Is it Teacher Burnout?

“superwoman” by hans van den berg is licensed under CC BY 2.0

While I like to think that I am superhuman and can go on little sleep, work multiple jobs and manage to tend adequately to my family, that just isn’t so. I TRY to make that so. But in reality, I find myself frazzled and stressed. Yes, I believe it might be Teacher Burnout.

It’s easy to write this during my summer break, even though my calendar reminds me to “Do a Blog Post” every Monday year round. (Thanks, George Couros @gcouros for the challenge!) Writing during the school year when my double full-time job, multiple piano students, and online teaching are in full swing and the reality is definitely different.

Dr. Jenny Rankin’s First Aid for Teacher Burnout: How You Can Find Peace and Success. Taylor & Francis, 2016, provides strategies for dealing with burnout. In her book, Dr. Rankin provides some Teacher Burnout Statistics.

Teacher Burnout Statistics

The statistics listed are not current, but I can’t help but imagine that with the increased demands on teachers and administrators, that those numbers might actually be higher than Dr. Grant has communicated.

Attitude is a huge part of our burnout rate. It is a huge part of our overall health. A perfect example is my 89-year-old father. He has an incredible attitude. He rarely complains about anything, he is helpful and easy to get along with. He does things for others with a smile. But if you read his medical history and what he has “wrong” with him, you’d think he should be shouting at little children in the street and shaking his cane at every passerby! Not only does he treat everyone with respect, but he doesn’t even need a cane to go on his 3 or 4 mile walk every day!

So, how can we strive to keep ourselves sane in the ever burdened education world we live in? I believe starting with a simple, positive goal each day is helpful. The following are a few of my strategies:

  • Take a moment to reflect on why we do what we do, realizing that it’s not about the money or the fame but about lives of humans that we want to nurture and grow into productive citizens. (This includes the teachers you work with, too!)
  • Avoid the “toxic” people in your life. Find a way to remain friends, but avoid those gripe sessions that can be so prevalent especially towards the end of the year.
  • Practice your smile. Greeting people with a smile and a warm “Hello!” sets the tone for the following conversation and might even help someone change their day.

Finding time to indulge yourself, even if for a few moments at work, with something that brightens your day or lets you breathe is imperative. For me, going to bed earlier and using my lunch as a private reflection time help me. Oh, and not taking complaints and criticism personally. It’s easy to fall into that trap!

Breathe deeply. Do things purposefully. Encourage those around you to do the same things. You might be surprised at the results.

Think you might be suffering from burnout? Try taking this self-test:


Developing a Growth Mindset

“I just can’t do it!” proclaims a second grader in my technology class. Everyone else in the class yells out “YET!” and keeps right on working. They encourage each other to not give up. There are many tasks that are frustrating for my “littles”. They often have the attention span of a flea and the same inability to sit still. While this is a generalization,

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more often than not, my younger students give up easily. Instant gratification is the phrase of the day for many of these students. I daresay that it has become a part of the culture for many of us, little or not.


Changing our thinking to one of Growth Mindset is not always easy. I used to find myself saying, “You’re so smart!” when I should have been saying, “I can see you really worked hard on that.” Children that hear those around them seeming to get it when they don’t, begin to label themselves NOT SMART. My answer? You just can’t do it as well YET.

“But, they all got it right away and I can’t do it!” “Of course you can do it. You just can’t do it YET. Did you learn to walk at the same time as everyone else? Did you learn to talk at the same time as everyone else? No! We’re all different. With a little practice, you’ll get it too!” (By the way, the tears almost stopped at this point).

Technology can be frustrating for everyone. The teachers I work with often struggle the most because they think they should “get it” right away. Well, that just isn’t the case. Oh, and even though they seem to think I know everything, I make sure that they hear me say, “I don’t know how to do that YET, but I’ll see what I can find out.”

No one likes to fail. But, I tell my students that FAIL is my favorite word. Or more correctly, my favorite acronym. First Attempt In Learning = FAIL. I would give credit to whoever came up with this, but I don’t know where it came from. So, “Thank You” if it was you that invented this great acronym!

Safe failures that happen at school encourage our students to grow. The more they fail in our environment and get built up for trying, the less they will fail in the real world when it can become dangerous. Talk to your students about the need for failure. We all have small failures every day. People need strategies for handling those failures without it being a devastation to them.

Where can you FAIL today?

Collaborating with Colleauges!

Well it seems that I have been in great demand lately. I have been asked to do another blog. Hop on over to my page at Here I provide links for all sorts of things: technology, Common Core resources, iPad information. Whatever Ms. Fine comes up with or whatever I discover on my own. We keep the site fairly current. So check it out!

What does a 21st Century Music Classroom look like?

Not much different from any other music classroom. Except for the rolling metal cart with the laptop, LCD projector, iPod docking station that doubles as an amplifier, with a microphone and other sound inputs and a document reader. These tools help the 21st Century skills teacher use pdf files, mp3 files, YouTube, wikis and GarageBand in every day applications. The iPad connected to the TV is helpful, as well.

The rhythm sticks still get a lot of use, as do the guitars, Orff instruments and maracas. But, student learning is enhanced when we can go to Google Earth and look at where something is in live-time and see the topography of a country or location as we study a song.

Stay tuned for more tools from my “Every day 21st Century” classroom!

Virtual Worlds

I have spent the last 5 weeks exploring Second Life as my avatar Davina DaTeacher. Led by Lucas Gillespie of and the COLT online certification program, my classmates and I explored Second Life. At first I was very hesitant and unsure of why this was important to education. I had spent time in Second Life before and wandered around aimlessly. I chose to take this class, because I always like to have someone prove me wrong!

Lucas DID prove me wrong! His expert guidance gently led us through exploring NASA learning islands, to building fascinating shapes, to meeting docents at ISTE Island. We changed outfits, learned how to interact in the space, and fly. Yes, I said fly. It is a most convenient way to get around.

Schools, businesses and Universities are using Virtual World technology to teach classes, collaborate with others around the world, and develop new ways to assess and educate. The possibilities are truly endless.

My concern was with using Second Life in my day-to-day existence as an elementary school teacher. I have been guided, however, to Reaction Grid which is suitable for younger students. I will spend some time this week exploring Reaction Grid and hope for positive outcomes to share with my Technology students at school. Stay tuned!

Teachers as Professionals

I am fortunate that my principal treats her staff as professionals. I have been very blessed to have several principals throughout my career that were in this same category. Staff members are expected to do what needs to be done, provide quality education, integrate technology into daily teaching and continue professional development with very little intervention. I feel valued and respected in my job.

So why aren’t there more principals like this? My principal makes it look easy. But I’m sure that there are many facets to developing a good leader that allows for autonomy while nurturing growth.

Our educational system needs reform. Of that there is no doubt. The Boston Globe article “Learning from Finland” has valid information to share. Not pitting school against school. Not relying on standardized tests. Providing state funded education for teachers to encourage the best and the brightest. Should we be listening?

A parent’s guide to standards based grading

Educators hear the words assessment, rubrics and standards all the time. But what do those things mean for you as a parent? Assessment is the ability to measure your child’s progress towards a particular goal. Usually those goals are set by your state and/or by your school district. Read the entire article at:

A parent’s guide to standards based grading

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