Sunday, May 29, 2016

The First Step in Becoming Burned-In is Admitting That You Are Burned-Out: Turning Shame into Sharp Focus

Step 1: Admit That  You Are Burned Out

When I was feeling burned-out and hating life, I felt 100% alone and isolated. I didn't feel that it was acceptable to feel the feelings that I was feeling. I didn't talk to anyone about them, even my husband, because he was sick of hearing it. I knew that I was an awesome teacher. Students, other teachers, and parents told me all the time. They showered me with gifts and compliments, and although it used to fuel my fire, I then found myself numb to it. 

It wasn't until I started doing some Google searches that I realized that, not only were other teachers feeling the same way, there was actual research being done about it. Now, until the last few weeks, I had skimmed some of the articles and then closed out thinking, "Okay, I'm not alone, but these people are full of sh@#!"

Recently, I have been doing some deep research about being burned-out online and it is helping me so much! I am becoming sharply focused on my attitude and behaviors as a burned-in teacher. After reading eight articles (you will find the links below), here are the biggest take-aways that I have for you to reflect on about YOURSELF as an educator:

Potential Causes of Teacher Burn-Out:
1. Your students don't seem to care.
2. You feel you are disciplining more than teaching.
3. The pressure to perform is high and your workload is even higher.
4. You are experiencing constant changes in expectations and standards.
5. You feel you are being over-evaluated.
6. You are constantly dealing with colleagues who are less then fun to work with.
7. You have low self-esteem.
8. You are working for administrators who are terrible managers.
9. You are confused about your role as a teacher.
10. Your working conditions are bad.

Signs You are Burned-Out:
1. You take a lot of days off of work
2. You don't share or seek great ideas.
3. When you do converse, you are complaining.
4. You have lost that "spark".
5. You are exhausted.
6. You rarely smile or laugh (especially at school).
7. You are anxious.
8. You feel overwhelmed.
9. You seek collaboration and can't find anyone willing to work with you.
10. You isolate yourself.
11. You feel that everything is an emergency.
12. You feel numb to feeling any emotions for students or other teachers.
13. You take forever to get out of bed to go to work.
14. You despise staying after school to do work in the classroom.
15. You feel severe annoyance about every little thing.
16. You use planning time to search for jobs outside of education.

Step 2: Take Action

Possible Solutions:
1. Be more playful.
2. Be present in your teaching.
3. Decide what you want to be and who you want to be.
4. Be an actor. (Fake it!)
5. Embrace the uncertainty.
6. Find balance.
7. Search yourself. What do YOU love to do?
8. Grow relationships in and out of school.
9. Show gratitude.
10. Heal. Know these feelings will pass if you want them to and you will come out stronger.

Find Inspiration:
1. Google 'Teacher Burn-Out'. Read about burnout and solutions.
2. Find TED-ed Talks.
3. Find a hashtag on twitter that inspires you or find great people to follow. (follow me on Twitter @burnedinteacher)
4. Find funny teacher memes.
5. Find a group of teachers online to share triumphs with.
6. Decide what is important to you and what is not.
7.Plan activities in your off time that have nothing to do with teaching.


I hope that recognizing the signs is helpful to you and your journey to become burned-in again. Now, take the next step and TAKE ACTION! For me, taking action is simply enjoying my summer vacation with no thoughts about school for weeks on end. I love my school and my kids, but I am done for now.

FYI: There are MANY more articles out there on the topic of 'Teacher Burn-Out'. I strongly encourage you to read all you can about it. I am finding new articles every day. They are extremely confirming and refreshing to read. Plus, you may find out (after reading about someone else's teaching life) that you don't have it nearly as bad as you think you do. 

Email me signs that you know you are burned-out. Tell me about your situation. Share your shame so you can become sharply focused on fixing this. You can become burned-in again!

Burn on!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Skill Every Burned-Out Teacher Should Have- And Why

I'm No Pinterest Board.

You will not walk into my room and be in awe of how beautiful it is. You will not marvel at my hand-drawn pictures and trendy purchased signs or charts and think to yourself, "Wow. I wish I was as creative as her." I'm no Pinterest Board full of crafty, DIY  beauty, and I don't strive to be. I am organized and practical. I don't believe in fluff, and I don't believe in spending hours of unpaid time and hundreds of dollars of my own money on buying fabric and paint to make a room look perfect. But I do believe in a healthy, safe, and creative environment for my kids. 

This post is in response to a question from Brian. He is a 4th year teacher in a middle school. Here is his question:

"So, you said that you have been teaching for one year at this new school, and you are getting rid of stuff? How much 'stuff' do you have? Is your room a total disaster?"

Aside from feeling a little self-conscious about your very poignant question delivery, you ask some very good questions. To answer your questions quickly, yes. I have acquired stuff this year. And, no, my room is anything BUT a disaster, however, it has been 'lived in' this year and needs some reorganization and rethinking. Here are some pictures from yesterday:

If you have been reading my posts from the very beginning, you know that this is my first year in my new corporation. Before this, I taught for 8 1/2 years at another corporation, quit to take a position in a non-profit that failed 6 months later. That is the VERY short of it, however, you should know that one reason I have so many things is because I did bring some stuff with me from my other school that I didn't know for sure I would use. After one full year of teaching 1st graders again, I now know what I don't need anymore.

When I was burned-out a few years ago (the first time), I found an outlet. I learned what I could do at school to give me a spring in my step again, if only for a short time... pitching and organizing. It is my natural love. I found this skill to be extremely fulfilling and I now look forward to it all the time.


If my students and I are having a particularly rough day, I stop everything and we clean our desks. They clean theirs and I clean mine. We go through EVERYTHING. I'm talking folders, supply boxes, and even our book boxes. When we are done, we have a fresh start and it is worth the time taken. I am instantly in a better mood.

Your passion may not be to put on a circus performance for your kids to teach them about fractions. (For some of you, it is. That's okay too.) If your passion is reading books to your kids, then make that they way that you teach. If you are naturally good at telling stories, then THAT, my friend, is where you have it.

No, my classroom does not turn heads for it's perfectly straight bulletin boards and apple theme, but my kids know where everything is and they are taught that being organized is one of the keys to success. Everything that is in my room serves a specific purpose. THAT is MY passion. It may not be yours, but that is what pulls me out of a rut. That is my skill that people notice.

Find YOUR skill. Can't find it? You had it at one time. You can find it again. Finding your skill will give you more purpose than just 'showing up' and 'getting through the day.' Finding your skill and sharing it with the world is what makes you then best teacher that YOU can be. Take action and take control by putting your skill into action in your classroom in some way.

Thanks so much for your question, Brian! I hope this helps you to understand that the need to declutter doesn't just apply to hoarders. It applies to all of us. My question back to you is: What is YOUR skill? What are you passionate about BESIDES teaching?

As always, check me out on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest @burnedinteacher! Send me your questions or comments by emailing me at

Comment below and tell me what skill you have that you are energized by and excited to do when school life is hanging you out to dry!


Sunday, May 22, 2016

My Favorite Part of 'The End of the School Year'

Start Planning for Next Year by Purging!

As I was researching End of the Year for Teachers, I came across this great article of questions, from It has really great questions to ask yourself as you close out the school year.

Here are my favorite questions from this article that I challenge you to ask yourself this week (My absolute faves are in red.):

  1. What is something you tried in your classroom this year for the first time? How did it go?
  2. What is something you found particularly frustrating this year?
  3. What is something you would change about this year if you could?
  4. What has caused you the most stress this year?
  5. What were your biggest organizational challenges this year?
  6. What was the biggest mistake you made this year? How can you avoid making the same mistake in the future?
I chose the two in red because these are the questions that I will continue to ponder and try my hardest to fix, first in my mind, and then take action on over the summer so I can set myself up for success in July and August. 

If you are doing your best to take last week's challenge and plan the next week this week, you could potentially be planning for the first week of school already by asking yourself these questions. I know I am! This week, I will be taking before and after pictures of my classroom as I do my FAVORITE organizational activity... PURGING!

Decluttering is a great way to find yourself. It will also help you to reevaluate your teaching. You may find some things that you used to use 10 years ago and see how far you have actually come in your teaching strategies. You may also find some old friends that you want to bring back out into your classroom setting! Don't be afraid to pitch things if you haven't used them this year. Just get rid of them. Clutter is not good for anyone. It bogs you down and makes you feel overwhelmed, and that just ads to your feelings of burning out.

I plan on getting rid of my desk, as it is just a center for clutter. I NEVER sit there and it's just wasting space. I also have a lot of things that I just jammed in my closets after moving into my classroom last year and haven't used this year. Those things will be meeting their maker this week as well.

What are you doing this week to set yourself up for success next year, already? I challenge you not to just "get through" the last couple of weeks of school. Start thinking of how you can TAKE ACTION to have a better school year next year. Who knows? You may actually look forward to starting a new year; refreshed, clutter-free, and ready to take action on the many other ideas that I have to share with you this summer to BURN YOU IN!

As always, you can email me to tell me or show me before and after pictures from YOUR classroom! Follow me on Twitter @burnedinteacher or LIKE Burned-In Teacher on Facebook by searching Burned in Teacher.


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Your Questions About Turning Burned-Out Into Burned-In ANSWERED

Don't Get Stuck on the BURNED-OUT Escalator:

3 Things You Can Do RIGHT NOW To START Burning IN

I am so EXCITED about all of the email responses that I received this week regarding becoming a teacher that LOVES going to work again. Some teachers have been teaching for 20+ years and others JUST GRADUATED and are already terrified about what lies ahead next fall.
Most questions and comments centered around a single topic: WHERE TO START.
My friends, my answer to you is JUST. START. 
TAKING ACTION and taking control over your future as an educator is 100% up to YOU. You can have a terrible principal, an even worse assistant principal, colleagues that want to drag you down with them, and students that believe their calling in life is to make you miserable and all you have to do is make a simple decision: become the teacher you never wanted to be or beat the status quo.
IT'S AS SIMPLE AS GETTING OFF THAT ESCALATOR. Watch the video below to see what I am talking about.

I LOVE this video. I have shown it for years; to my colleagues as a team leader when we were trying something new within our grade level and even to my 3rd graders at the beginning of the year as they were learning how to be proactive and solve their own problems.

This video encompasses everything about becoming BURNED-IN. My friends, it is all up to you to love your life as a teacher again. No one can change your attitude but you.

However, if you just can't fathom where to start in your quest to get out of the hole you have sunk yourself into, here are 3 tips to launch you out of that hole and into orbit:

1. Make a list. Check it twice.
First, I challenge you to make two lists. One of things you HATE, I mean down right DETEST, about your life at school right now. Go ahead. Do it now.

Then, highlight all of the things within your control. I've said it before, you can control most if not all of the problems that you have in your teaching life, so I really want you to focus on the big hates to even the smallest of annoyances.

Finally, make another list of these things you hate in number order of what you can control at this very minute or tomorrow morning to what may take a few weeks, months, or years to change.

For example, you may hate standardized testing most of all. You know you can't stop it, and it makes you cry thinking about it. You can't stand watching these future leaders and innovators being subjected to such patronization as a bubble exam for hours on end. So maybe you should think about transferring to Kindergarten or 1st grade, where the kiddos aren't tested so heavily. Email your principal or other principals within your district tomorrow and let them know that you are interested in making a grade-level change, should one come about. This change could take a year or two, so it should go on the bottom. On the other hand, maybe things in your room just don't flow, layout wise, the way that you wish they would. So, put that on the top of the list of things you can do this week!

2. Visualize.
Now, get another piece of paper or create a timeline on your computer. TO THE MINUTE, I want to look at how you are spending time in your school on a typical day. I'm talking from the moment you walk in the door in the morning, to when you leave at night.

Where do you spend your lunch hour?
When do you take your kids to the bathroom?
What do you spend your time doing before school starts, during your prep, and after the kids leave every day?

Again, I'm going to go back to that list that you made. What subjects or time blocks do you dread each day? What can you do to TAKE ACTION and change how you are spending your time so that you are excited about your day, instead of uninspired? Are you wasting your time in the teacher's lounge during lunch, complaining about your principal or students?

Visualize what your IDEAL day would look like with your kids. What do you WISH you could get done at school? What are things that you would love to work into your day, but just haven't done? What can you take out of your day that is monotonous to you? Chances are, if you are bored by it, so are your students.

3. Try, Fail and Try Again.
Tomorrow, go to school. Close your door. Shhhhhhh....this is where the real fun begins...Try some of those things you've been longing to do. Try. You will probably fail. But TRY AGAIN. I beg you! Try your DAMDEST to make changes in your space: Your classroom. You don't have to tell anyone. Try everything. The only limit is YOU.

And, my friend, if you are working in a building that finds out that you are trying some things and they treat you like you just committed a capital murder in the cafeteria, it may be time for you to TRY looking for a different place to become more burned-in.

Bottom line. Get. Off. That. Escalator. Now.

I can't wait to hear more questions this week as the school year winds down and as more and more future educators are entering the field.

Leave a comment below about what you are going to try TOMORROW. Email me your lists! I want to see your starting-off points! Tell me your triumphs and failures at I am here for YOU! Also, follow me on Twitter @burnedinteacher, to see what I am using to keep myself burned-in!

Burn on!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Sharpening MY Saw: Looking Out for #1, So I Can Help #2 BURN IN: Part 7 of I Was Burned-Out

When I finally started to pull myself out of my second “funk” back in January, I started to do a lot of soul searching. As I started questioning my wants and needs as a person, I started thinking more selfishly. When I say that, I don’t mean that I became an egotistical jerk. I didn’t go around saying, “I’m doin' ME!” That’s not at all what I mean at all. Or do I???

Stephen Covey says in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that,

“To be effective, we must devote the time to renewing ourselves physically, spiritually, mentally, and socially. Continuous renewal allows us to synergistically increase our ability to practice each habit.”

For me, this meant spending time creating goals and making plans for MY future in many DIFFERENT areas of MY life. My personality is not one that lends itself to being happy in one spot for long. Whether it be sitting in the same place or staying within the same job or home for an extended amount of time. It was time for me to ACCEPT who I really am and realize that, although I am in a school that is allowing me to grow as a professional now, I am ready to expand my personal and professional growth in other ways. As soon as I decided that I was in control of my own destiny, my attitude improved even MORE! I am in search of what Tony Robbins calls, “CANI” the need for Constant And Never-ending Improvement.” (I began reading Awaken the Giant Within, by Anthony (Tony) Robbins in January. This is another MIND BLOWING book about how our daily decisions change our destiny!)

“Sharpening the Saw” may seem to be all about improving your skills as a teacher, a cook, a mom, etc. but actually, sharpening the saw has more to do with growing YOU, as a whole. Constantly focusing on one area of your life will only lead to burn-out, in my opinion. That’s what I believe started to lead me down the path that ultimately sunk me. (Insert all of the waves of panic and stress that consistently came from my previous workplace before, I took action.) I was thinking only about my life as a teacher. I wasn’t in a place where I imagined that I COULD do anything but teach.

When I was in a PLACE where I had SPACE to grow, that is when my mind was open to all of MY abilities. When YOU are in a place where you are allowed to ask questions, make mistakes, and truly collaborate, YOUR mind can be opened too. Again, this goes back to my VERY FIRST POST last week when I said that, although it is important that our State and administration focus on student growth, they are leaving out the most important part of that growth. If they are not allowing educators to have SPACE and OPPORTUNITY to grow, they won’t. Period. Teachers will either A. Do what I did originally and QUIT or B. Be the most miserable individuals in the building and they are the MOST IMPORTANT BRIDGE between CONTENT and KIDS!

I challenge YOU. Make a list of all of the things that are making YOU UNHAPPY. Think of all of the things that you HATE and that are BURNING YOU OUT. Do it! How many of those things do you feel are out of your control? Count them. Here’s the punchline…


You may have to get creative. You may have to put a lot of time and effort into some things and for others, it may be a simple phone call that you need to make. The MOMENT that I decided not to be the VICTIM of my own previous decisions, is when I started making changes. Some BIG, some small. Here are a list of a couple of my current goals that are SHARPENING MY SAW DAILY:

  1. I am CRAVING to connect with other professionals who are feeling BURNED-OUT or are afraid that their fire is slowly dying. I want you to be as excited to go to work as I am lately. I went from crying in my car on the way to work to thinking about my job as a catalyst for GREAT THINGS to come in my life, therefore affecting my ability to be a great teacher, employee, and co-worker.

  1. I have begun my Google Education Training! Google is one of the tools that I have used this year to seriously simplify and improve my collaboration, planning, and teaching. I was so inspired by a conference that I went to in April that I started training on my OWN! Now that is BURNED-IN!!

  1. I started THIS BLOG! I haven’t written in YEARS. This is one of the ways that I am trying to grow myself. Through sharing my journey, my triumphs and my failures I am hoping to help YOU. MY burn-outs have made me a better person, not just a better teacher. I have SO MUCH to IMPROVE and am so excited!. I have the DESIRE to improve. I can’t wait to share my wins and losses with you!
If you don’t know where to start with “Sharpening Your Saw” as a teacher, please let me know what I can do to HELP YOU. I am CRAVING to help others, like me, who have struggled or are currently struggling with HOW TO IMPROVE THEIR BEHAVIORS AND ATTITUDE in their classrooms and schools. Please email me at and tell me YOUR story and what YOU need that you are not currently getting in your life to improve your outlook. You can follow me on Twitter @burnedinteacher to see what’s up in my classroom and online as I reach my goal of becoming a GOOGLE INNOVATOR!

That’s it! That’s the LAST post of my plunge into blogging series of “I Was  Burned Out…” Although I won’t be blogging every day anymore, I am so excited about continuing to share my journey of “CANI” (Thanks, Tony!) with you weekly!


Friday, May 6, 2016

Fake It Till You Make It: A Checklist of Burned-In Behaviors: Part 6 of I Was Burned Out

Fake It Till You Make It:  A Checklist of Burned-In Behaviors

“By putting forth a spirit of trust and safety, we will prompt others to become extremely open, and feed on each other’s insights and ideas, creating synergy.”
Stephen Covey

In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey defines synergy as what happens when all previous habits are rolled into one. Synergy is the sum of all of its parts.

Listen, I’m going to make this post extremely simple and to the point. You either decide that you want to continue teaching, or you don’t. There is no other way around it. I decided a year and a half ago that I didn’t want to teach anymore and I quit. I went back 6 months later and some mornings, pulled into the parking lot with tears in my eyes. Then, I got sick of living that way. I had to make a decision. I was going to continue to make myself miserable (because it was ultimately me that was the problem) or I was going to burn myself in.

The “fake it till you make it” quote couldn’t be more perfect when thinking of synergy in this situation. My attitude stunk at the beginning of the year. It wasn’t going to change without me FAKING that I was loving my life as a teacher again. So I did. I faked my happiness. Faked that I loved getting up so stinking early to leave by 6:50 am to get to work on time (I know you feel me there). Faked that I cared about meetings that were supposed to be helping me. Faked that I wanted to become involved in my new work community. I FAKED MYSELF SICK. Literally. I really did get sick. I had to call a sub. It was bad.

Then, I made a change and there were a lot of really great things that happened when I started behaving the way that I wanted to feel. My attitude couldn’t help but want to join in once I made teaching uncomplicated and more efficient (ahem, synergized?). What made all of this easier is that when I took the risk that I did a year ago, I ultimately put myself in a place that wasn’t consistently dragging me back down every time things were going well. That was where this all began. Action.

Below, you will see the last five posts put into list form. These are, in a nutshell, what I did to get myself on track to enjoy my the teaching career again. Check the things off that you already do, and work on the things that you can’t honestly say that you do consistently:

  • I researched unhappiness and found a book that I thought could help me.
  • I was proactive. I didn’t like something, so I changed it.
  • I dragged myself out of the black hole that was negativity.
  • I failed and learned lessons I never would have learned otherwise.
  • I failed, but met some great people along the way.
  • I began to really care about how my coworkers and students perceived me.
  • I set some serious career goals for myself. I know where I want to go.
  • I faked my happiness until I actually started to be happy.
  • I started working smarter, not harder.
  • I learned some new things. I practiced them until I got good at them.
  • I valued my personal and family time over work.
  • I began to question the way that I did things in/out of the classroom. (What am I doing/not doing to sabotage my efficiency, effectiveness, and happiness?)
  • I built meaningful relationships with my coworkers and my principal.
  • I truly collaborated and tried new things outside of my comfort zone.
  • I realized what a great place I was in and how lucky I was to be there.
  • I was not afraid to talk about my personal struggle.
  • I created synergy.

Wow. Seeing it in list form brings tears to my eyes. When I started teaching again this year, I thought I was incapable of so much. I became completely stagnant. My misery was happy staying right where it was. The last 9 years have come with a lot of highs. But the heights wouldn’t be so magnificent, had I not experienced the lows. Just because I became a teacher 9 years ago does not mean that I can’t set more goals for myself. Educating lends itself to so much more that “just teaching.” I am so excited about the path that lies ahead. The things I did  were the catalyst for what is pushing me to WANT more personally and professionally. I know you want more too, or you wouldn’t be reading this post.

Tomorrow is the last post in this series of my story about how I was burned out and my steps to getting burned back in. I can’t wait to talk to you about how I am “Sharpening My Teaching Saw!”


Thursday, May 5, 2016

The One Question You Should Ask Yourself Today to Understand YOU Better: Part 5 of I Was Burned Out

Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People goes into a lot of detail about the different kinds of listening that we do every day. What he really emphasizes is EMPATHETIC LISTENING. He defines it as listening with the intent to understand, both intellectually and emotionally. He also gives a clear outline of the STEPS to take to understand before being understood.

If there is one habit I wish that I would have learned as a child, it would be this one. Trying to understand before being understood is one of those habits that I still struggle with today, especially with my students and my own children. I tend to be very reactive to their choices and am quick to correct, blame, or assume the worst before even attempting to understand.

Asking yourself this question will help you to understand A LOT about why you are feeling BURNED-OUT:

If your classroom was a workplace, would you want to be an employee of it?

In my 9 years of teaching, I have worked with some of the most amazing educators. They are fun, pleasant, and are some of the most understanding individuals that I have ever met. I would LOVE for them to be my boss. On the flip-side, I have worked with some who, if I was an employee of theirs, I would quit the day I started.

Think of your day. Think of your expectations. Think about whether you are REALLY trying to understand your students and their abilities and needs.

*PAUSE* This is NOT a blog about teaching strategies. You will not hear me harp about differentiation, tiered lessons, RTI or any other buzz terms that are out there right now . All I am asking you to do is to be REFLECTIVE about your attitude and expectations of the children in your care each day. *UNPAUSE.*

Ask Yourself:
Would I want to work for me?

If you have been following this blog for the last few days, you can clearly see that I was very unhappy with who I was working for in my first years of teaching. I did NOT want to work for them. Although after that first year, I improved my communication and teaching skills and gained more respect from my administrator and peers, he and I could not see eye-to-eye when it came to how I wanted to be led. That fact was clear all of those years.

If I flipped my question of the day on its head and asked, “Would I want to be a student in this classroom?” in reference to my past workplace experience. N.O. That’s why I sought better for myself and found it. Other people are doing fine there. It just wasn’t a place where I felt that I could grow. All those years we just couldn't understand one another. I was exhausted. I just burned out. My attitude stunk, my motivation tanked, and I was in a dark place.

Understanding before being understood is really all about communication. Communicating that you understand what you are hearing or seeing. Communicating your feelings. Communicating your message back.

If you are BURNED-OUT, you are probably conveying the message that you don’t really CARE if what you are asking of kids is inappropriate for their age or not, you just do it because that’s the way it has always been done OR because it’s the way you see others doing it. Would you want to work for a boss whose attitude is that patronizing? That, my friend, is not just a way to burn-out, but a quick way to burn your kids out too, therefore affecting their behavior, causing more feelings of frustration in you, and that just causes the kids to be more frustrated, etc, etc.

If you have time, go back and reread all of my posts from this week. Are you REALLY seeking to understand what this blog is all about? It’s meant to help me, yes. I have had all of these thoughts for YEARS. However, it is mostly meant to cause a ripple effect. I want you to become BURNED-IN too! The first step to getting there is to understand WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT. YOU are the only one who can change how you feel. Start with burned-in behaviors and the attitude will follow.  

As always, please comment below with any questions or comments about this post. If you have ideas for a future post, you can email me at Also, follow me on Twitter @burnedinteacher!


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Thinking Win-Win Vs.Beginning with the End In Mind

In Celebration of my VERY first posted comment, I am writing a SECOND post that compliments both Thinking Win-Win and Beginning with the End in Mind. 

Mrs. Szynal wrote:

I completely agree with intentions outweighing abilities! I am constantly over-committing myself. Just yesterday, after a full evening of dinner and shopping, I came home and went to the gym (because that is a commitment I want/need to keep), and then after getting home at 8:45, made a lasagna for a coworker who had taken time off (because they needed food and no one else was volunteering), made 10 origami flowers out of dollar bills (because it is a coworker's birthday today and we all wanted a fun way to deliver cash and I'm "better at those creative things" so I was elected to do it), and made a salad for her birthday lunch. Nothing too crazy, and all things I had great intentions for, but I did not have the time or mental or physical energy to do, especially with other things I needed to get done. I don't want to stop being kind and helpful but I want some of my own time back. How can I keep being kind without being burned out? I want my coworkers to say I am helpful and kind, so how can I keep that but without sacrificing my own well being? :) 


In my post about Beginning with the End in Mind, I listed 3 things that I thought about when I found myself burning back out. The first was obviously the main idea of the entire message. I began to think of my purpose for doing what I was doing. What did I want others to think of me as? It sounds like that was your main goal here was to let others know that you care about them. I am sure you achieved that goal. You are OBVIOUSLY a thoughtful, kind-hearted person who is willing to take time away from your own wants/needs (i.e. family, schoolwork, etc.) to support someone who needs it. 

With that said, I would have to ask you: Do you think your friend who needed dinner would have felt less appreciative if you would have taken them a meal from KFC or some other yummy restaurant in your town? And your friend who was having a birthday. Could you have thought of a way to work smarter on making it creative? Maybe having a student take her money every hour all day with quotes that were printed and wrapped around it about how AWESOME he/she is? All that would have taken was a few clicks, some tape, and willing kiddos who would have loved to make a teacher smile down the hall on their birthday. 

Opportunity cost is when you sacrifice something for the sake of something else. For example, if I was trying to save money for vacation, I wouldn't go out to eat as much for the weeks/months leading up to that vacation, because I want to keep that extra money for vacation. 

When you decided to sacrifice your time for the good of friends, you did 2 things:

1. You saved money. But was it worth the potential $20.00 saved? I mean really, you probably spent about $10.00 on all of the materials for the lasagna at some point. You just had them at your house already. 

2. You made the situation a Win-Lose, at your own cost. Your friends gained a great dinner and a thoughtful birthday gift, but you lost an evening. Could you have worked smarter instead of harder in these situations? Time really is a commodity. 

Let me ask you another question. You go work out after work most days, it sounds like. I don't know much about your mornings, but have you considered transitioning to morning workouts instead of afternoon? I would advise you to really think about every second that you spend driving to the gym, getting dressed, how long you work out, hang out a little after, drive home, shower, etc. Seriously. Set a timer tomorrow from the time you start either getting dressed/driving to the gym after work to when you are out of the shower at home (pending you shower right when you walk in the door). What would your OPPORTUNITY COST be if you would work out in your own home or at the gym in the morning before work? There are actually a lot of studies that say working out in the morning makes for a better day anyway. Plus, you would save money too, should you choose to work out at home. BONUS! ;)

I hope this helps, Mrs. Szynal. Best of luck to you. Burn on, my friend!

10 Reasons YOU Should be Thinking WIN-WIN at School: Part 4 of I Was Burned Out

Think Win-Win:
The Best Habit for a Highly Effective Teacher

This is by far my favorite habit. The title speaks for itself, so this post is going to be pretty short. What can you and someone else do together that will help you both WIN?

Stephen Covey says in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,
In order to establish effective interdependent relationships, we must commit to creating Win-Win situations that are mutually beneficial and satisfying to each party. 

I’m going to drop a word now that is going to make some of you want to slam your head against your keyboard right now… ready?

COLLABORATION. (Take a deep breath. It really is better than what all you BURN-OUTS may have experienced.)

Google defines collaboration as “The act of working with someone to produce or create something.” I’m pretty sure that between Webster and some school buildings, the definition has been switched to, “The act of meeting in a room and being handed a list of things from our principal to talk about that could have been typed into an email while everyone sits around staring at eachother thinking about all of the other things they could be doing with this time.” Am I right???

In my first years of teaching, my idea of collaboration was tainted with to-do’s, calendars, and lists of topics to discuss from our admin. I thought that’s what it was. People sat around grading papers while others were planning the field trip that was coming up the next month. I, of course, learned that I was not part of this meeting of the minds and sat there thinking of all of the other freaking things that I had to do!!! BURN-INS. That. Is. Not. Collaboration. That is just plain wasteful.

Collaboration is sitting down and asking, “So, what are we thinking for next week? What does the curriculum map say? What is our Social Studies standard that we are going to embed in our reading and/or writing? What do we already have done?” There should be a lot of clicking, typing, and “ah-ha”ing going on. Get my drift?

If you have truly collaborated with someone, you are walking away with a physical or digital PRODUCT that you created TOGETHER and a plan of how to use said product! ‘Nuf said.

Have you ever seen the YouTube video of the penguins standing on the iceberg, helping to tilt the iceberg to ward off a killer whale? If not, check it out. It's a pretty great concept and example of collaboration and teamwork.

Those penguins were all moving in the same direction for the good of the cause.
The ants thought creatively to save a team member who was struggling.
And those crabs were not going to let someone above them take them down!

My current teaching partner and I have our entire next week planned, printed, locked, and loaded (with the exception of a few tweeks the next week) by Friday of the previous week AT LEAST. Sometimes even by Thursday. That’s some serious collab, my friends. It can be done.

Here are 10 reasons you should be scheming, planning, and reflecting with (a positive) someone OTHER than yourself:
  1. It’s WAAAAAAAYYY more fun.
  2. Your planning partner is better than you at some things.
  3. You are better than your partner at some things.
  4. You can split tasks among each other.
  5. You are different people and think about things differently! That’s a GOOD thing!
  6. You can chat about triumphs and struggles that you are having in your classrooms and figure out how to tackle the struggles.
  8. When you are sick or taking a personal day, your partner knows exactly what you will be doing that day and can answer questions that your sub may have.
  9. You can learn NEW teaching strategies. (BURN-OUTS, these BURN-INS have some GREAT IDEAS!!!)
  10. You can learn some new tricks from an old dog. (BURN-INS, this one is for you. Shut up and listen sometimes. Those vets know a thing or two.)

It may take you a trial or two to find someone who is willing or able to sit down with you and plan. Also, you may pick a BURN-OUT who does not desire to try new things. If so, keep on moving to find someone new. Don’t get discouraged. Trust me. The reward of actually collaborating with someone is worth the search. It truely is a WIN-WIN situation. Humble yourself and take a leap of faith for the good of a very important commodity: you and your students’ sanity.

Email at or comment below with any questions or ideas that you have about collaboration.


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The 5 Questions I started Asking Myself to Burn Back In: Part 3 of I Was Burned Out

I’ve been thinking all day about what I want to tell you about Habit #3- Put First Things First and how that habit has changed me, but FIRST, let’s recap that last 3 days. I have shared a lot with you and I know sometimes that can get messy.

On Saturday, I welcomed you all and let you know what my goals are for the blog that is The Burned-In Teacher!

Sunday, I began to let you into my world of being  BURNED-OUT. I told you a little about how I got to that point, as well as my decision to BE PROACTIVE about my situation and how I got out of it. I also told you about the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey and how much it influenced my life almost immediately.

Yesterday was all about BEGINNING WITH THE END IN MIND. I wrote about my desire to be SEEN and HEARD differently than I knew that I was. I made THREE big changes to my career life:
  1. I began with the end in mind. I changed my BEHAVIOR, so that I could change people’s attitudes and feelings about me.
  2. I changed my WORK HABITS. I began to use tools differently than I had before. I threw stuff out that wasn’t working for me anymore and brought things into my work life that worked more efficiently.
  3. I viewed my TIME as valuable. I made a decision that work was work. That’s where it was staying. If I had too much to do, then that was MY fault.

Okay, what I just did is part of what has helped me to become BURNED-IN again. Rehashing things that I have already done is one way that I am helping myself to be able to LOOK AHEAD and GROW MYSELF.

Stephen Covey says, “The challenge is not to manage time, but to manage ourselves.”

I told you on Saturday that I would share a little about why I left my old corporation. Without going into too much detail, one of the reasons I left is that I was not in a place that managed TIME, RESOURCES, or PEOPLE well. Rarely was there a time where everyone knew what was expected of them. There was no direction, except for when you did things wrong. Rather than being proactive, I lived in a world of constant reaction.

My entire first year teaching was the worst year of my teaching career. I was told that the team I would be working with was a great team to work with and that statement couldn’t have been farther away from the truth. To put it lightly, I was thrown to the wolves. I came to the point in that first year, where I didn’t ask anyone for/about anything, because I knew that I was nothing but an ambitious pest to my teaching partners. I was set up for failure TIME and TIME again by this “team.”. At the end of the year, I was certain I wouldn’t be asked back. When I was told, “We’ll try this one more year,” by my principal, I was relieved for my job and terrified to work another year with those people.
Looking Back, there were so many things that I could/should have said/done or approached differently. I SHOULD have managed myself better, but, like most of you new BURN-IN’s, I came into my new job with the triumph of the Titanic. I could conquer anything AND everything all at once. My ideas and intentions, fully outweighed any of the abilities that I had yet to improve.


PUTTING FIRST THINGS FIRST would have helped me to be more successful that first year. I should have:
  • focused more on teaching in my classroom, instead of worrying about my lack of relationships and asked “What can I control in my own classroom?”
  • planned ahead better, instead of day-by-day and asked “Where am I going with this?”
  • set up a system of reflection for myself and asked “What didn’t work today? What can I do better tomorrow?”

In addition to all of this, there were no curriculum maps, no plans, and (obviously) no one that was willing to help steer me in the right direction. I had to learn the hard way time after time. Luckily, I learned from my mistakes and mostly kept my head down for a lot of years.

Putting First Things First as a teacher is all about knowing what is important this hour, this day, this week, and this month. That all starts in a corporation and building that is, FIRST, willing to set your expectations up for you and then willing to HELP you if you aren’t meeting those expectations. If I wouldn’t have gone through what I did my first 8 years, I wouldn’t realize how sweet it is to work in a place that tells me their expectations had I not had those experiences before.

The goal of schools today is to teach to the high standards that are put in front of them. Whether it be Common Core or not. You know already that you have standards to teach. Be GRATEFUL if you have a curriculum map. The alternative is constant guessing and stress about whether you have met all of the standards or not. With all of the other responsibilities that we have as educators, we should FIRST be set up for success with a clear direction.

Here are 5 questions I asked myself when I began to put first things first:

  1. What is draining the life out of me at school or in my classroom?
    1. These are the things that you should put FIRST on your list of things to fix. TYPICALLY, for me, these are the things that I used to spend the least amount of time on because I couldn’t stand to think about them.
  2. What is going REALLY well?
    1. These are the things that you need to put on the BOTTOM of your “To Do” list. They are obviously things that you have spent time on in the past and have worked out a good system for.
  3. Are there any BETTER ways to do this?
    1. For example, I used to take 3 binders of data, a notebook to take notes, my computer and my iPad to meetings. Now I take my computer, because I created a system that works for me where all of my data and notes are together in one place! It’s GREAT!
  4. What can I ASK SOMEONE else to either look up for me or help me with?
    1. Hopefully, there is someone in your building that is willing to help you to feel more successful. If you don’t have someone OR they are equally struggling, then maybe you need to go to Sunday’s post and read about BEING PROACTIVE.
  5. Last but not least, What can I get rid of?
    1. These things could be physical or digital things. Teachers can be hoarders by nature, thinking that they will use something again that they used 3-4 years ago and never do. If you haven’t used it this school year, PITCH IT OR DELETE IT. That clutter can bog you down, leading you to feel even more overwhelmed than you already are.

There you have it! Take some serious time to consider these questions. Comment below and let me know what you are putting FIRST to either STAY or BECOME BURNED-IN!!!