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Help! I’m On The Verge of Burnout!!! Do I Quit Teaching Or What Do I Do?

Teachers get frustrated. It happens. It’s a part of the job. This article explores the subject of teacher burnout a bit and includes some robust discussion in the comments.


I got a comment on my article Valid Reasons Teachers Quit tonight:

I am up past my usual time and I just decided to go on the web. I came across this. I have been teaching for seventeen years. Maybe you can help. Every morning I dread the thought of going to my job. This has been the worst year ever. I don’t have the desire to ever teach another child. Last year a child brought a knife to school-told his friends he was going to kill me. This year I seem to have the class from hell.

I love to teach-but not children any longer. I am sitting here practically in tears bbecause I feel as though I am about to have a nervous breakdown from the stress of disruptive children and non supportive parents. I believe that I have nothing else to give. I believe that this is my last year, I don’t care about the money. I think it is unhealthy for me and for the children. I try to give it my all, but I am so discouraged until there are days I have nothing to give my own family. I am bitter and disgruntle by the time I make it home.

Today was another rough day. I have rewarded, disciplined, encouraged, ask for parental support, administrative support (“All I can tell you, hon, is I don’t know” response). I feel like I should leave the field because I have nothing left to give- I have more bad days than good days. I think that summer, weekends, holidays are no long worth my staying. I don’t mean to sound like a selfish teacher.

I do my job-it’s just a fight every single day. I don’t sleep on the job, nor play around-I am accountable to someone else other than my principal. I know how to do the job, and I do it well. I think that since my heart is so far away-it is time to leave”

I’m going to ask for the help of my over 250 subscribers and other visitors. Please encourage Jackie the way that so many of you have encouraged me this year. You can do so by leaving comments here and also on the original article.

If this is you, check out these articles:

See also  10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My Sanity?

My take on the situation is included in the comments to the original article.

The Blog Revolution Project begins tomorrow. I’ll post some preliminary steps you can start looking into, along with an outline of some of the things you can expect. The official kickoff with the assignments and everything will be on Monday May 5th.

Joel Wagner (@sywtt) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. So You Want To Teach? is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

Joel Wagner
Joel Wagner (<strong><a href="">@sywtt</a></strong>) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. <strong><a href="">So You Want To Teach?</a></strong> is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

22 thoughts on “Help! I’m On The Verge of Burnout!!! Do I Quit Teaching Or What Do I Do?

  1. I feel your pain. I’m so sorry for the struggle you are having this year. My only advice is not to make a decision right now. Wait and give yourself a couple of weeks of summer and then do a gut check. When you are calm and feeling renewed, ask yourself if you can get excited about setting up your classroom for next year? If you can get worked up about planning your curriculum for the coming year? If any of it feels like a positive challenge? So, no real advice, except not to make a decision while you are in the throes of emotion. You may be right that you are done teaching — it certainly happens but you may also need time and perspective to know your heart.

  2. Jackie: My advice would be to stop beating yourself up. You have done your best and no one can ask for more (especially yourself). You seem to think you should be doing something else or something more and sometimes you have to accept that you can’t. I would suggest you find a topic that you are really excited about and teach a mini lesson to your students about it. Make it something personal that you like, do, or are involved in. This might give them an inside look at you as a person but if it doesn’t, at least you will get some enjoyment from it. Sounds like you are a great teacher and you need to give yourself a pat on the back.

  3. I am a recent college graduate, and I have only just recently accepted a teaching position, so I don’t know how qualified I am to respond to this post. I know I don’t understand all that goes on yet. I know that I will be in for a shock no matter how much I’ve prepared for my new profession. I am a newbie. I have more enthusiasm for teaching than you can imagine. I have fairytale visions of what my classes will be like. So I guess that means you should take my advice with a grain of salt, but I’ll share it anyways.
    The best piece of advice my collaborating teacher gave me (and she gave some really good advice) is to not take it personally. Whatever goes on in your classroom is not a personal attack on you. Kids are just kids and they do some really obnoxious, immature, and disrespectful things sometimes, but in order to survive, you absolutely cannot take it personally. Take responsibility for it, yes. But don’t take anything a kid says or does to heart. Easier said then done, I know.
    It sounds to me like you are working at a school that is not a good place for you. If your employer is not willing to help you become a better employee, find a better place to work. Also, you cannot expect your students to be excited about your lessons (and therefore learners, not disrupters) if you yourself are not excited about what you are teaching. If I were you, I would take a week or two to teach something that really excited me (regardless of how it fit with the standards).

    But if you 100% know that you are miserable, and there is nothing that will change the situation, then I think you should find a new profession. Like you said, you deserve better, and so do the kids. Best of luck to you!

  4. I’m sorry that things are so bad. Especially after teaching 17 years! I would talk to other teachers who you respect and get their opinion. That said, here’s the response of a totally anonymous stranger from the internet:

    If things are at the point where you can write “I don’t have the desire to ever teach another child,” I’d do what Liza says and take some time and regroup, and think about what’s causing it, honestly.

    If it is the thought of working with kids, then yeah, you should stop teaching them for your own mental health and happiness.

    But if it’s the thought of working with kids in *your* particular school, then you could think of alternative places to teach kids that you might not dread seeing. Maybe in another school, or in a tutoring business, or in an after school program, or something related? Or maybe changing age groups — to something younger? (I teach one middle school class and they are *so* different than my high school classes.)

    I just hope that you aren’t feeling boxed in and trapped by circumstance. There are ways to change circumstances.

  5. Your post made me sad, it’s hard to go to work everyday if you are not happy. I’ll retire in a couple of years from a teaching job that has been a joy–there is rarely a day I don’t want to go to school. Since I’m so close to retirement I want to make sure you don’t forsake your retirement benefits (if you’ve been in the same state) if a change of position might make a difference. Someone said a change of grade level may help but how about something completely different. How about a change to special ed, gifted, ELL, counseling, Reading? Don’t give up your love of teaching if a speciality change may help!

  6. You may want to consider a change of location. Sometimes all you need is a fresh environment: it will force you to reinvent yourself as a teacher. For me it made all the difference in the world.

  7. Great responses so far. This is the kind of stuff I was expecting to come from you people!

    I’m not ignoring them all, but I want to emphasize what Mr. Maestro and some others have already said here.

    I grew up in the Dallas area and never intended on leaving. I resigned after my second year and ended up taking a job half a day away on the border with Mexico. Moving from a metropolitan area of over 6,000,000 people to a small town next to Mexico, it was a cultural adjustment to say the least. I went from teaching 6th through 12th grade band to teaching 6th grade only. I had no friends within 400 miles. That was totally not what I wanted!

    But it ended up being the best thing possible for me. I have grown to where I almost love the culture here on the border. Things are much slower and more laid back. That drives me crazy at times, but it’s also really good for me at times!

    Sometimes a change of some sort (scenery, grade level, altitude, position, career path, etc.) will be the best thing for you. Sometimes just spending the summer doing nothing at all (if you can…) is great medication as well.

  8. How do you know you’re cut out for teaching? I’m finishing my student teaching semester as we speak and I really go back and forth in my mind if I “have what it takes”. How do I know I’m not teaching the right way or not cut out to be successful?

  9. I quit my middle school teaching job after 10 years. I do not regret it. I had breakfast with my teacher friends last weekend. They are sick, tired, and miserable. I taught in the Harbor Gateway in Los Angeles. They are only warehousing these kids so they aren’t committing crime in the streets. I would only show up to teach my Honors 8th grade class. The kids on my other classes thought i was a witch for giving them homework (English grade 8). Most of their teachers do not assign homework and have given up on them. The teachers literally babysit the kids. I could not morally do this job any more. SO I QUIT. I saw all of the young teach for America teachers quitting and going on to law and other careers. I am now moving from L.A. to Austin texas, taking 6 months off and am exploring other careers. I am 34. I did not want to end up a miserable old grouch, Teaching in Los Angeles is truly shameful.

  10. I’m sorry to hear you are suffering. I can identify. I have taught for 17 years at the jr hs level and hate it. It has never been easy but I find I don’t have the resilience I used to exhibit. I usually get little support from admin and am tired of being the prison guard. I don’t know what else to do but move in with parents and look for something else. Check out john gatto’s site. Best of luck.

  11. I really relate to this. I actually found this site by typing “I’m a teacher, and I hate my job” into a search engine. I’ve been teaching for seven years. Most days I hate it. The students are increasingly disrespectful, find ANY form of discipline laughable, and actively resist learning. The administration is a joke as far as offering support in this arena. The attitude is basically, “If you can’t handle it, it must be something YOU’RE doing wrong.” The parents care even less than the kids(if that’s possible). The thing is, I feel like I’m good at my job. For one thing, I do my job, unlike certain colleagues. I LOVE the subject that I teach, but that enthusiasm doesn’t seem to work wonders like some seems to think it will. I live in an area where GOOD jobs, even for a college graduate are few and far between, so I feel trapped in this profession even if I did decide to get out of it. I do need a paycheck and a way to pay the bills after all. I just feel at a loss for what to do most of the time.

  12. I feel like I am on the edge of burnout. I am neglecting myself and I am completely exhausted. I feel like several days might help but I already used 2( 1 for a Dr’s appt and one for a trip). I feel like I need to do something else working with teens and young adults. I do love the kids but I feel like the administration sabotages things. The teachers and students are the last ones to know anything and usually can do nothing about policy changes in the school or district. I really don’t know what to do. I feel overwhelmed by paperwork-it seems to never end. I have completely abandoned and neglected my social and personal life.

  13. After rereading most of the comments on here, I realize that this has sort of turned into despair hour on So You Want To Teach?

    I really recommend everyone who gets to this article reads the link in the comment just before this one. I know there is hope!

  14. It’s interesting reading all these comments and I was searching the internet for other jobs I could do if I wasn’t a teacher.. My story is the opposite. I have a great bunch of students and a really supportive (mostly) group of parents also. I am disgruntled by the workload and also extra things that end up taking all of my time. The processes in my school are frustrating and I feel like we spend all of our time preparing our students to sit standardized testing so that our school results can improve. My frustration comes from not being able to nurture the other aspects of my students and that the day is taken up by all these other commitments. There is no time for doing those ‘just because’ activities. I am finding it really hard to overcome the politics at my school, the lack of consultation, the procceses and procedures and that unstable employment. It’s these things that are weighing in my mind and making me consider all my options.

  15. I’ve been teaching two weeks and am stressed out to the max. I teach special ed and have to prepare 33 lessons a week. I teach three classes in one hour, jumping from two kids to another to two more. I literally run around all day like a chicken with my head cut off. I work 12 hours a day and constantly worry about my job. I come in on the weekends. I have the worst job for a first year teacher. I hate it.

  16. I’m a college professor and I found this site by typing “I hate teaching, now what?” into a search engine. I’m not surprized to hear all you high school and jr. high teachers say that your students actively resist learning. It’s obvious when they get here. They cannot write a sentence. They cannot subtract without a calculator (and even then have no idea if the answer they got is reasonable). I’ve been giving my students the first exam of the semester this week and the class averages so far have been 66, 52, and 56 out of 100. I told them what would be on the exam, to the point of writing a diagram on the board and saying, “This WILL be on the exam. Memorize it” and even so 75% missed the question on the exam. I asked them what happened and, as near as I can find out, they didn’t believe me when I told them what would be on the exam. I don’t understand. This is my second semester as a professor and, God willing, my last. I love sharing my knowledge and seeing the light come on for students but that NEVER happens here. I don’t feel like I’m doing anything worthwhile for anyone. I’m working 15 to 18 hours a day. Last semester I actually ended up in the hospital from stress. I think it might be time to set a minimum age of about 30 for college students and require them to have several years of responsible work experience before they can be admitted. I don’t know what to do about the younger kids. When 23 year-olds brag that they’ve never read an entire book in their lives you know there is something seriously wrong. I just don’t know how to fix it. The administration here decided last week that we have too many students failing and so we should let them take exams as many times as it takes to get an A or B and give extra credit and accept papers that aren’t done per instructions or are turned in late…anything to make them feel good about themselves. My response is that if they can’t do what’s asked of them (it isn’t much as it is) then they shouldn’t feel good about themselves. I’ve got to get out of here but first…another exam that they’ll all fail…..

  17. We have been in school almost six weeks already, which makes it about 30 to go, but who’s counting. Our kids are fine this year, with the inevitable few exceptions, but it is the administrators who are driving us nuts. I had lately experienced the good life where the bosses were there to make our jobs more effective and remove the falderal (sic?) of the game to get to the nitty gritty of educating kids. But lately…geez, it seems like every day there is another probe to do or a test to administer or a piece of paperwork to complete or… or…, can you sense my frustration? One of our staff today stated that she expects the first of the year to be a “head-spin” but that it levels off after a bit. But this year, “I can’t even FEEL my head.”

  18. I’m looking for some practical job options.
    I just got home from school and I’m ready to hand in my resignation. I’ve been doing some serious soul searching about whether or not I want to continue, since before school even started.
    My school is exceptional in so many ways, so it really isn’t the school. I get to do so many things that I enjoy. I’m just tired of the hassle.
    I’m tired of being undercut by people who haven’t been in a classroom in 15 years telling me to do what I know to be wrong. We went to block scheduling without any preparation (oh yeah, we got three books to read over the summer and another 3 at the first meeting. Yep, that’ll do it). We added an elective and lost a planning, so that means another class to plan – without a text or the time. We now have three professional sites we are required to keep up with (in our spare time of course). We’ve been put on paper restrictions and are not allowed to use worksheets as grades (unless of course you’re out sick, then you’re suppose to have a whole file of papers you’re not suppose to use ready for a sub!?). And I missed 3 days of school due to infection caused by stress and parents sending sick kids to school because they don’t want them at home.
    There is no time during the day to do everything that has to be done, so the middle school teachers end up being the last to leave the school, with homework.
    Last year I worked so hard to set up a curriculum that would allow me some time for me. Instead, I’m working harder than ever just to get caught up. And that is on a low salary frozen indefinitely. More work, same pay.

    Got a degree that seemed like a good idea at the time with no intention of ever setting foot in a classroom (not my first job), and now I am stuck.
    I can’t quit; I need the money and the insurance. I live in a beautiful area that is an employment nightmare. I can’t change schools because no one is hiring. I don’t want to leave my home, because I have friends. I’ve got 20 years experience in my field and I love working with middle school kids, but I am extremely unhappy and discouraged.
    At a retirement party one of my coworkers asked me if I saw myself retiring from the school. I told him honestly that I didn’t think I had a choice anymore. I just stayed too long.
    So, does anyone have a suggestion?

    1. M.D.,

      I can only imagine that this must be a really tough situation for you. Remember that you can’t do everything. As much as we want to, we have to constantly remind ourselves that we can only do as much as we can do. I want to write more about this, but I’m not sure that the comments of this article are the best place for it. I’ll post my full response in the next few days. Until then, just keep on keeping on!

  19. I quit teaching English after 10 years. I felt like I was teaching to kids who did not want to learn. Verbally abused by kids and parents was wreaking me emtionally. After all, I just wanted to teach English. A year later, I am the happiest Ive been in my entire life. I don’t miss one day. I plan on substitute teaching in Texas. I’m on Los Angeles now. I’ve rented out my condo and am now enjoying the allyoucan jet pass and have been to 5 states. Follow your gut. That is my advice.

  20. I’ve been teaching for ten years, and it does wear you down. I teach an elective, so the kids are a little more interested than the kids in my English class, but not much. American high school is just a very unintellectual place. There is more emphasis on sports (throwing balls around, etc.) Colleges are dumbing down because they want to keep those kids paying. Colleges are just degree factories, and they want to make money. It is a joke. Many times I feel like an entertainer, even if I don’t want to be. Sometimes, you have to be dramatic just to get their attention. I definitely would tell all the new teachers to be strict. Just the persona and attitude go a long way to keeping discipline. You are not their friend. You are their teacher, and there is a big difference. This is the only way to go. You may not be the most beloved teacher, but you will be one of the most respected ones. The most beloved teachers are usually the worst teachers, anyway, to tell the truth. Any teacher that is too “hard” will not be loved. Some classes like Latin, German, and Physics cannot be dumbed down very much. New teachers should rent the movie “Master and Commander” and watch the scene where Russel Crowe’s character lectures one of his officers. “Find the strength within yourself and lead them. They do not need a friend. If you are friendly with you, they will despise you.” This is fundamental human nature. If you act too friendly, it will be interpreted as “weak” by your students. This is similar to prison, so I hear. You need to be in charge and strong. You are the “leader” and the only one! There are times to smile and use humor, but they are not every day. The old school way of teaching is still the best way. Human nature is human nature, and that hasn’t changed. You can be a serious, respected teacher, or you can be their buddy teacher who most kids will see as a “joke”. It is hard to balance both. You can’t win with the buddy or friend approach, and you will burn out fast. I hope this helps some of the new teachers. Another last ironic thing is that if you teach an elective, and it is too hard, the kids will drop your class, and your subject will dissappear. How do you like that? That goes for high level Physics classes, or even English electives. You walk a fine line between actually teaching the subject enough so that they will do well on the test, yet making it “fun” and entertaining, and easy enough so that they do not drop. Talk about walking a fine line. You go through phases in your career. I started out very idealistic, and eventually, you get tired of forcing the kids to learn every point. Some years you don’t have that student who just moved here from Russia. You know, the kid who actually does his homework in a concientious way. Oh well…..Keep up the good fight! Do it for your “gems” and keep the rest of the animals quiet.

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