Teacher Burnout Explained in Two Pie Graphs

This is a non-scientific (but probably pretty accurate) graphic I have created using my experience as a teacher.  Another title for this chart could be “Teacher Burnout Explained in Two Pie Graphs.”  I’m sure you can relate or even add some of your own crazy pie sections.

Healthy Thought Patterns for Teachers

So in the midst of such a challenging work environment, how does anybody retain their sanity and their passion for teaching?!?!?
Looking back over my years in the classroom, I noticed a few areas of growth in my way of thinking that helped me survive.  I would describe myself as sensitive and as a people pleaser so maybe some of these thinking patterns are unique to that personality type.  I felt like I constantly worked so hard only to be beaten down by the unreasonable expectations of others.  I think I’ve developed a little bit tougher skin but I’ve also noticed and learned from coworkers who process the demands of teaching in a manageable way.
Growing as a teacher isn’t just about getting a handle on classroom management and instruction techniques.  It’s also about winning the mental battle against all those discouraging things that have very little to do with actually teaching.  The left side of this chart shows the mindset a new teacher might have after being preached to in endless trainings and meetings.  After many late nights, cry sessions in bathroom stalls, and maybe chats with a good mentor, a teacher will start to get his/her feet under him/herself and develop some of the healthier and more reasonable thinking patterns on the right side of the chart.
My hope is that this graphic can help you toward a mindset where you can keep your passion for teaching and let some of the rest go, or maybe affirm some of the thoughts you’ve been tossing around for a while.
new teacher thinking vs veteran teacher thinking

A few more thoughts on testing:

I’ve worked at a variety of schools and test scores have been a big deal at all of them.  I’ve been in several meetings where I felt like I was being bashed over the head with them.  I definitely believe there is always room for improvement and standardized testing is one way to gauge how you are doing.  BUT… a standardized test will never show how you helped a kid build up their confidence in math, how you got special services for a student who had fallen through the cracks, how your lowest reading group is still below level but made more than a year’s worth of growth, how you sparked a love for writing in your class, and how you helped everyone achieve success at their level.
All of these things are incredible, important, the kind of stuff you go into teaching for….but they’re not measured by “the test.”  It can be crushing to have your worth as a teacher judged just by test scores.  Hopefully you’ll get some thank yous from students and parents, but many times it’s up to you to hold fiercely to your priorities and passions.  Find some like-minded company to share successes with.
And in closing:
Major kudos to you in the trenches, from somebody who gets it : )

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Hannah Braun
Hannah Braun
Hannah Braun is a former teacher with 8 years of experience in the classroom and a master's degree in early childhood education. She designs engaging, organized classroom resources for 1st-3rd grade teachers.


  1. Hannah,
    Thank you so much for sharing your expertise! I really NEEDED to read something encouraging like “The Secret Life of Teachers at this stage in my career! It always helps to know that other people understand what it’s like in the trenches.

  2. The daily drama is the worst part of my day. Catty co-workers, pot-stirrers, and parents who contact/complain constantly about their challenging child, etc. Luckily, I do have some great parent volunteers to help with the nitty-gritty, as well as the students having classroom jobs.

  3. After 25 years in the classroom, I would say this is very accurate. Thank you for sharing this and helping new teachers. We need passionate new teachers in the field.

  4. I love this. 23 years as a teacher and 14 running a faculty and I feel like I want to pin this up everywhere! Thank you for sharing.

  5. All this is great some very worthwhile comments and advice. Good for new teachers and veterans alike.

  6. Thank you so much for this! I am printing your graphic and hanging it up so I can remember it! In switching schools and grade levels I forgot all the thinking I NEED to use and went straight back to “new teacher thinking.” Burning the candle at both ends is just too much. THANK YOU!

  7. I knew why I got into teaching, and I knew what my principles were. When I started my NQT year I was told to group my children by “ability”, to make them “write more” (regardless of quality) and to “humiliate them” if they did not behave according to SLT’s expectations- sitting silently at their desks. I refused to do these things and was subjected to a campaign of bullying.

    All my principles for classroom management and caring for the wellbeing of children- all of which I had described in detail at interview- were mocked, derided and ultimately banned, until I had no autonomy in my classroom at all.

    More and more unnecessary and burdensome expectations were placed on teachers, and it became clear that only the unfavoured teachers- myself included- were actually expected to complete an impossible workload, and subjected to repeated surprise scrutinies and observations. Surprise observations stopped surprising me- it was several lessons, every day. I started teaching with a healthy attitude, but left that school a nervous wreck.

    Not all schools like a confident and secure teacher, especially if they are new to the profession.

    • For sure! I have definitely seen administrators that seem to prefer less experienced teachers because they don’t question what is going on as much and it’s easier to push them around. And it’s really sad because the kids lose out when so many promising educators are driven away from the profession.

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