Keeping the Flame Lit: On Moving Past Burn-Out

A while back a student teacher asked me: “How do you prevent burn out?”  I meditated on this thought for a long time.  There were many times where I thought I could put pen to paper and come up with a pretty good answer to this question, but what would have amounted from my writing wouldhave been a fluff-filled semblance of words that would not have truly gotten at the heart of the issue.  The truth is: we all experience burn-out at one point or another in our careers.  It is an inevitable part of the profession and more-so of the the human condition from which we all suffer.  The better question to ask would be: “How do you pull yourself back around when experience that feeling?”

At the beginning of this week, I was feeling the heavy arms of exhaustion welcoming me, begging me to just give up.  I was nearing burn-out.  The feeling was seeping into my mind and into my words and actions.  My usually abundant amount of patience was sapped.  The feeling was creeping into my soul and trying to take hold and extinguish the fire that burned within. It was starting to speak to me, saying: “No matter what you do, you will not be able to have success in your pursuits.”  The  thought of walking into the classroom was not filling me with the same excitement that it usually did.

As I write this, I am coming to an awakening and my mind is renewed with a message of hope and purpose.  The truth is, we cannot completely avoid the feeling of burn-out, but we CAN stop it from taking over.  We must speak to it with a strong belief that we will overcome.  We must stand our ground with a footing solidly in the values and principles as our foundation.  So long as the struggles that we are having seem like a mountain that cannot be overcome, they will remain.  The truth is: we can move mountains if we believe that we can. We are purposed to be problem-solvers and movers.  I look around at people who once stood with the purpose to bring light in classrooms and schools and have ceased to live out that purpose.  I ask myself: “Is that where you want to end up or is the struggle worth the fight?”

To the student teacher who asked how do you prevent burn-out: realize when you are feeling your light beginning to fade.  Teaching is highly personal work— it comes out of our heart and blesses the minds and spirits of our students.  When you teach from the heart, you must also find time to feed your flame.  We must honor the fact that teaching is a process— a journey of discovery and reflection.  In our journey, it is good to stop to see how far we have come and the victories that we have won— taking a moment to enjoy the process that has brought us to now.  Meditate on your previous victories and use them as a way to renew your inspiration.  Sometimes getting to the next step means that we need to step away for a moment.  Recognizing when it is the time to pause and disconnect can be the difference between a permanent end and our next beginning.  

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