Pushing Past the Burnout

By |2018-03-26T11:40:25-07:00July 5th, 2011|

It is such a startling statistic that education has one of the highest turnover rates for any career out there.

So many of our friends, colleagues and even (maybe) ourselves have become disenchanted and frustrated by the higher demands in our field without higher respect, pay, or even assistance.  This is what is called “burnout” and I know it well.

I was right there….almost exactly at the 5-year point when most teachers either stick it out or choose another career.  Statistics show that almost half of teachers will leave the profession within the first 5 years, especially without mentoring.  I was just finishing up my grad degree and felt that strong need for something, anything, that could provide me with a purpose again.  That’s when I began my arts integration journey – and I have never looked back!

Now, I’m not suggesting that arts integration is a cure for teacher burnout.

In fact, I vehemently believe just the opposite.  Arts integration is an intense program and if you’re doing it simply to prevent burnout, it may just speed it along.  Only if you have a passion for this method and its effects on children should it be attempted.  No, what I’m suggesting is that the only cure for burnout is passion.

If you think about it, we all need a spark – something that can excite us even when we’re stressed.  Burnout is simply allowing the passion we once had to die within us.  Not all passions need to flame at all times.  It’s perfectly natural that certain passions in our life fade.  Yet, the passion for teaching comes from a deeper place – it’s a personality trait in wanting to serve and help others.   This passion may just need new sparks to keep it alive.

This is where professional growth comes in.

When you find the element of professional training that makes you excited and gives you energy despite the long hours and effort you put in, then you know you’ve found your spark.  For me, this was arts integration.  For you, it may be arts integration, but it may also be integrating technology in the classroom, a health initiative, green school programs, or any number of other possibilities.

The key for pushing past the burnout is not in quitting – it’s in determining a passion to support your innate service personality.  This will take time.  I wish we could all snap our fingers and have it fall in our laps.  But, that’s just not the case.  If you persist in your search, though, you WILL find something that will engage your mind and feed your passion for teaching again.  Summer is such a great opportunity to learn, recharge and enjoy the process of discovering what’s right for you.  Start today and see where your journey takes you – the joy and satisfaction will be worth it.


  1. Allison Krook July 5, 2011 at 9:46 am - Reply

    It sounds like you’ve found your “Element”! I’m taking a class from the ART OF EDUCATION right now on finding your element – the place where talent and true passion lie. I believe that if you can find that you can beat the burnout due to your drive and calling to do what you do! I’m feeling a bit of the burnout myself this year as I’ll be responsible for the art education of 800 students. It scares me! How can I do it and be the kind of teacher I want to be at the same time? I find myself taking shortcuts because I don’t have time to cut all the paper and make all of the powerpoints. I’m in for a doozy this year because I will be doing my research project at the same time! I hope that through my research and self reflection that I can find my “Element” and see if this is where I belong. I’ll keep you posted!

    • Susan Riley July 5, 2011 at 11:58 am - Reply

      Allison – you are SO right! Finding your Element is key if you’re going to be successful, especially in the circumstances you’ve been given! I remember when I first started teaching and I had a school where I was the only music teacher for 950 children. I didn’t even know that there were other places in education where you got more than 30 minutes of planning a day! I was lucky if I had time to run to the bathroom, much less teach the best lesson plans possible. But you know what’s funny? I think I was a better teacher then than I am at times today. All those children and all those needs fueled me to let go a little bit, let them take some control of their own learning and they became some of the most creative classes I have ever taught. Hang in there, girl. Be as organized as you can, but let some things go and watch your students really thrive! You’re going to have a great year!

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