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’

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.

3 announcements and a preview

Hello, Keltchatters and friends!

As you might guess from title, this post will share three announcements and a brief preview for the upcoming chat.

Announcement 1
The next #KELTchat will be on Sunday, October 28, 2012.
The chat will start at 8:00 pm Korea Standard Time.
The topic will be: The Lexical Approach (more on this below in the preview).

Announcement 2
For this #KELTchat we will have a special guest moderator!
Known on Twitter as @lexicalleo (perfect fit for the chat, right?), Leo Selivan is a senior teacher trainer and materials developer with the British Council in Tel Aviv. He has been with the British Council for the last 9 years and has delivered teacher training in many countries in the Wider Europe region. His key interests are vocabulary development and using video in the classroom, the topics he often speaks on at teachers’ conferences such as IATEFL, TESOL France, IATEFL Poland and ETAI. Apart from writing for the TeachingEnglish website, he maintains his own blog Leoxicon. We are thrilled to have Leo participating and hope and believe it will be a great chat.

Announcement 3
Due to the likelihood (possibility?) of having some newer members to #KELTchat this time Alex Grevett (@breathyvowel) has kindly offered his time, expertise, and help starting at 7:30 pm. In this 30 minute pre-chat, Alex will help newer chatters get their sea legs under them. Please come with questions or just ready for some scaffolded practice.

(Note: most of this preview (the good part) was supplied by @annehendler)

The democratically selected topic for the chat is “The Lexical Approach.”

It has been said that “words are the building blocks of language”. Sometimes it is added that “grammar is the cement”.

It seems like (even more so in Korea?) that grammar and vocabulary are thought of as “wholly other” things and that there is not much room for combining them or thinking of them in a different way.

Some questions to think/chat about might include:

  • How much focus do you give to collocations in class? How much would you like to give? Why?
  • How much focus do you give to fixed expressions? How much would you like to give? Why?
  • What are some ways that teachers can effectively focus on fixed expressions/collocations?
  • How can we improve our learners’ fluency through lexical instruction?
  • How can we best “sell” these ideas to students and admin?
  • What are some potential drawbacks from following a lexical approach?

Want to learn more about the Lexical Approach before the chat?

This one minute video on the Lexical Approach (from @MrChrisJWilson) is a good start.

Some additional potential starting points for pre-reading:
(perhaps mostly roughly in order of accessibility/ease of reading/assumptions of prior knowledge)







Please feel free to add any additional links in the comments.
Questions are most certainly welcome as well.

As always, we would be happy if you would join us for this discussion and add your own questions or tips.  If you’re new to Twitter chatting and aren’t sure quite how it works, check out this handy guide. 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) or on our Facebook page.