Teacher Burnout

What happens when caring isn't enough to combat burnout?


I care about my students a great deal. My company, a great deal. Our mission, a great deal.

Burnout comes regardless of where you work, what you're working on, how much you love the people and the things you do. It comes suddenly, and if you're the type of person who takes very seriously the work you do, it will probably come dramatically. One day you won't be able to leave for work, or go to bed for work the next day. You may even be on stage, speaking at a public event when it hits you that you can't do this today, or tomorrow. That you need time for you, and no one else.

I'm an introvert, and I'm doing a very public-facing job. I speak at conferences. I speak every day to my students in a large group. I sit down with people and take their emotional baggage and their fears about the future. I help them through the technical struggles they have while diagnosing where their misunderstandings are, as well as trying to understand what their weaknesses as a whole lie. I try to understand weakness in people constantly, because it is my job to make them strong. 

It is the best job. I can think of no other profession that plays to my strengths as well as this job. People tend to open up to me, I can look at someone's code or their writing and usually divine their thought process. I can look at a thought process, and figure out where understanding falls away, where concepts become fuzzy and hard to grasp, and then I can usually clear the fuzziness by explaining exactly what they don't know, which keeps them engaged because I'm not repeating myself. Managing junior developers or an internship program might be a decent alternative, but it pales in comparison to creating new software developers from latent talent. I also have a penchant for quotability, for simplifying concepts in a dramatic way or for well-worded calls to action. This makes me a good speaker, and a good mentor.

However, I only have so much to give. I know so many amazing people now, so many who have full lives that they very much would like me to be a part of. I know amazing people who need strength of the particular brand that I am great at giving, but at this point I need that strength for myself. I need someone to sit with ME and have that frank talk, that spirit-bolstering pep talk, that serious advice that I take to heart and follow. I need it to come from someone who understands me, someone who can give me advice because they have been there, and back again, and they know how to get me up in the morning and keep me up at night. 

The secret is that I am not actually capable of doing things I don't want to do. I can't grit my teeth and bear it, or just push through because hey, a job's a job. My parents offer this advice constantly, it is useless to me. Because I know this about myself, I know that I very much love my work and don't want to leave it. Being burnt out isn't a sign that this is the wrong work for me. It's a sign that it's very much the right work for me, because I can go as hard and as fast as I want to with this job. I can make impassioned pleas and they will be listened to, log complaints and action will be taken. I can have everything I want, but I have to ration my enthusiasm, because this is the marathon. I can't get too tired and stop, because my energy drives the whole machine, and we can't lose momentum.

So, I need help. I need someone I can trust to be my right hand, to train to be my equal in accomplishment and capability. The potential energy they must possess has to transform quickly into kinetic energy used to drive us all forward, to keep everything moving. Because it is so, so important that we keep going. 

If you're interested in being that right hand, liz@hackbrightacademy.com