiT: Technology. Tech is changing so much. I love it, but I’m not savvy. I feel like things move at such a fast pace, that I start learning one system and then it is changed. That’s really hard for me.

AH: It seems like you have had a lot going on. What are some of the things that are consuming your time the most?
BiT: We have switched to new administration. With that came a bunch of new committees. Now you have all of  this other stuff that you have to do. I think people don’t realize what we are for these kids every day. We are everything. Nurse, counselor, seamstress, mentor, and then you want me to go and be on countless committees and do all of this other work

I just feel like, "You are not going to get the best of me there."

And now we have to fill out collaboration forms. Paperwork to prove that we are doing what we should be doing. Plus, last year, I had 8 speech referrals, so I had to deal with all of that paperwork too.

AH: How do you decompress from this?
BiT: I like to run, but I feel like I don’t have time. My kids are involved in so much, I get to do it only once or twice a week.

AH: Say that I took away your two teaching partners, what would you do?
BiT: I couldn’t handle it. We share the workload. I plan math, another teacher plans the whole group reading lessons. I am Type A and I want to have everything perfect and done. I don’t sleep at night. I will just sit and replay everything that didn’t get done that day. I have to take Benadryl before bed so that I can sleep.

AH: Do you ever feel isolated?
BiT: Sometimes you don’t talk to another adult until the end of the school day. I get home and my husband doesn't understand why I am frustrated, and I'm like, “You had adult interactions all day, I’ve had 30 child conversations all day.” I think everyone should come into a classroom and see what it takes to do what we do.

Take-Aways and Tips

This teacher puts a lot of what we do into serious perspective. We give our all every day. As positive as we try to spin all of the hats that we wear during the day, every day, without support and encouragement from our administrators and other teachers, it can take a serious toll on our overall well-being. Having others to talk to about our stress levels is so important and without that, I can tell you from personal experience, life is hard and it can be next to impossible to leave that stress at school. 

1. Teachers have to stop being the landfill where everything that "has to be done" is dumped on them. If we are going to be at our best we can't be bogged down with filling out paperwork like collaboration proof forms and being forced into committee memberships. These things won't make us better teachers. Listening, supporting, and encouraging makes us better. With that being said, if you feel that things are being put onto your plate that don't belong there, it is your responsibility to say so. The only way this problem can be resolved is with your advocacy for yourself.

2. Having friends in the workplace is a non-negotiable. We crave companionship and support from our peers. We need someone to laugh and plan with, bounce ideas off of, and to give us honest and helpful feedback when things aren't going the way that we want them to. My first year teaching was a nightmare. I can't imagine staying in that environment for longer than I did. MAKE FRIENDS. BE A FRIEND. We are all in this together. 

Don't have someone at work to support you? Then check out these resources for getting you connected with others who are just as interested in building their PLN (Professional Learning Network) as you are:

I have sung Twitter's praises for over a year now. If you are looking for other positive influences that you can't find in your building, this is where you will find them. 

As you follow people, Twitter will recommend others to you. It is the most amazing connection tool ever! 

Check out YouTube for many great tutorials on how to use Twitter.

2. Google the term "Education Blogs" and you will be showered with opportunities to find inspiration. When you do, TWEET at me and share what you are reading. I want a piece of that too!

Burn on!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Tid BiT: Reflect to See How Far You've Come

Take Time to Give Yourself a Little Credit

Normally, while I walk the dog, I listen to Podcasts or books on OverDrive.  Yesterday, however,  I happened to remember all of the voice recordings that I have created and thought to myself, "I should listen to those." 

As I scrolled through the long list of them (I typically record thoughts that I'm having while I drive or am walking/running) I realized that I started recording back in April of 2016, right before I started I recorded all sorts of ideas. Some bad, some good. I listened to over a year's worth of voice recordings and was AMAZED!

What really struck me was how many of the ideas that I recorded, I actually followed through with! I have come a LONG way. While I've been sitting here, day after day, beating myself up about what I should have done or what I should have written or said, I was GROWING. I was CHANGING. I didn't even realize it until I took the time to reflect and give myself a little credit a whole year later.

Take time to reflect on where you were a year ago, five years ago, or even yesterday. How far have you really come? If you aren't proud of what you see, what are you going to do about it?  You have to be your own hero. YOU. No one else can change your life for you, but YOU. 

Burn on!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Burned-INterview #3: DON'T QUIT TEACHING! This Burned-Out Teacher is Going Back Into the Classroom

Burned-INterview #3: 

This BiT Isn't Giving Up On Her Teaching Dream: 

She Encourages Others To Do The Same

BiT Interviews are completely anonymous and are conducted to get to know what burned-out teachers or current teachers are feeling and going through before they have either left or leave the education profession. 

AH: (Me!) Amber Harper   BiT: Interviewee

AH: How many school systems have you taught in?
BiT: Two.

AH: How many years did you teach?
BiT: I taught in two different districts. One each year.

AH: Did you always want to be a teacher? What made you want to be a teacher?
BiT: Yes! I always had really good experiences with teachers growing up. I had one specific one who always stood out to me and helped me when I needed it. I didn't struggle in school, but when I needed it, she was always there for me. Her helping me so much made me decide that that's what I wanted to do, so I never questioned it.

AH: Of all of the things that you found hard about teaching, what do you feel burned you out the most? Did you stop teaching because you were burned-out?
BiT: Definitely. I didn't feel like I had very much support from administration.  When it came to me voicing my opinion. Not so much my first year, but for sure my second year. I felt that I was told, "No." all the time. It burned me out. I was just done.

AH: Could you give me an example?
BiT: It was a school that was really far behind compared to what I was used to. So, I was trying to incorporate technology and  bring that into the school and show them what could be done with it. The principal, even though she was young, was very old school. She wasn't very open to anybody's ideas, unless they were her own. Since it was my idea and I was trying to push it, I did research on it and sent everyone articles on it. I tried hard to push for it and she completely shut down. She completely quit talking to me about it. I was super excited about it and I was like, "Oh my gosh! They don't know anything about technology!" I had everyone doing Facebook Pages at the end of the year, but after that, she didn't want to take the technology any further.

AH: Do you feel that was what burned you out the most? You felt like your opinion didn't matter and something that you felt would be helpful wasn't accepted?
BiT: Absolutely.

AH: Where did you feel the most unsupported?
BiT: I had a serious behavior issue in my classroom. He came in the middle of the school year. When he was put in my classroom, it was a huge change for him. His mom warned me and after one day, shit hit the fan. It was horrible. It was three weeks of pulling him out of my classroom. He was endangering my other kids. He was throwing things and trying to hit people. I didn't feel like enough was happening to help me with that situation. My principal was expecting me to figure it out on my own. This was everyday for three weeks straight.

AH: What happened after that three weeks?
BiT: He eventually calmed down and got used to his surroundings. I learned that I had to be very stern with him. He knew he could grab my hand and we would go to the hallway. I would use my "mom" voice with him, and that's what got him out of it and back into the classroom to do what he needed to do. I feel like I shouldn't have had to figure all of that out on my own. I should have had more support.
He would scoot around on his chair and try to run into others. I once called the office and asked for someone to come down and get him, but no one came. I had to teach with my legs wrapped around his chair for 40 min until someone finally came.

AH: Besides them coming into your classroom for the safety of your kids, how often was administration in your classroom?
BiT: She would come in only for observations. I was observed four times and those were the only times my students would see her in the room.
My first year of teaching, I felt like my principal (who was doing my observations) had a good grip of what I was doing because he was doing walkthroughs in my classroom periodically, throughout the school year, at different times. So I felt like he understood what I was doing.
But, with her (my second principal), it was different, because it was hard for her to come into my classroom for 45 minutes and critique me on so many different things when those were the only times that she was in there. Those were the only times of the year. That's four times out of 180 school days! That's kind of creepy to me!

AH: What do you feel is the best way to support a teacher who is clearly burning out? What do you wish you would have had?
BiT: I feel like, for me, I was really interested in learning more about technology. That's what I get excited about. Even a principal sitting down and asking, "What are you interested in? What are some conferences that you would like to attend?" That would have been really nice. Some administrators are like, "Well, we're going to send you to this conference, so..." And we're like, "We don't need that. That's not what we're interested in.  I already do that in my classroom."

AH: So you are saying that you wish administrators would give teachers the autonomy and choice over where they spend their time learning and what they are learning about?
BiT: Yes. 100%.

AH: Did you feel like you had other teachers to confide about your feelings about teaching?
BiT: My first year, there were several new teachers. We were all about the same age, it was all of our first year of teaching. We supported each other and were able to vent in each other's classrooms, we were able to pull our heads together.
My second year of teaching, if I went to someone about feelings about administration, I felt that I knew it would get back to her. I didn't feel like I had built enough relationships to vent as much as I wanted to. I didn't know if I would be there or not the next year, so I didn't want to jeopardize my job.

AH: What caused you not to go back the next year?
BiT: We moved, but if I would have stayed there, I would have sought out a smaller school. I felt like the school was too big and it was run more like a business than a school.

AH: What do you wish was available to teachers who are feeling very overwhelmed and burned-out?
BiT: There were times where my class was so bad that I would just need to leave the room for 5-10 minutes. I would have my assistant take the class for 5 min. I wish there was a system set up within schools that, if you did need the time, you could step out of the classroom.
I wish teachers would talk about this more. I don't think it's wrong, I think we should talk about it! I feel that teachers think that it's wrong, and it's NOT! We should be knowledgeable enough in ourselves that we need that!

AH: That's one reason that I decided to do these interviews. There is a huge stigma within teachers who have felt the way that we have felt. You don't want to tell anyone, because you don't want others to think that you are a bad person or teacher. I went through a serious period of burn-out my fourth year of teaching. I was crying in my car all the way to school, cried in my car while I sat in the parking lot before walking into the building. I was certain that I was not coming back the following year. I went through this again my eighth year teaching and then I still feel it sometimes now.
I wanted to know that I wasn't crazy! I kept feeling like, "I can't be the only one who feels this way." And, I'm NOT.
BiT: You're not! My first year teaching, I didn't have any problem talking to the other girls about how I was feeling, but, at my second school my principal was constantly comparing me to other people. She always talked about how empathetic she was, but she was so negative!

AH: If you could go back, is there anything that you feel you would have done differently?
BiT: Yes, I would have. I would have voiced my opinion more about how I felt about things. When you haven't been teaching for 10 years, I think it's really hard to go up to your administrator and say what you think, but sometimes I think that's what needs to happen. Sometimes, they think they are above you, when I feel like they should be on the same level as you.

AH: You are approached by a graduating, preservice teacher. They ask you for some advice. What do you say to them?
BiT: It's not going to be easy. I had a great experience going into my first year of teaching. You are going to have days where you are crying in your car or classroom. You will have to remember WHY you went into education. Look back and ask yourself why you even started. Talk to the people around you because they are going to the most supportive and find someone you can rely on and be honest with. Find one person who you feel that you can confide in and vent with.

AH: Were you regretful when you left? Would you ever suggest to someone who is burned-out to just quit teaching?
BiT:Yes, I was regretful. I would never tell anyone to quit. If there were a young teacher who approached me and told me they were going to quit, I would be like, "We're going to figure this out and get you though this." It is difficult to switch job and careers. I just can't think of anything else that I want to do! This is my life! This is what I always wanted to do!

Interview Take-Aways:

This interview proves it. Once a teacher, always a teacher. We put up with a lot. This teacher, and the couple interviewees before her, have said what needs to be said in reference to all of the stuff that we do and are faced with daily in our professional lives. 

We don't want to be pitied. We don't want to be coddled. We just want to be listened to, valued, and looked at as professionals. We need to grow, and help others to grow. That's what we do! It doesn't seem natural to ask a teacher not to want to grow, themselves, when we are in the business of growth. 

Administrators, if you are reading this, I beg of you to listen to your teachers and value what you hear. When we question or suggest, we are not undermining you. We are not challenging your authority. We just want to help! We are a smart, problem-solving, passionate, and evolving group of professionals. We want to have control over our own learning, just like we want for our students. 

This teacher also proves that not all building/administrators are created equal. She had a great experience at her first school corporation. She had others to lean on and a principal who seemed to be genuinely interested in what was happening in her classroom on a day-to-day basis. I venture to say that she would have stayed there, had she not moved.

This teacher had other teachers to lean on and trust when things got rough in her first school. She found that something, technology, in her second school to help her to inspire others. It's too bad she didn't have them both at the same time!

We are in the business of inspiring others. We should pick SOMETHING and SOMEONE to inspire US as well. Find that person. Find that 'thing'. Let them inspire you to keep going. If you can't keep going where you are, find SOMEPLACE where you can. Your happiness and self-worth are worth it. 

Burn on!