Burned Out? When It’s Time to Make a Change [Episode 121]


Click below to hear how to decide when it’s time to make a change:

It’s no secret that teachers are constantly overwhelmed and stressed and often don’t feel appreciated for their work. Especially during this time of year, it can be hard to determine if the exhaustion you’re feeling is just temporary or a feeling that won’t go away. Trust me, I’ve been exactly where you’re at and want to help. So, in today’s episode, I’m sharing my process to see if the burnout you’re feeling is fixable or if it’s time to make a change. 

Make no mistake: deciding to make a career change is a big decision. That’s why the process I share provides you with the opportunity to assess where you are and make changes accordingly. After making a list and labeling your priorities, it will make it easier to see what’s making you happy and what’s holding you back. Additionally, I give a list of things to consider before making a change in your career that will show you a different perspective and help you be sustainable in where you want to be professionally.

Teaching is a mentally tough job. We’re juggling a lot of plates, and our responsibilities are endless at school, let alone when we go home. So it’s no wonder teachers are feeling exhausted and experiencing burnout. By sharing this process, I hope it clears up whether the feelings you’re experiencing are just in season or time for a permanent change.

Topics Discussed:

  • A process to assess your current career situation 
  • Ways to help you determine your priorities and pain points in teaching
  • What to consider when making a change 
  • Encouragement for you to reflect, compare, and consider the burnout and exhaustion from teaching

Resources Mentioned:

Related Episodes and Blog Posts:

Connect with Rebecca:

More about Secondary Science Simplified: 

Secondary Science Simplified is a podcast specifically for high school science teachers that will help you to engage your students AND simplify your life as a secondary science educator. Each week Rebecca, from It’s Not Rocket Science, and her guests will share practical and easy-to-implement strategies for decreasing your workload so that you can stop working overtime and start focusing your energy doing what you love – actually teaching!

Teaching doesn’t have to be rocket science, and you’ll learn exactly what you need to do to simplify your secondary science teaching life so that you can enjoy your life outside of school even more. Head to itsnotrocketscienceclassroom.com/challenge to grab your FREE Classroom Reset Challenge.

Rebecca 0:00
Y’all I’m gonna be honest, I think this is the worst time of year for teachers. I truly do. I mean, the weather’s blah. Students are extra blah, spring break, you know, let alone summer break, just feel so far away still. And you’re dragging your students are dragging like a standardized test might be looming. It’s just honestly, a lot. I cannot even imagine how extra compounded these burned out feelings are for those of you right now, teaching post pandemic students. It is a different world out there. And while I cannot personally relate to that, I can relate to feeling completely burned out and overwhelmed. The last time I felt this way was ironically in 2020, and my husband actually helped me get on the other side of it. So today I’m going to share with you the process he walked me through, in the hopes of it helping you decide if this burnout is fixable and redeemable or if it is time to make a change. Let’s dive in. This is secondary science simplified a podcast for secondary science teachers who want to engage their students and simplify their lives. I’m Rebecca joiner from it’s not rocket science. As a high school science teacher turned curriculum writer, I am passionate about helping other science teachers love their jobs, serve their students, and do it all in only 40 hours a week. Are you ready to rock the time he’s been in your classroom and actually have a life outside of it? You are in the right place teacher friend, let’s get to today’s episode.

So I said this at the start of last week’s episode, but I just kind of want to say it again. And I think sometimes when we hear someone kind of challenge us, and maybe share something contrary to how we’ve always thought about something, it’s easy to get really defensive. And immediately, you know, again, go on that defense and say, Well, this is why it’s this way and XYZ and I cannot help this and I can’t do anything about that. And I can relate to that, because I have been in that exact same place. But my hope in this episode is to kind of share with you how I walked through that process of getting out of that place of defensiveness, and really assessing where I was, and making changes that allowed me to be sustainable where I am right now professionally. So a little bit of context, before we dive into the process, around 2020. Or really further back I started isn’t rocket science in January of 2016, with the hopes of earning enough side income to cover a potential maternity leave. And then when we were diagnosed with unexplained infertility, the new goal was to earn enough to cover our adoption. And by the time we adopted our oldest in March of 2018. Financially, it didn’t make sense for me to keep working, I wasn’t going to be able to keep working and do its archetype at the same time and have a baby and just balancing it all. And so I decided to take a year off of teaching and just see what happens. And by the end of that year, we were miraculously pregnant with our daughter. And so then I didn’t go back that year, and then COVID happened. So during that whole time that I I kind of feel like I accidentally fell into doing it’s not rocket science full time. And as my full time job, like I truly feel like when I took a extended maternity leave and took a year off of teaching that I was going to go back, I just known through our adoption training and stuff like I really wanted if we were able to swing it financially to have that bonding time with my son and but then again, one thing led to another and my salary teaching wasn’t even barely more than the cost of two little ones in daycare, when we found out we’re gonna have our second and all this to say, I wound up mid pandemic, you know, mid summer 2020 being like, okay, I guess I’m like in this now, like, I’m not going back with this pandemic stuff. I have plenty of work to do here. And if I was going to go back to teaching, I’d have to majorly change. How isn’t rocket science runs, you know, this podcast never would have gotten started. There was just a lot of evaluation there. But I was very overwhelmed. You know, I had two very little ones at home. My first two are 17 months apart. And I was trying to navigate doing this job. And again, this started as a hobby, like something I found my favorite part about teaching was creating resources, a certain sharing it with other people, and then it just exponentially grew from there. You know, now we have the podcast and PD courses and all these other things. But it that wasn’t always the case. So in 2020 I was like I’m so overwhelmed. I kind of just want to quit everything and go into a blog. I call and maybe you feel that way with where you are workwise right now. And so at that time, it was also a very transitional because two weeks before everything shut down in March 2020, my husband actually resigned from his job, and decided to start a new job in small business coaching. And so that summer, you know, he’s starting this whole new career, I’m having a little minty be as the Gen Z, or say, a little mental breakdown. And we were like, You know what, let’s, why don’t you walk through all of this training and process that your boss has taught us he’s taking you under his wing taught you how to do this job? Why don’t you apply it to me, because I’m freaking out. You know, I didn’t take a single business class in college, I was pre med until like three quarters of the way through when I decided to add on a secondary science Ed teaching degree. So business things, all of that was so foreign to me. And so he walked me through this process of really assessing everything I was doing for this job, and really analyzing what could stay what needed to be let go of and what could change. And it totally transformed how I do, it’s not rocket science, it led me to start hiring help for the first time, I let go of a lot of things I was doing. And it really helped me narrow in on what was most important. So I tell you all that to say, I think this process that he walked me through, even though it was for assessing, you know, my small business that I created on my own, like it was for doing that it’s designed for business owners, since he’s a small business coach, I really feel like it could translate to teaching and assessing your burnout. And I’m tweaking the process of it to make it work better for teachers. So follow along with me, if you have like a pencil and paper, that would be helpful here, were another thing that’s really helpful is if you’re on your computer, pull up like a Google sheet and you can type a line in each line row on the spreadsheet, and you’ll get because you’re going to want to color code them in a minute, it’s going to make sense, I promise. If you’re listening while driving to work, I would listen now and kind of think through get these ideas percolating. And then I would take some time to actually write this down later because I think the visuals really helpful. Okay, so the first thing you’re going to do is we’re going to get reflective about our burnout that’s related to our job, okay? So, I want you to write down in a list line by line, every single responsibility you have, and just every single thing you do in this job, okay, so we’re not just gonna write, teach five classes, grading lesson planning, no, no, that is not specific enough, okay. You need to write, teach one section of biology honors, teach one section of AP Bio, teach one section of general two sections of general chemistry, I want you to be that specific. Those are things that you do in your job, okay. Instead of just saying grading I want you to say I grade lab reports, I grade, you know, informal labs, I grade homework, if you lead several extra Kerlick curricular activities, right, every single one of those, any sort of meetings you have, if you have monthly PLC meetings, weekly faculty meetings, faculty devotions, if you’re, you know, a parochial school, okay, anything that is a part of your job, I want you to do a brain dump, and I want you to list every single thing, okay, it’s gonna take you a minute, you’re gonna list them out, then the next thing you’re going to do is next to each of these action items. Okay, I would put it like on the left side of it. So if you wrote on a piece of note paper, I put this in the margin to the left of each item, we’re going to label these items, these tasks, these responsibilities, you have 012, or three items that will get a zero are the mandatory things in your job that are completely 1,000% out of your control. For example, attending a weekly faculty meeting might be a part of your job that you don’t have any way you could change it, manipulate it, get out of it, whatever, that’s going to be a zero task, like there’s no part of you that can do anything about this, okay? Now, anything that is the most important thing, like your number one priorities, the things that like only you can do, and that you really want to do, and that you really have to do are going to be your number ones, okay? Your number twos are going to be things that are important, that are like an important aspect of your job. But you could make changes in terms of how you do them. Okay, ones, you still don’t have a lot of control over ones. twos, you have a little bit more control of or threes or things that aren’t as essential, but are parts of your job. They could be maybe eliminated, they could be cut back on. Maybe they could be outsourced. You know, I’m thinking of one of my teacher friends who used to when she would have babysitters, she would leave all sorts of laminated stuff and after work It’s good to bad be like, I need you to cut out all these laminated things for me, okay? Or I think of myself getting those National Honor Society students who need hours, I got them to make my copies for me like that’s, that’s a three task, I three tasks are making copies, essentially not essential is that makes sense. Like, yeah, someone’s gonna make the copies sure doesn’t have to be me it could literally be anybody, okay? Or it could be maybe eliminated entirely if I go completely digital. Okay, so that’s how we’re going to rank things. So again, another example, zero is the faculty meal meeting, you have to attend once a week. One is new is like you teaching your five sections of whatever, like you have to actually teach those unless maybe there’s like a section of AP Biology and there’s you don’t want it, you could make that it could be a two, if someone else may you want to teach it, okay. But most of your classes, you’re like, I have to actually teach these classes. A lot of your twos are going to be your grading your labs, your extracurriculars, you know, tutoring, things like that. And then your threes are going to be the things that are like the least niche, like, Yes, you are the student council advisor, but there are probably 40 other people in your building that would be qualified to be the student council advisor. Okay, so these are kind of the way we’re going to be labeling these things. 0123. Now, the next one is more fun, this is where you could have a highlighter or a pen. Or if you’re on doing this digitally, you can change the colors of the rows. Now we’re going to label things green, yellow, and red. Green things are the tasks, the parts of your job, that bring you life that bring you joy that you just love to do. The yellow things are the things that are neutral, like they don’t fire you up, but they also don’t take you down, okay, to the depths of despair, like you’re just kind of neutral about it. Read are gonna be the things that truly suck the life out of you that you absolutely just hate doing. Okay, so you’re gonna label all these things, they’re gonna have a number 012 Or three, and then have a color green, yellow, and red. Now, in an ideal world, your dream job, your ideal job would be only the things that are marked one, and are colored green. These are the most important things, the things that only you can do. And they also bring you joy. Okay, that would be our ideal scenario. Now, obviously, we don’t live in an ideal, perfect world. So that’s unrealistic. But that would be like more of what we’re moving towards. That’s, that’s the goal we’re moving towards, but not necessarily expecting to achieve, okay, because these are jobs for reason it is work, it’s still going to be hard at times, and there’s so many things you don’t want to do. For instance, all jobs are going to have zeros, period, they’re going to have things that have to be done. Like even for me, now that I work for myself, technically, a zero on my list is like doing taxes and paying taxes. Yes, I can outsource parts of it at the end of the day, that is still a part of my job, that cannot be avoided, okay, like I have to do that. That has to be a part of it. So that’s the same for you, you’re gonna have some zeros, but we want to maximize the green ones. A more realistic standard for your job would be if you look at this list, you narrowed it down to you’re mostly doing green and yellow ones and twos. Okay. The goal here is a minimal read. And really minimal read threes, those are the things you should be chopping out. And red ones are the ones are gonna be the harder ones, which we’ll get to Okay, so now, look at your list, look at your ideal things, whatever. Now let’s think about those reds. Okay, let’s start by looking at everything you labeled as a red three. These are things that suck the life out of you and honestly aren’t even that necessary and or could be outsourced. So my action item for you with these red threes is get aggressive about eliminating these and or outsourcing them, you do not have to do them. It could be something as simple as like you always laminate the activity cards and you absolutely hate doing it. Okay. Find someone else to laminate it for you literally get a student who needs service hours to do it for you or just stop laminating stuff. Like you don’t have to laminate it. Yeah, well hold up year after year, but like it’ll still hold up probably a year or two, maybe three before you need to reprint it. Okay. So get aggressive about red three, elimination. An example from when I did this with my husband about my job. I hate posting on social media of I hate Facebook, the most Instagram I like better, but from like a work standpoint, I just I hate it and I hate how the algorithm punishes me. It feels like a waste of time. But then I know that people live on social media, so I have to have a presence there like Instagram, Facebook, red threes for me. And so what we decided to do is I hired one of my best friends to run my Instagram account, and then she uses a scheduling software so that my Instagram posts will post on my Facebook page too, so that I can exist on that corner of the internet where I never want to exist and be. Okay. So that’s just a practical example, I got aggressive about elimination of those things. And at the end of the day, if I couldn’t have afforded to hire my friend to do this, I could just said, bump it, I’m not doing social media anymore. I’ll just stay with my email list and whatever, okay, this is the way I want you to really attack these red threes. Now let’s think about the red twos. This is the one that’s going to require the most brainpower because these are the things that you feel like are really important that you have to do in your job, like grading, okay, grading to me, teaching would have been a read to suck the life out of me, but like, it’s a part of this job, it’s going to be in there. Now you need to be intentional, your action and this be intentional about making strategic choices with how you handle each of your red twos, so that we can hopefully move them to be more like orange twos, like we’re moving towards yellow. Okay, that’s what I’m trying to say here. We’re trying to get from red and a yellow, feel more neutral about them. Okay. So for example, labs, if labs absolutely suck the life out of you, but they’re like a strong two. Okay, could you arguably, like make a lot of modifications and do as few labs as possible? Yeah. But we know they got to, you know, be in there. And you probably have some sort of district obligation to have a certain amount, but in labs suck the life out at you, let’s get really intentional about the labs we do. Let’s really audit them and only do the best of the best labs, no more labs for the sake of doing labs. Okay, that’s like a refrain and anthem on this podcast. And if you want help auditing your labs, I did an episode about this last spring, Episode 74. And I made like a freebie sheet that goes with it, where you kind of can like walk through and have a table for you. And you can kind of go through the audit process. That is a way you can be intentional. And excuse me, I keep saying intentional, you can be intentional about making labs become a more neutral thing for you and not be in the red. Okay? Other things that might be read to us. Maybe it’s your physical space, and keeping it organized overwhelms you, you’ve got so many bodies in there, you have so many resources, you’re floating, you’ve got someone who maybe floats into your room, like just the physical space. It’s like, especially if you manage a household when you get home to have another space you have to manage is daunting. If that’s your case, I encourage you to reset it episodes 22 and 75. I talk about my classroom reset challenge. That’s another freebie. It’s a checklist. It’s very step by step, I’m going to hold your hand through the process. This is an area where I personally shine, like organizing physical space is like 100%. my wheelhouse. And so I try to help those of you that that is a harder task for Okay, another thing that could be red too, maybe it’s classroom management. Maybe it’s just like, obviously you have to like manage your class. But we’re not saying it’s a one a one is like I can’t change or do anything about this. This is what it is a to is like there’s some there’s room, it’s very important, it’s a priority, but there’s room to change it can maybe you need to change your classroom management. Maybe you need to assess the procedures you use to run your class. If you need to do that, check out episode 20. I talk all about auditing and assessing and reflecting on your procedures. Okay, maybe you just need to think through your overall classroom management philosophy. Maybe you need to hack your overall philosophy and totally change how you think about how you manage your class. Especially if you have not reflected and made changes post pandemic, if you are still doing the same things that worked pre pandemic, post pandemic, and they’re not working, now is the time to your friend to stop and rethink and revisit and make some changes. And I think episode 90 would really help you with that. I kind of share my philosophy and how I came up with it. Episode 89 may help you that’s an episode where I interview a current high school science teacher who talks about their experience Casey teaching in this post pandemic world. And I love my interview with him because I think him and I are probably the most opposite personalities that exist. And so it was just I learned so much hearing from someone so different from me. And again, sometimes it’s best to hear from someone different from you because then it starts to get you to think outside the box. So that’s something to look at too. Okay. So again, your red threes are doing whatever it takes to cut them out. Period outsource or stop doing them read twos. We can’t be that aggressive because remember they have more the higher priority than threes, but we can be intentional intention. Why do I keep doing that? I’m so sorry. All intentional. We can be intentional. I think it’s the fact that I’m saying be before intentional doesn’t make me want to add the bull at the end anywho I’m a human so I keep messing this up. But I want you to just hit those red twos be intentional about making strategic choices there. Okay, now Last but not least, we got to look at your red ones. Reminder, these are the things that are sucking the life out of you. But you have to do them, okay? Because ones are the things that like are the most important highest priority only you can do, and then read sex life out of you. So let me say this, everyone’s tolerance level for red one is different. And I believe that in different seasons of your life, you can handle greater amounts of red ones than in other seasons of your life. So for example, when I did not have children, I could handle a lot more red ones. Now that I have three children, the capacity I have for things that are red, and one is maybe space for one to two of those things, that was a pretty permanent shift in you know, my seasonality, but maybe it’s a, it’s a more narrow seasonality. Even there, maybe you’re in a season, where you’re caring for an aging or ill parent, or grandparent, and you’re this will maybe come to pass soon. It’s hard to say that, but it’s true. And so maybe this is a season where like, just right now, you can only handle one or two red ones, you just it’s too much on your plate. Or maybe you have a conflict with, you know, your partner or one of your children, and it’s making your red one capability a lot lower. I really want to encourage you in that I also I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, too. I think even like we have a genetic predisposition to a higher tolerance, and higher capacity for these kinds of things. My husband is just innately more positive than me. But I would also argue that I’m innately more efficient than he is. And so I can handle more tedious tasks and knock them out. Look, I can handle a big load of tedious tasks a lot better than he can, he can handle heavy emotional burdens, with a greater capacity than I can. Okay, so we all have our different strings here. The thing I want you to consider here, though, is look at those red ones, and consider your current season of life. And how much of this can you handle at this time? If you can’t handle it, then that’s where we need to now think about what changes need to be made. Big picture, is it time to go? Okay, so the next thing I want you to do is compare, I want you to write a new list, fresh piece of paper, okay, new tab on the spreadsheet, write out everything that you absolutely love about this job. Of course, we just labeled the tasks that bring you joy, I get that. But like some of the things like aren’t even tasks, just like being around high school students, they keep me young, you know, I love them, I love their personalities. They’re hilarious. Maybe it’s some coworkers you have that just is a joy to be around them. Maybe you just like working in general. And the alternative would be for you to have to be a stay at home parent and home economists really living on a crazy budget, and you’d rather work in some capacity, you know, so that you can have a certain lifestyle or you know, whatever, there’s so many things but write everything you love about this job. And then I want you to compare it to your red ones list and see which weighs heavier. Do you have plenty of things you love about this job that are enough to let you increase your tolerance for these red ones? Or is the list of what you love so short? That it cannot overcome the insurmountable list of red ones that you have? If that’s the case, now it’s time for a change. Okay, so first thing I would consider in your change is is my biggest problem, something that’s out of my control? Like it’s not actually the teaching is maybe not actually the students, it’s the district, it’s the admin. And if that’s the case, first, I would listen to episode 71. It’s one of the interviews I did with my former high school chemistry teacher. And we have a really, really candid conversation about working with difficult admin and co workers. And he’s just really encouraging. It’s something I’ve always thought but he really affirmed to that, like the entire school culture and dynamic is affected by bad admin. And you basically need to decide if you have bad admin, are you willing to wait for them to get replaced? Or do you need to move? I don’t think you should expect admin that are bad to get better. And I’m not saying they can’t change. Everyone is capable of changing growth. I’m just saying that admin man, they really hit different. They change everything about how your school feels. Again, in district if your district forcing things higher up there like no one wants to do and they’re so out of touch and you got to this might be a situation where we need to consider switching districts switching schools, check out episode 65 and 66. I kind of talked through that process questions to ask yourself what you should be considering about switching schools. Maybe it’s switching to a private school so you don’t have like a district overhead. No demanding that you teach a certain curriculum that you think is trash. Maybe it’s switching districts. You know, you’re teaching in a city and you want to go outside of the city no smaller town and I don’t know Obviously, these are big decisions, though. And I’m not trying to say like, you can just make these totally selfishly I know, there’s so many variables into why you all are in the schools that you are in. But I also think a lot of you are on the brink of your own mental breakdowns, at least from the way my DMs in my email inboxes sounding. So I think it’s worth taking this really seriously. Could I seriously consider switching schools? Could that be the solution? I think that needs to be considered before you just consider leaving the profession as a whole. Another thing I think that should be considered is taking a one year break. Maybe you can’t swing it forever. But could you swing it for one year, just to kind of see, see if you can have a reset mentally, before you come back another year. I know this gets complicated with pensions and getting your job back. But I also know we’re in a serious teacher shortage, especially for your high school science teacher, you are a rare unicorn, rainbow. Jim, okay, and people want you, I can tell you that they want you. So I do think you’ll be able to find another job if you take a break. But I know you could argue with me about that, too. And then, at the very end of this, I think the last thing you then consider is if all of this is a no, maybe it’s time to consider a different career outside of teaching. And I would encourage you to check out Episode 67, I interviewed Daphne Gomez, and she is the teacher career coach. And she has some really interesting ideas for the types of things that teachers can do with our skill set outside of the classroom. And so I just want you to know that all hope is not lost. And I’ve been really encouraged, the more people I meet who, you know, are teachers or who taught stayed home for a couple years or back in the classroom, who taught maybe left and tried to do real estate or something different and then are back in the classroom. Like it doesn’t have to be forever. Even if you leave the classroom, I think I just want to encourage you to take that time to reflect compare, consider before you move forward, walking through this process helps you do that. And again, everything is a season, I am so quick to become immobilized thinking that like I can’t make a decision, I can’t make it a change because it’s going to be the next rest of my life for 10 to 15 years. And that’s just not the case. There are very few things in life that are very, very permanent. I have an extremist mindset, I

need a growth mindset. I need that flexibility. And so if you feel the same way as me, I just want you to say I hear you and you’re not alone. But this could just be a temporary thing to get you back on top and where you’re reenergized again, okay, so hope you feel motivated. If you haven’t pause and Dedalus do it. If you do it I wrote If you leave a review today and tell me how the experience of doing the green, yellow red and the 0123 has helped you. And I mentioned a lot of extra episodes that might be helpful that you may have missed, so you can find all those links in the show notes at isn’t rocket science classroom.com/episode 121 All right, teacher friends. That wraps up today’s episode. If you’re looking for an easy way to start simplifying your life as a secondary science teacher, head to It’s not rocket science classroom.com/challenge to grab your classroom reset challenge. And guess what? It’s totally free. Thanks so much for tuning in, and I’ll see you here next week. Until then, I’ll be rooting for you Teacher friend.


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