Teaching Can Consume You: Here’s How I Make Sure it Doesn’t

Editors Features May 19 / May 17, 2019

–Steve Griffiths–

“A good teacher is like a candle- it consumes itself to light the way for others.”

The popular quote about teachers being like candles certainly sends a message of the selflessness of committed teachers. However, it also sends a message about how vulnerable teachers are to burning out. Teaching can be all-consuming if we let it.  Teacher burnout and attrition is a growing issue across the world. It can be difficult to get exact figures on teacher attrition because authorities are loath to share this data. However, it is often estimated that as many as half of all beginning teachers will resign from teaching within their first five years. This problem is not exclusive to teachers; it is more of a reflection on the changing nature of employment where people no longer expect to stay in one career for life. Whilst the turnover of teachers may not be any greater than other professions, it possibly has a more significant impact because it affects the learning of our students.

Some of the factors that ex-teachers identify as reasons they quit teaching include lack of support and resources, excessive workload, and ever-increasing expectations such as the requirement to differentiate instruction.

Reducing the Risk

It is well accepted that Flipped Learning is a labor-intensive pedagogy. No doubt creating flipped resources is time-consuming, and it requires advanced planning to have the resources available for the students prior to the lesson. However, Flipped Learning doesn’t have to be labor intensive once it’s adopted and materials are created. Flipped Learning can be efficient to implement. Here are my tips for reducing the burnout risk when implementing Flipped Learning.

One at a time: When starting, do not try to flip all of your classes at once. Focus on flipping one class at a time. Possibly only one class per year. Don’t feel that you need to flip every lesson and every learning experience.  Mix it up a bit with a combination of some flipped and some traditional lessons.

Build your resources as you go: A colleague of mine who is an early career teacher creates her flipped videos immediately after she has taught the content traditionally. That way, the content is fresh in her head, and the videos are available to the students for revision and for those who missed the lesson. The videos are then ready for Flipped Learning next year.

Record your lesson: Our very own rock star teacher Eddie Woo from misterWootube records himself delivering traditional direct instruction lessons and posts them on YouTube. Some of my math colleagues use a document camera to record themselves demonstrating solutions to problems. Again, the videos are ready for next year.

We need to consider how Flipped Learning can give us back time and lifestyle, not take it away.

Reuse your resources: I use my videos for about four years before I redo them to keep up with hairstyle and fashion changes! Each year, I may replace a few videos only. So once you have the videos made, the time burden to create resources decreases.

Share your resources with colleagues: This is the tip I feel most passionate about. Over the years I have created whole flipped learning courses and I share them with my colleagues. They enjoy all of the benefits of Flipped Learning without the workload burden. My colleagues also share their resources with me. It would be ideal for a teacher to create all of their own videos; however, a good compromise is for the video to be made by another teacher at the school so the teacher is still known to the students.

It doesn’t have to be perfect: Flipped videos can be a big time drain. Videos need to be accurate and well taught, but they do not need to be perfect. The video you have time to make is better than the video you don’t make because you don’t have time.

 A Means to an End

For Flipped Learning to be a sustainable pedagogy, we need to look for efficiencies. We need to consider how Flipped Learning can give us back time and lifestyle, not take it away. I started flipping my Year 9 science class five years ago. Gradually I have added to it and improved the course, but largely, the course remains unchanged year on year. I have a complete set of video lessons hosted on the school learning management system and I have collated all of the in class, active learning experiences into printed workbooks. I no longer have any preparation at all for that class. The time I invested in creating the resources is really paying off now. Each year, another 13 classes and eight teachers at my school use my resources. Over the past five years, about 60 classes, 1500 students and 40 teachers have used my resources. I think that is a worthwhile return on investment. Most importantly, the benefits of Flipped Learning are leveraged beyond my classroom. Sharing my resources has supported other teachers to implement flipped learning. The teachers have decreased the time they would normally spend delivering content through direct instruction and introduced more active, collaborative learning tasks.   

Working Smarter 

I must admit the candle analogy rings true for me and many of my teaching colleagues. Teaching is the type of career that will consume as much time and as much of us as we are willing to give, and there is still more we could do. I could see myself heading down the path of burnout, and I knew that I needed to make changes if I was to be an effective teacher in the future. What saved me was being able to reuse my resources year after year. I owe it to myself, my family and my students to be the healthiest and happiest I can be, and that means working smarter, not harder.

Steve Griffiths
Steve Griffiths
I have been a high school science teacher for 6 years. I am now also teaching digital technologies. I have been flipping my classroom for four years and have made over 1000 videos. My preference is the lightboard. I have presented at a number of conferences and courses on flipped learning. My specialties are video making and designing active learning experiences

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