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29 Comments

  1. Becky Marcantel on July 31, 2013 at 7:43 am

    I was a classroom teacher for 17 years before taking a position as an educational consultant with the state department of education. Your commentary parallels my experiences when visiting individual classrooms, as well as during state training sessions. It was also interesting to note that many teachers’ maturity level matched that of the students they were supposed to be teaching. Thank you for an honest assessment and for the courage to address a major concern in education today.

    • Tim Elmore on July 31, 2013 at 9:06 am

      Thanks for weighing in. It doesn’t surprise me that you would find the teacher often mirrors the student. I think both happen. So sad that they get so “beat up” that it’s now a survival game in the classroom. I appreciate what you do.

    • Daniel De Kok on August 25, 2013 at 4:09 pm

      It’s scary when that happens in elementary schools. The teachers talk to other adults in the building as though the other adults are functioning at their student’s level.

  2. Richard Schumacher on July 31, 2013 at 8:01 am

    Burnout happens. Not every teacher is wired to be in the profession for a lifetime. I’d rather see a superstar teacher work for 10 years and get out to pursue other passions than to see them stay in education for 30 years half-heartedly. What many teachers who hate their jobs don’t realize is that it’s okay to move on to something else. Thanks for your thoughts on this.

    • Tim Elmore on July 31, 2013 at 9:08 am

      Great insight. I think you’re exactly right. The solution may be for teachers to enter education as a career choice, then move on as they feel “burnout” coming on. It is rough and very emotionally expensive to lead a classroom for decades, especially today, when kids have often not been taught respect or compassion for others.

      • Richard Schumacher on July 31, 2013 at 10:00 am

        An interesting follow up would be to determine the signs of burnout and to equip principals with the tools needed to help prevent it and in a loving way, address it when it occurs.

      • a teacher on August 1, 2013 at 9:58 pm

        The only problem with “moving on” is that many of us (I am a teacher) have sacrificed earning power throughout our 30s and 40s and now need to stick with teaching for the secure retirement it provides to make up for that lost aggregate income.

        Furthermore, the most common reason for burnout I’ve observed is that we are not allowed to teach anymore. We are not allowed to lead meaningful discussions because of fragile feelings and the liability of “undue influence”. We are not allowed to personalize lessons because we are encouraged to collaborate to the point of automation and have every lesson approved by a detached administration. We are constantly attacked for incompetence when we are getting students who are not equipped mentally, socially, or emotionally like previous generations. Education is seen as the enemy in too many cases rather than given the respect it deserves. Until these situations are solved, neither will the cases of burnout. I am actually known for my enthusiasm in the classroom, but at this point it is an act of will for the good of myself and my students. Were I not buried in extra responsibilities due to the “convenience” of technology and in constant battle with the energy vacuums mentioned above, I wouldn’t have to fake it, but…

        • Tim Elmore on August 13, 2013 at 7:46 am

          Great point you make here. Automation is stealing jobs right and left. I would say this is why we need to focus on “controllables” not what is outside of our control. Every choice we make surrounds realities that are in our control, out of our control or within our influence. To focus on what’s in our control, we must build meta-competencies in our grads like “resourcefulness” and resilience. Resourcefulness is huge, because we now live in an age where information is everywhere. If we can teach kids to find answers that solve problems by being resourceful, they are more employable in the end. The same is true for the virtue of resilience. A career may demand that we all “re-tool” as industries come and go. If we can bounce back and enter new worlds, we will be more employable than those who cannot.

          • Pete on January 27, 2014 at 11:43 pm

            Automation is stealing jobs right and left. I would say this is why we need to focus on “controllables” not what is outside of our control. Every choice we make surrounds realities that are in our control, out of our control or within our influence. To focus on what’s in our control, we must build meta-competencies in our grads like “resourcefulness” and resilience.

            This quote proves you are an idiot. How can you stand to listen to yourself spout such nonsense. Move on to another profession, please!



  3. Broox on July 31, 2013 at 8:12 am

    Totally agree! But Tim- u have to look at it a different way. Every teacher got into this business to make a difference in kids lives. But in today’s education it is close to impossible for them to do their job. They are bombed with Curriculum Meetings, Administrators that have forgotten their roles, and don’t forget their afternoon duties! They DON’T teach anymore bc they are EXHAUSTED! I’m just sayin…
    Your former teacher- Broox

    • Tim Elmore on July 31, 2013 at 9:10 am

      You are spot on. The problem is, teachers often begin well, but then the mission becomes a mere job. They get weary and as I have mentioned, survival becomes the goal, not making a difference. I wish there was a silver bullet for solving this problem. For now, it may be one of two things: either continued personal growth, where teachers keep mentors in their life, or they just move on to other jobs. Often, the administrator – teacher relationship becomes adversarial because both have their own set of goals and they are at odds…at times. So sad. Any other thoughts?

      • Laura Donaldson Lyons on August 3, 2013 at 10:38 am

        My school district “won” a $100 million Gates Foundation grant which focuses on Empowering Effective Teachers (EET). The goal has been two-fold: to measure teacher effectiveness in the classroom, and to provide mentorship over a 2-year period to new teachers, in the hopes of preventing burnout and leaving the profession early. As a “seasoned” classroom teacher, I’ve observed that the support and encouragement to new teachers would also be tremendously effective for teachers with years under their belts experiencing burnout. I feel that if such positive mentorship were available as an option for experiemced teachers- an extra pair of hands, an encouraging voice, another brain for seeking and implementing new ideas- then teachers would more contentedly remain in the profession.

  4. Bryan Stephany on July 31, 2013 at 9:04 am

    I have to add a simple caveat…there might be reasons why teachers are so miserable that have nothing to do with motivation. The premise of the article seems to be that teaching happens in a vacuum, therefore teachers are solely to blame for the classroom. But if you know anything about education you understand that the socio-political context has changed dramatically in recent decades, and that many teachers feel powerless in the classroom, what with the pressures associated with high-stakes accountability (teaching to the test, satisfying state mandates for “performance” measures, etc.) When teachers feel that their expertise is being delegitimized, it kind of makes sense that they would be unsatisfied with that. I think it is an important point to remember in light of the charge issued by the author, which seems to be “Hey teachers, suck it up!!” Rather, the critique needs to come full circle. What might society do differently that would help put a charge back into a teacher’s passion to teach?

    • Tim Elmore on July 31, 2013 at 1:06 pm

      Thanks for sharing Bryan. I don’t in any way want to convey the message that it is solely the teacher’s fault. I agree with what you’re saying, I think it is a full circle critique that should be addressed at every level of the education system. However, I do believe, that the tools in which teachers are given to equip students, should be carried out in a way that best serves the students and helps them grow and develop.

  5. neller1 on July 31, 2013 at 9:06 am

    Right on, Tim! I have found when a teacher focuses more on themselves, their security, and their rights, students suffer for it is more about their success and not about the success of each individual student. When teaching becomes more about a job, getting paid, and being served rather than a calling and
    passion, it is time to re-examine their hearts and motives.

    • Tim Elmore on August 1, 2013 at 8:35 am

      Absolutely. Kids often spend just as much time in the classroom as they do with their parents while growing up. I hope teachers realize their potential to influence these young kids and help shape them into leaders.

  6. M Jackson on July 31, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    As the daughter of a teacher, and a huge advocate for education, I just have to say AMEN! I speak daily to business leaders about the need to inspire our kids to love learning–particularly science and math. When I listen to my kids’ experiences with their science teachers and lack of enthusiasm and excitement for the subject matter, I am disheartened. I know it is a trying profession. It is a true calling and is not for everyone. Teachers are the front line dedicated leaders shaping our future workforce and world leaders. I had such wonderful teachers growing up that instilled in me a love for learning. My wish is for every child to have the same experiences I did in a public school system.

    • Tim Elmore on August 1, 2013 at 8:33 am

      That is refreshing to hear, thank you for sharing your thoughts! You are so right, teachers are the front line leaders, shaping our future workforce. That is a powerful and influential position to be in, I too hope for every child to have the types of experiences that I did in school.

  7. Susan Barber on August 1, 2013 at 4:22 am

    The problem is most teachers who need to move on are in a tenured position which means unless they do something immoral or illegal they remain in the classroom going through the motions with little to no enthusiasm. Not only do students deserve passionate, engaged teachers, students deserve a system that will not tolerate teachers who are simply showing up to pick up a paycheck.

    • Tim Elmore on August 1, 2013 at 8:34 am

      Great insight Susan. It is sad to think about teachers who show up for their paycheck, yet spend little time preparing for a life-changing experience for their students. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  8. Michele Ann on August 1, 2013 at 8:52 am

    Tim: I am new to your blog, but love this posting. If only it were around when I was going through elementary school (started kindergarten in 1979)– I didn’t get “excited” about being a student until junior high school. First through sixth grade were just a waste, my teachers should have retired years before I was a student in their classrooms.

  9. A teacher on August 3, 2013 at 9:26 am

    Tim good post. Sadly I think the problem is the world of education is becoming systematized. Teachers are forced to be robots and deliver a system. How can you have passion when you get no ownership. People in the world of education need to realize it is not a system that is important, it is the relationship between the teacher and the student. We have to stop trying to deliver everything the same and give teachers the freedom to teach concepts but in a way that is their own unique way. What do you think?

  10. Ellen Pate on August 5, 2013 at 9:08 am

    “I’m just sayin’ that I’m not sayin”…so happy to hear your voice in my head….love it! Keep up your good work, Tim!

    -Ellen Pate

    • scherbie on March 25, 2014 at 8:08 pm

      Um, teachers do need to eat and earn a paycheck. If I don’t feed myself and my family, how can I be a good teacher? Some of the above comments make this seem like an either/or situation. Perhaps if teachers were respected as a profession and paid adequately, burnout wouldn’t happen so often.

  11. Steve on June 20, 2014 at 7:09 am

    So what is the job that these burnt out teachers can turn to? And are you having a thinking about the forces at play that causes the burnout?

  12. Caroline E on July 24, 2014 at 12:21 am

    As students, we want someone passionate about teaching us and making a difference. But when I entered the teaching profession I didn’t realize that this meant working 60-70 hours a week or more for students, parents and administrators that wonder why you aren’t doing more. With student loan debt, I have to teach another four years, and then I will leave the profession for more idealists to take my place. Teaching is a job, not a charity… I want to be a good teacher, but without a better work-life balance and fewer sky high expectations, how can I succeed? (And I work at a school with great administration and resources). I will miss the autonomy, but never the long hours and endless expectations. Why do people blame burned out teachers rather than addressing the causes of burnout?

  13. Kate Chopin on December 11, 2014 at 8:56 pm

    Yea… Where is Jesus Christ in the form of a teacher for every classroom when you need him? I’m glad someone who doesn’t teach has something to say about it… Here’s an interesting point that teachers probably consider when they’ve “lost their passion”… They have a masters in teaching and an insurmountable student loan… Now what? A teaching job isn’t a summer gig scooping ice cream… People spend a lot of time and money qualifying for certification and your article talks about quitting teaching like it’s choosing to use oxy clean instead of bleach when running the whites cycle of laundry… Don’t worry the decline in students pursuing a teaching degree will make the frequency of losing passion a non-issue. What is it you sell again?

  14. Anonymous on January 28, 2015 at 8:21 am

    I’m not getting the respect fomwtudents no matter how hard i try because i look younger than them. Looking at them will not help them rcognize my authority.

  15. Kelly C. Redmond on February 25, 2016 at 7:52 pm

    I’ve been a teacher for 10 years now. I taught for 6 years, took 2 year off and I’ve been back teaching now for 4 years. I can honestly say, at this point, that I no longer enjoy teaching. I’m a music teacher and as far as any admin. cares I’m the bottom of the heap. I’m given little info about expectations for my classes and then when those unspoken expectations are not met I get railed on. My classes are not always respected, constantly in danger of being cancelled for “something more important”. I get pulled to do everything that has nothing to do with music or performances and then, again, I get railed on when my job is not completed. The kids in these school have no respect for me because they only see me once maybe twice a week for an hour. The consequences I delve out are washed over by admin and so they hold no weight with the kids. They talk back, roll their eyes, walk out, and there is seemingly nothing I can do to stop it.

    I have tried to leave the profession, trust me. I know I shouldn’t be in the classroom anymore. However there is noone out ther who will hire a former music teacher. A math teacher might get hired doing something with numbers. A literature teacher might get hired doing something with words. A music teach can only scrounge for performance opportunities that pay little and are few and far between. I have two options in my life at this point: be an unintentional bad teacher with a steady income and benefits or become a literal starving artist mooching off my parents until they put my out of their house.

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