Sunday, April 30, 2017

Burned-INterview #1- This Burned-Out Teacher is Teaching with Her Emotions, When She Was Told Not To

Welcome to the very first Burned-INterview!

BiT Interviews are completely anonymous and are conducted to get to know what burned-out teachers are feeling or what they felt in the past, before they ended up leaving their education profession. 

AH: (Me!) Amber Harper   BiT: Interviewee

AH: How long have you been teaching?
BiT: I've been teaching for 5 years.
AH: How many school systems have you worked in?
BiT: I've worked in two.
AH: Hey! Me too! Were the schools rural, suburban, or inner city?
BiT: One is a complete Title school with a high free/reduced lunch population. It is a rural school. The other used to be pretty affluent and now half are Title but not completely free/reduced lunch. There is more economic disparity than the other school system I worked in. It is suburban. 
AH: What school setting are you working in?
BiT: I work with elementary school students.
AH: Did you always want to be a teacher?
BiT: Yes, but I don't know when I decided or why I wanted to be one.
AH: Of all that is hard about being a teacher, what is burning you out the most?
BiT: I realized really quickly how little control teachers have. You think you get to plan and interact with students the way that you want to, but then you HAVE to do "X,Y, and Z." Making things transparent means having to share lesson plans with other teachers, principals, and other staff which makes me feel really micromanaged. It's like their always watching me, as opposed to watching out for me. 
AH: Where do you feel you are the most unsupported as a teacher?
BiT: I get no acknowledgement for the work that I do with kids from my administration. Education is going through a lot, so resources are being taken away from me and administration is just like, "Well, we don't have this anymore, so you need to figure out a way to deal with it, pull up your boot straps and move on."
I feel that the rug is pulled out from under us all the time and then they tell us, "Don't be emotional. Leave your emotions at the door. They have no place in the classroom. Your job is to teach. You are a teacher." 
Well, I WANT to get emotional! It's the only way that I can connect with my kids on a HUMAN level, you know? I work with KIDS! Things happen to us! Why should I not be allowed to show some friggin emotions? Come on. I'm not sorry.
AH: What do you feel is the best way to support a teacher who is burned-out?
BiT: Show a little empathy! I want to feel like I can identify with other teachers and that I am not alone in how I feel. I want others to feel like they can talk to me too. Like we are in this together! I mean, I want administrators to try to teach my students and see how they feel about it. You know?

AH: Oh, I know. I think about that a lot. Do you feel that you have other teachers to confide in?
BiT: Yes, I do. I have a coworker who I talk things through with. But, you know, you can't have a relationship where all you do is complain. We take a 'time-out' to complain about what happened and then we discuss what we can do about it to keep it from happening again. You know? It's really hard not to just bitch all of the time, but I want to solve the problem. Sometimes there is no real solution, though. It's WAY more helpful for me to confide in a teacher. Other professionals don't get it. They just shake their heads and say, "I don't know how you do it." Well, you know? I don't know how I do it sometimes either. (chuckle)
AH: What do you wish was available to burned-out teachers?
BiT:  I wish there was like, NOT Pinterest. Do you know what I mean? It makes me feel AWFUL! I don't have the time or the energy to spend making pretty things for my kids. And quite frankly, I don't think they'd care. Every one is always sharing their BEST lessons and BEST teaching life. TEACHING IS NOT PINTEREST PEOPLE! I want to be part of a community where teachers can build each other up and make each other feel awesome!
AH: Who do you feel you associate with best when you are at your worst? Energetic people or people who share in your unhappiness at school?
BiT: You mean when there is a problem and no one wants to acknowledge it? I would really like someone in the middle. Like, someone who will listen without judgement and offers solutions. Someone who gets it, but that is positive and helpful.

Take Aways and Burning Questions

I, personally, am a very emotional person. I am passionate and excitable and cry to show a variety of emotions. Just ask my co-workers and husband. It's the truth. So when our conversation turned to emotions, I was all ears.

Throughout our entire conversation, the topic of emotions kept returning over and over again. She told of her feelings of resentment from being micromanaged, inadequacy from not being trusted to do her job well, lack of real control over her life within the walls of her school, and disappointment that the word 'transparency' has become a way of being checked on, instead of looked out for by her fellow teachers and administrators.

This teacher has been told on many occasions that she is to, "Leave emotions at the door. Whatever happened this morning, weekend, or the night before has no place in the classroom. Your job as a teacher is to teach the curriculum and when you bring in outside baggage, you are distracted and, therefore, not focused on teaching."

Is this realistic? She answered this question herself:

Why are we told to leave our emotions at the door? We should be using those emotions to connect with students on a HUMAN level. 

Teachers are social animals. We CRAVE communication and emotional connection. In fact, we don't just crave it, we THRIVE on it. And yet we are literally locked into a room, with children, and told not to be emotional. 

Should we be expected to pack down all of our emotions for the sake of breaking some invisible 'emotion boundary' that lies mysteriously between teacher and human?

Upon hearing about the Sandy Hook shootings, back in 2014, the teacher I interviewed was devastated, as was the World. When she entered her classroom the next day, a student approached her and asked, "... if that happened here, you would protect us, right?" Curriculum out the window. Insert emotional conversation about fear, guns, and the need for love.

How do you NOT get emotional when tragedy happens and you are asked a question like that by a child? 

I challenge you this week to take the advice of this teacher.      

OWN YOUR HUMANITY.  Be an emotional teacher. Get excited about your ability to shape lives or that you got a new car. Teach them the steps you took to save for it. Get angry about events in history, that you spilled your coffee all over the carpet right before the kids walked in, or that a student puked all over your phone while you were reading together. Talk to them about it. Then, teach them how you controlled that anger.

Here are some take-aways from our discussion about solutions to feeling over-emotional at school:

- Talk to others about how you are feeling without the fear of being judged. Other teachers are feeling the same way you are. Have a healthy, constructive conversation about them. Ask questions. Make suggestions. Connect, talk, cry or laugh with other teachers. Show emotions to each other.

- Leave. Go home and do something that makes you happy. I rarely stay past my contract time these days, because I have found that if I stay, I begin to find things to keep me busy. I'm happier and able to control my emotions better.

- Know you are not alone. When a student thew up all over my phone last week, I took a 20 min break and cried in the bathroom. That was the tipping point that day for me and I had had it. I didn't want anyone else to know, but they found out... just like they always do. My friends talked me down. They reminded me that I, in fact, wasn't crazy and that I am a human-being. (Also, that they would have also lost their minds if someone tossed their cheerios all over their lifeline!) Losing your cool is part of being alive. That felt good to hear. 

Do you agree? What are YOU doing to own your emotions within your four walls? 

I know you are not excited to share your thoughts with me via social media. I totally get it! Send me an email at and let me know your thoughts. Want to talk? I can interview YOU too! Other teachers want to hear your stories. It helps us feel connected and human. 


Live in Northeast Indiana? I would be happy to facilitate a discussion about Seesaw and/or G Suite and how to use them in your school and classroom.
I'm also excited to talk to you and your staff about being burned-out and what we can do about it. Contact me by emailing me at

Follow BiT on Twitter: @burnedinteacher

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Like BiT on Facebook: email me at:

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Tid-BiT: Why I'm Building My Plans While I Teach: The Art of Being Unprepared

Tid-BiT: Why I'm Building My Plans While I Teach: 

The Art of Being Unprepared

Get it? Tid-BiT (Burned-in Teacher)? I think it's catchy, don't you? 

Well... I thought it was clever... 

Tid-BiTs are QUICK. They will highlight an epiphany that I have had or something great that happened, something that I have heard or read that I am stoked to share with you. Short and sweet! Just like me! (I'm a liar... I'm 5'7".)

Today I was really unprepared. I wanted my kids to collaborate on a slide show to publish facts they had learned either about spiders or pigs. They could choose. 

I have been busy and knew that they would do this, but I just didn't take the time to create it and share it with them. So... I did it in front of them. And I forgot to do some things. AND IT WAS AMAZING!

We tell kids all the time, "We all make mistakes!" "Keep trying!" "You don't always get it right the first time." "I stay hours after school to make things for you."

So I quickly created the title slide, showed them how I was adding their slides to work on and then I forgot to change editing capabilities and they came and told me, so I fixed it! JUST LIKE I DO TO THEM! We had the best time figuring out problems and them telling me what I had to do to fix it. I stopped them a few times and reminded them that this is how making things is.

Things don't always work perfectly. It was an amazing reminder that I am smart and quick and capable of teaching my students through failure. I am awesome. YOU ARE TOO. Embrace being unprepared and show kids what it's like to build a lesson for them. They will be amazed. 

Enjoy and BURN ON! We've got this! 

Live in Northeast Indiana? I would be happy to facilitate a discussion about Seesaw and/or G Suite and how to use them in your school and classroom! I'm also excited to talk to you and your staff about being burned-out and what we can do about it. Contact me by emailing me at

Follow BiT on Twitter: @burnedinteacher

Find BiT on Pinterest:

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email me:

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Stop the Shame: Admit You are Burned Out and Take Action

Stop the Shame: 

Admit You Are Burned Out and Do Something About It 

We've all felt it. Some of us may feel burned-out now and are afraid to take the steps necessary to get us out of that slump! This is a post from last May and I'm bringing it back for all of you who are rethinking your career as an educator. Here are the steps I found helpful as I pulled myself out of burnout... more than once.  

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 had. After months of tears and not talking to anyone but my husband about this, because I was ashamed,  he was exhausted and told me to quit. I knew that I was an awesome teacher. Students, other teachers, and parents told me all the time how great I was. They showered me with compliments, and although it used to fuel my fire, I had found myself numb to it. 

It wasn't until I started doing some searching online that I realized, not only were other teachers feeling the same way, there was actual research being done about it. Up 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@#! How am I seriously going to feel better about my career choice?"

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 a lot of 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!
You can also tweet out what you are doing to stay burned-in with #burnedinteacher.

Burn on!

Live in Northeast Indiana? I would be happy to facilitate a discussion about Seesaw and/or G Suite and how to use them in your school and classroom! I'm also excited to talk to you and your staff about being burned-out and what we can do about it. Contact me by emailing me at

Follow BiT on Twitter: @burnedinteacher

Find BiT on Pinterest:

Like BiT on Facebook:

email me:

Thursday, April 13, 2017

3 Things I Learned About Going 1:1 in a Primary Classroom

You've been told the devices are coming. You've dreaded this for weeks, months, maybe even years. Maybe you have been told the exact date of their arrival on your classroom's doorstep and literally nothing else. Don't worry. Put down that (insert alcohol of your choice here) bottle and listen up. YOU CAN DO THIS. It really is pretty simple. Here are 3 things you should be thinking about instead of what new job you should be applying for. 

This entire post was created from questions I was asked via email from Amy Stevens (@iustevens), the K-6 Technology Integration Specialist for Greenfield-Central School Corporation. She asked about what tips and tricks I use with my first grade kiddos that may help others to be successful when going 1:1. Here you go, Amy! Thanks for your enthusiasm and excellent questions!

Last year, I began teaching in a 1:1 district. I was overwhelmed by the idea and I LOVE CHANGE! So here are some things that I learned about life with primary kids in a 1:1 classroom through trial and error. Enjoy!

1. Manage the Users BEFORE Managing the Devices

All teachers and students are different. I get that. However, going 1:1 in Kindergarten vs. a High School classroom is really no different, in my humble opinion. ALL students need to be set up for success. Yes, some will fail miserably, but trust me, far LESS will fail miserably if you are very clear on a couple of things BEFORE the devices even come into their view.

Devices aren't new and exciting to most of your students. Most have them, in some shape or form, and each student has grown up learning a range of unwritten 'rules' from their families about what computers, i(anything), and/or phones are used for and how they should be treated.

Your job is to clearly lay out what YOUR behavior and treatment expectations are when students are using their devices in your classroom. 


If you don't have solid, simple, and consistent transitions already laid out in your classroom, then hold onto your hats. Whether it's a song, a poem, you stating a weird fact, or a hand gesture, your students should know when it's time to change course or stop what they are doing to listen for a second and that you mean it. Here are some ideas to help you get started today:

I personally use these videos daily and would suggest these for PreK-2nd grade, and maybe even 3rd grade, depending on their maturity level:

I should note that I normally ring a little bell before I play the "Clean Up" song during quiet parts of the day, because it's a little startling if it is projected and the speakers are up to the loudest setting. :)
The "Come to the Carpet" song may need to be practiced a couple of times. I have high expectations for how students gather at our carpet, mostly associated with the next video/song. Don't be afraid to stop the video, restate your expectations, and try again. 
Students love this song! After a while, all you have to say when you see a student not meeting your expectations, "Alex, back straight..." and most students will reply "...chocolate shake!" It's pretty awesome. 

Here is an article that I found online for Middle/High Schoolers: - The Secret to Perfect Transitions in 5 Easy Steps 

- I especially LOVE the "In a minute..." idea, except I flip it. I use that statement when they start moving on before I am done with directions. I say, "Not now. In a minute." Now, when I say, "Not now..." many students reply, " a minute!" While shooting the offender nasty looks like, "GOSH, IF YOU WOULD JUST WAIT, WE COULD PUT OUR HANDS DOWN AND GET TO WORK!" (You'll know what I mean about 'hands down' in just a moment.)

- I strongly believe that the 'catchier' or 'fun' the signals are, the more they will be respected. If we approach transitions as a dictator, then the kids won't respect what they are for. BE FUN. BE SILLY. BE A LEADER AND SOMEONE THE KIDS RESPECT, not an authoritarian. 

Call Backs

You can easily Google the term 'classroom callbacks' and find a plethora of ideas on how to quickly get kids' attention. So I'm not going to give you a huge list here. However, here are a few that I created that work REALLY well for ANY age:
I say, "TWO CLAPS, HANDS IN THE AIR!" (Followed by the actual actions of, you guessed it, the kids and you clapping twice and putting their hands up.) It works for adults too, right Amy? ;)

I say, "The upside down countdown starts in 5, 4, 3..." and by the time I count to 1, all iPads should be upside down. and their eyes are on me. They know that a quick revision to my instructions is coming or that I need to clarify/answer a question.

(This is my revision to "45 your computers" which I heard/read somewhere from someone else. We are 1:1 with iPads, so I just revised it to fit my class!)


Tool vs Toy
From day one, I brainwash my kids to know that in our classroom we use our devices as TOOLS, not TOYS. We talk about the difference between here and home or in the car AND that as we grow up we have to learn to apply different rules to different places. 

I also give them scenarios where they have to tell me if I am using my iPad as a tool or a toy. Then, I let them make up some scenarios. 

Tech Clip Chart
I started the year with this Technology Clip Chart. When you click it, it will force you to make a copy and you may revise it in any way that you want to. IT WORKS LIKE A CHARM!


If you don't use Class Dojo yet, I strongly suggest it. It's free and even if you use the traditional Behavior Chart, this 'point system' is really powerful. I use it to encourage positive behavior by transferring the points to coins every Friday for the kids to shop at our store. (That is a totally different subject, however, it is so powerful that I have to mention it!)

Parents can sign up for Dojo and be made aware IMMEDIATELY if their child receives or loses a point for any type of behavior that you assign a point value. It has been a game-changer in our classroom. I personally found it best to give/take away points at the end of the day, based on where students are on their behavior chart.

Bottom line - Make your expectations clear and be fair. You can tweak any ideas match your classroom needs. Try it out! Change it! Kids are resilient and flexible and want to know what their boundaries are. Don't you want to work in a place where you know your expectations? 

2. Plan Your Storage Space- and Plan to Be Flexible

Last year, this is what my storage/charging station looked like at the beginning of the year:

I took these pictures, originally, to print and hang above each of the totes and it worked really well.

However, around October of last year all students began to take their devices home and are expected to charge them there. They store their iPads in their desks during the school day. We have very protective cases on our devices that keep them from getting scratched or busted too easily.

Every district/school situation is different.

This year's 'charging station."
This year, however, I have a 'charging station' for students who forget to charge their devices at home. They are free to use the station without punishment. I teach them to be honest about their failure to meet expectations and that their day will be a lot harder because they didn't follow our procedures.

If you Google "classroom device storage ideas" a ton of different links and images will pop up that you may like better! :)

3. Expect Failure and Embrace It


I once read somewhere, "The only thing constant in Education, is that it is ever-changing." 

You can do this. It will be different tomorrow, or next week,  and maybe next year too. Embrace the change. It's worth it. 

On day one in my classroom we learn GROWTH MINDSET. We learn a new quote each week that I have found online (search 'growth mindset quotes' on Pinterest and you will be in LOVE) and quite honestly, I find myself repeating them to myself most days. I post them in our room, I put them in my daily slides, and they are a PART of our every day existence. 

In fact, my amazing assistant once told me (as she is in school to be a teacher), "You know, I almost quit this stupid class because my prof is so outrageous, but then I remembered, 'Your attitude and your effort make all the difference,' so I'm sticking it out. It's not forever." SHE FINISHED THE CLASS AND IS SO GLAD SHE DID!

You will hear students quoting to each other, and even YOU, if they hear you say 'I can't." 

Embrace the failures of you and your students while going 1:1. Take risks. Try some stuff. Fail. Revise. Repeat. That's life. YOU GOT THIS!

Burn on!
A Harper

Live in Northeast Indiana? I would be happy to facilitate a discussion about Seesaw and/or G Suite and how to use them in your school and classroom! Contact me by emailing me at

Follow BiT on Twitter: @burnedinteacher

Find BiT on Pinterest:

Like BiT on Facebook:

email me: