4/28 #KELTchat summary – BURNOUT by @bryanteacher

Many thanks to special guest summarizer and #KELTchatter Mr. Bryan Hale (@bryanteacher), who has graciously provided our summary for Sunday’s chat:

What is teacher burnout? Have you suffered it? How does it relate to administration, students, The System, our own overcommitment? What can we do about burnout, and what advice would you offer your past self?

On Sunday April 28, 2013, #KELTchatters shared thoughts on these questions while exploring ‘avoiding teacher burnout’. It’s an important professional concern, and I hope this summary does justice to the ideas and experiences we shared.


Alex Grevett @breathyvowel – moderator
Georgeanna Hall @hallg
Anne Hendler @AnneHendler
Suzanne @citoyennemondia
Tom Randolph @TomTesol
Bryan Hale @bryanteacher
Roy Woodhouse @RoyWoodhouse
Daniel Craig @seouldaddy
In a special cameo appearance: Mike Griffin @michaelegriffin

What is burnout?

“feeling of being overwhelmed by what (I thought) my job required” … “exhausted” … “a bit in despair” -Georgeanna

the point where you’re not effective as a teacher any more?” -Anne

“Feeling extinguished, like you can’t do anything” … “No passion or motivation” -Suzanne

“Maybe loss of passion, sense of fun, desire?” -Tom

“Something like not making the effort to see that learning occurs, rather than actively promoting it.” -Alex

“uninvested” … “feels impossible to change the situation” -Bryan

“you think you’re not making a difference, or worse, contributing to problems in the system.” -Daniel

Possible symptoms of burnout

Georgeanna – exhaustion and feelings of despair, depression.

Anne: “migraines every day”.

Burnout is not…

Georgeanna and Tom agreed that burnout is not related to age.

Tom later said “burnout’s different from ‘exhausted by a job well done’…I want to quit if I’m burned out.”

Different burnouts

Tom raised the difference between burnout in a particular job, or burnout in a career.

Anne and Alex mentioned burnout related to particular age groups/school types.

Bryan said there could be burnout related to particular teaching types, and burnout related to the Korean education system.

Workload, support and overcommitment

Much of our chat dealt with intertwining issues of administrative support and teacher overcommitment. I have tried to tease out the strands.

On teaching hours

Roy spoke about his heavy teaching load, and thought 30 teaching hours is about the limit a teacher can handle. He said outsiders might not see 30 hours as much, but teaching requires a lot of planning. Others agreed that people might not appreciate planning time.

Roy said that different student levels require different amounts of work and energy – such as beginners. Others agreed, but Alex pointed out different groups are different. He said with his current beginners  “we sort of feed off each other.”

On support from administration

Tom brought up the issue of administrative support – “hugs, $$$, help”. He wondered if participants had felt burnout related to a sense of unappreciative admin and being overworked.

Anne pointed out that admin staff can be overworked, too.

Georgeanna said she sometimes questions whether admin want teachers to teach their best, given the workload they give teachers.

Bryan said there can be a gap between what a school thinks it’s asking of a teacher, and how a teacher perceives a request – for example, schools might only expect simple lesson plans, or might not expect a lot of After School planning.

Later, Georgeanna said she wishes she knew what admin and students actually expect. Tom suggested admin “just wants you to keep your students happy and spreading the word.” He asked if good admin “force themselves to look further?”

On teachers overcommitting

Anne felt she has had supportive admin staff, but she has chosen to overwork.

Georgeanna was burned out in a particular job, but on reflection thinks “I was expecting way too much of myself.”

Tom said it is hard work to keep colleagues from overcommitting. Georgeanna wondered how to find “the point of working hard, but not too hard.” Tom said it involves “a lot of mentoring and reflecting.” He said that if teachers complain of too much marking, maybe they’re overdoing marking.

Georgeanna mentioned teachers pushing themselves to do ‘amazing and new things’. Tom said this can help fight burnout, because “it’s the repetitive, unchanging stuff that gets to me.” Georgeanna said she understood Tom, but it can still contribute to lack of time.

Georgeanna and Roy agreed that the workload you commit to can sneak up on you. Georgeanna said that at first you might feel elated by the challenge and constant activity.

Alex said teachers might overcommit because they want to do a good job and think ‘time spent = performance’. Tom agreed that over-prepping and over-assigning homework doesn’t equal greatness. “Quality over quantity.”

On vacation/downtime

Anne said teaching camps involves intense periods, but the slower periods which allow recovery help a lot.

Tom highlighted the importance of vacation time – “So one can give it all AND recover, research, relax to do it again.”

Alex said that when teachers are only working, they lose time to develop. “You might know you could do better if you had time to stop and think.”

Tom said teachers can also think ‘that’s what next semester is for’:

“I’ve accepted I’ll never do the job as well as I could, but I do it the best I’m able – growth, reflection, development reward me with usually doing it better / differently next time.”

Other issues

Burnout and ‘The System’

Daniel said burnout can arise from feeling you’re contributing to problems in the system. Anne argued that all teachers do this to some extent, and asked who has the power to change the system.

Tom: “It’s certainly exciting to be able to EVOLVE a system.”

Daniel agreed about evolving – “evolving is still change, just a lot slower and more likely to work”.

Georgeanna said she has had the feeling of contributing to problems, “It’s complicated.” Daniel replied “It makes you feel like a fraud.”

Is burnout part of teachers’ life-cycle?

Alex asked Anne if burnout is part of the lifecycle of a kindergarten teacher.

Anne: “No! I really think burnout doesn’t have to be part of a natural cycle of anything.”

Roy thought that burnout is becoming normal as teachers don’t get paid for planning hours.

Are students a cause of burnout?

Alex wondered if students can be a cause of burnout.

Anne and Tom mentioned kindergarten students in humor.

Bryan said in a traditional education setting, students might see attendance as appreciation and not show appreciation in other ways.

What can you do about burnout?

Put less pressure on yourself.

Daniel: “Putting less pressure on ourselves is often important.”

Tom: “More simply: “Do less.” (David Mamet)”

Alex: “Perhaps some of the pressure could be put on to the students?”

Take time away.

Georgeanna took a semester away, then returned to her job.

Anne took a long vacation in South East Asia, “went home and refocused myself and came back to teach a different age group.”

Bryan: “Go to another part of Korea. Far enough to forget job, close enough to increase warm feelings about where you are.”

Improve exercise and diet.

-Anne, Tom, Suzanne, Daniel

Tom: “Feels good to be good to oneself…”

Suzanne: “Yoga.”

Take more naps.


Keep a gratitude journal.


Visit a batting cage.


Play darts.


Take long baths.


Play computer games.

Alex: “Computer games are awesome escapism.”

Roy: “…save money by not going out”

Spend time with friends and family.

-Anne, Tom, Suzanne and Daniel

Tom: “Yeah, aren’t relationships key? (Not sure about the booze anymore, though…)”

Suzanne: “Talking to friends and family.”

Daniel: “A good night out did used to help a little. A day at the playground with my kids works just as well w/o the hangover.”


Suzanne: “Sometimes crying helps immensely. It allows you to get it out of your system.”

Get some ‘comfort food’ TV.

Bryan: “Especially for times you can’t sleep/nothing else available to do.”

Practice professional development.

Daniel: “#keltchat is another way to beat burnout.”

Bryan: “I think as I’m becoming more confident about my teaching, I’m getting more immune to (esp admin-related) burnout. But takes time.”

Advice for your former self

Alex asked if we had any advice to offer our former teacher-selves.

Anne: “Be less of a perfectionist. Students can do a lot for themselves that I did for them to make it look good. … Take a break during breaks. And be more minimal with paperwork.”

Mike: “Chill out…it’s not such a big deal.”

Suzanne: “Learn how to let go and not take things personally. If it’s not on the lesson plan, but works, fine. Bad days can happen. … And you can learn from those bad days as well!”

Bryan: “Don’t take everything so personally/feel necessary to convince ppl what they’re asking of me is wrong.”
(Alex mentioned SNIP – ‘Smile. Nod. Ignore. Proceed.’)

Georgeanna: “Take it easy. No need to ‘prove’ my professorlyness.”

Final thoughts:

Roy suggested a topic for next time: Why do some people view TEFL as a stopgap/fallback and not a career?

Tom: Fresh off the press – ‘How to love what we do’

#KELTChat Summary: Taboo Topics (14th April 2013)

For the full transcript of the chat: click here.

Last week’s KELTchat was moderated by Mr. John Pfordresher, who introduced our topic of Taboo Topics. John P got the ball rolling with the question: What is taboo? Answers included sex, sexual orientation, religion and politics, drugs, swear words (for elementary students), interracial and intercultural dating, anything that can be perceived to make Korea look bad.

Barry Jameson added “cultural imperialism”, and explained that “I try to avoid the arrogance of talking down and imposing my (western??)beliefs and ideals on my students…unless it’s a debate.”

Bryan Hale contributed that sometimes there were things that were taboo for him, but not his students, like talking about weight, stereotyping based on ethnicity, and homophobia.

Daniel Craig interjected to disagree that homosexuality is taboo anymore and to make the excellent point that taboos can change over time.

Anne Hendler commented that taboos might also depend on the age of the students.

The next question chatters discussed was, “Have you been a Ss in a classroom where a topic has come up? How have you felt? And as a Part 2…How do you feel the teacher handled the situation?”

Bryan recalled the discomfort of being in a class in which the teacher did nothing when a taboo topic arose. Others responded as teachers, with various ways of dealing with taboos in our classes, from laughing it off to ignoring it and moving on, to being matter of fact and providing the language the students need to discuss the topics. Barry said that he tries to tackle each situation as it occurs, so maybe there are no hard and fast rules for dealing with taboos. Mike Griffin wondered whether discussing class norms with students would be helpful in dealing with topics that are or are not okay to talk about. Barry reminded us that just because students are laughing doesn’t mean they are comfortable talking about a topic. Dan added that religious topics can cause “silent discomfort”, but Mike said that Korean students seem to be more comfortable talking about religion in a language class than Americans might be.

John wondered whether it is our duty to move on as quickly as possible away from taboo topics. Gemma Lunn answered that it might depend on the situation, but our duty is to prevent students feeling awkward. Bryan said it is important to be mindful of students who might be hurt and also of the motives and maturity of the students. In some situations engaging with the students and opening things up helps. Anne commented that taboos aren’t just limited to topics, but also extend to body language, touch, distance. Suzanne added personality factors as well. Taboos can occur on a cultural level or a personal level.

Jenny Ankenbauer contributed a big question: “What about a talk on why some subjects are discussed in private &/n public on x&x & others aren’t? Can clarify what defines taboo”

Dan: “Most of these topics are simply uncomfortable or awkward and not really taboo. I take them on a class by class basis.” When questioned, he added that he doesn’t see very many topics as being “taboo”.

Anne said she prefers to deal with all taboo topics raised by students in the open in class.

John’s next question sparked a lot of conversation: “What of our duty as cultural ambassadors? Do we have that duty? How does that affect our decision making when a topic comes up?” Chatters didn’t all agree that we have a role as cultural ambassadors, but Gemma pointed out the need to be more culturally sensitive abroad than in the UK. The question of whether we have a duty to help our students be more culturally sensitive led to an issue of approach. Bryan contributed, “I find opening things up by saying ‘Well I’ve heard in __, __’ can be more helpful than ‘I am westerner, so __’” Gemma added, “i think using objective language can help e.g `most ppl in my country feel that` rather than `this is the right way`allows Ss to discuss topics without causing offence” reiterating Mike’s earlier point that it is important to teach students the language for discussing (or not) taboo topics. Jenny agreed that the language is critical and challenged the term “taboo” itself.

A couple other interesting questions arose from John P and Mike G:

“What about teachers that bring in hot topics just to get a reaction/argument/debate going?” (MG)

Responses included the suggestion that teachers walk a fine line, the need to know the students well and set some ground rules for debate or discussion, the need to be prepared to deal with myth. One teacher suggested bringing in divisive topics, not merely debate topics.

“Racism is an ugly topic that pops up all too often. What is our duty as T here? I have a hard time letting that topic slide by” (JP)

Anne responded that perhaps teachers should make the classroom a safe space to get those views out into the open and discuss them. Gemma says that she voices her own opinion, especially with younger learners.

As the chat wound down, Bryan asked, “What about taboos-in-Korea you might want to break yourself/get sick of, e.g. questioning Korean nationalism. Any experiences?” A certain island between Korea and Japan was mentioned by several teachers.

Gemma shared that her final classes were allowed to ask her “anything” and some taboo topics came up: `what do you think of gay?` `is racial discrimination a problem if we lived in england?` `do you like banana milk` oh and `when was your first kiss?!` think ill make myself a few `pass` cards!

Final suggestions came from chatters:

“Strategy: never talk about anything interesting :-)”
“Strategy 2: talk about interesting things in a respectful way that does not privilege your POV”
“teaching useful exp like `i see your point, however` might help? also bing a gd model~ respecting others opinions”
“Be wary of (but also sensitive towards) domineering Ss.”
“Beware of topics Ur prof exp Cs as 2 hot. But don’t miss spontaneous teaching opps…??? Oh, I mean use Ur ‘gut’ ;-)”

Thus ended another exciting KELTchat. Thanks to everyone who participated and thanks to those who are reading and please feel free to participate in future chats!

Useful links:
http://eltrantsreviewsreflections.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/responding-to-shocking-comments-from-students/ (shared by @michaelegriffin)

http://the-round.com/resource/52/ (shared by @bryanteacher)
“I think “52” is a great book and very reasonably priced as well.” @michaelegriffin #KELTchatadvertising

#Keltchat preview for April 28, 2013

Two weeks have passed since the last #keltchat on taboo topics (summary coming very soon), and now it’s time to move on to pastures new. The winner of this weeks poll was “Avoiding Teacher Burnout”, and we’ll be discussing this at 8pm on Sunday.

Some things that you might like to think about before the chat:

  • What does “burnout” mean to you? What happens when teachers burn out?
  • What are your experiences with burning out?
  • What causes burnout?
  • How might we go about avoiding it?
  • What strategies can we use if we start to feel burnt out?
  • What advice would you give if someone told you they were feeling burnt out?

It’s perhaps worth mentioning that these questions are simply a guideline, and my interpretation of the topic. We will be happy to discuss anything related to teacher burnout, tiredness, or otherwise not coping well. It would be very nice to hear some positive stories on this topic too. I feel that we might need them! :)

If you’re new to Twitter chatting and aren’t sure quite how it works, check out this handy guide or this one. If you have no idea what #KELTChat is, have a look here or here. You can also contact us through Twitter (@breathyvowel, @JosetteLB, @michaelegriffin, @alexswalsh, @annehendler, @johnpfordresher) or on our Facebook page.

#KELTchat poll for April 28th, 2013

It’s that time again, fellow #KELTchatters!

We’d welcome your input for the topic for Sunday’s chat. There are five to choose from, and on Sunday we’ll discuss the topic that gathers most votes by Thursday night. If you’d like further info, or have suggestions about the topics, try asking us on the Facebook group. If you have a topic that you’d like to cover in future #keltchats, just type it in the box and we’ll add it to the next poll.

Happy voting!

PS If you’re wondering what teaching competitions and “lesson polishing” are, you might want to read this and this.


Tech tools we should be using: #KELTchat Summary March 31, 2013

* This KELTchat summary is brought to you by Alex Walsh.

Alex Grevett kicked off the proceedings by asking people to consider how ‘techy’ they are, how ‘techy’ they want to be and why there is a difference. Some answers included:

Alex Grevett: Personally I sometimes feel that I don’t have much time for fiddling with tech.

Mike Griffin: yeah for me, the fiddling around and the faffing about are key reasons not to. I think there can b tendency for such gear 2 make things more T-centered at times (says the person who has never used 1)

Sophie Khan: and having to involve sts in faffing about signing up for stuff etc..

Barry Jameson: I don’t see a huge pay off. maybe I’m doing it wrong :/

Colm Smyth: I tend to stay tech free, for the most part. Tech just adds extra element of risk for something going bang wallop

The conversation then moved on to how tech is actually used. Suggestions included:

Anne Hendler: I definitely use tech for listening. I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t.

Mike Griffin: Tape….cd…. internets….mp3…youtube..podcast. Pretty techy sources of listening material, yeah

Alex Grevett: I use a lot of self-recorded stuff these days, both pre-rec and recorded live in class and repeated. My phone does this easily.

Yitzha Sarwono: I once used voicethread as a homework for my students.The only difficulty was the net connection at their home

Yitzha Sarwono: I once used intercom between floors as a tool for my students to practice telephone calling :D

Colm Smyth: if there’s some difficult to explain vocab, bring up a picture so students can see what you’re talking about

Alex Grevett: So Kakao Talk always features high on my list of tools to help students actually create something. Students can record a 1 minute monologue, listen back, improve and even grade / comment on each other’s work.

Finally, the conversation moved onto problems with suing tech in education:

Colm Smyth: Personally, I don’t want the students using smartphones in class as increases chance of them going broken arrow

Tom Randolph: Doceri – The Interactive Whiteboard for iPad. Played with it from ipad to TV and just wowza..

Tom Randolph: time limits, visibility, very specific tasks, clarify use (pics, dictionaries, twitter, ktalk, WP)…

Mike Griffin: 1 thought on smarphones in class.I think its something that needs training/practice(like most things).Of course Ss go crazy at 1st.


And that, ladies and gentleman, was all she wrote.

#Keltchat preview for April 14, 2013

Come one come all, the #Keltchat express is once again preparing to get underway.

This coming Sunday at 8PM (April 14, 2013) we will gather in the ethernet to discuss taboo topics in the classroom.

Every age group, culture and classroom puts a different demand on the teacher. What’s taboo in your neck of the woods? This weeks #Keltchat will give participants a chance to discuss these hush hush topics and how we handle them in our classrooms. Tips, advice and 140 character anecdotes are all welcome. In preparation for the big day one may want to consider the following:

— What topics are taboo to you or in your culture?

— How would you handle the discussion of a taboo topic outside of the classroom?

— How would you feel if you were a student in a classroom where a taboo topic was brought up.

— Can we, as teachers, maintain a safe space in the classroom and still allow for discussion of things taboo? If so, how? If not, why not?

— Much of teaching is about making choices, how can teachers be more confident in theirs when a taboo topic arises.

— How can we as teachers help students enhance their cultural understanding and sensitivity.

We are looking forward to what is certain to be yet another intriguing and thought provoking discussion.

If you’re new to Twitter chatting and aren’t sure quite how it works, check out this handy guide or this one. If you have no idea what #KELTChat is, have a look here or here. You can also contact us through Twitter (@breathyvowel, @JosetteLB, @michaelegriffin, @alexswalsh, @annehendler, @johnpfordresher) or on our Facebook page.

#KELTchat poll for April 14th, 2013

It’s that time again, fellow #KELTchatters!

We welcome you to participate in choosing a topic YOU would like to chat about this coming Sunday. In our last chat we discussed tech tools we should use in the EFL classroom, and there was something new for everyone.

We’d love your help in creating another positive chat experience this coming Sunday, so please vote for your favorite topic by clicking below* and then join us for the chat at 8pm KST**! Check back here for a preview before the chat starts!

Happy voting!

*KELTchat values your ideas, so we have made a small change: you can add your own topic to the poll if you have an idea. Even if it doesn’t collect the most votes this time, it may appear on future polls.


**This coming chat will take place at 8pm KST as usual. However, for future chats we would love your feedback. Would you like to chat at 8pm or 9pm? Click to vote!