The New Year is here, 2015 marks a new beginning and a new semester for most educators. However, the start of a New Year can also lead to a situation I was a part of when 2014 started, the beginning of Burnout. Now, many saw that in early 2014 I was in high spirits, I was starting to put together my ideas that soon became App Dice and I was coming up with monthly themes using iPad, Google Apps for Education, Makey Makey and more. Then I was hit by what I call the “Hat trick”. In May, my wife lost her job of six years, I had a health scare and both of these hit us with debt but I stayed in high spirits. Then something happened to me in July… no one wanted to come to my teaching sessions. There were dozens of excuses ranging from vacations to not having enough time but it was the final match that caused me to burnout. I remember one evening, my family went to bed and I could’t sleep. I went to my office and started typing out lists of things I could do differently, I even was trying to attended several conferences in Chicago or work on some Google Hangouts or MOOCHS but sadly due to debt, time and my recovering from my minor surgery I just couldn’t do anything. So, I turned to several educators online and someone told me to go buy Teach like a Pirate by Dave Burgess. I had heard the name and even had seen a few of the lessons and I figured “why not?” I received that book in the mail a few days later and it was like new kindling had been added to my fire of passion and things turned around very quickly. I ended up checking out several other books from What’s Under your Cape? by Barbara Gruener, Pure Genius by Don Wettrick and Ditch That Textbook by Matt Miller.
These books both in paper and eBook turned my burnout back into Unconditional Passion again but I knew they weren’t the cure all be all from my burnout. I started checking into EdCamps, great thing about EdCamps is that they are local, have educators just like me or newer or more experience who are interested in the same education as you or have new ideas to bring to the table and they are Free! Something I enjoyed the most was going to Edcamp and leading sessions on App Dice, App Smashing, chiming in on new tools like 3Doddlers, Maker Spaces and of course Teach like a Pirate. Going to these camps was great and just what I needed to get my passion going to Mach 3 and I plan on attending several in 2015 to continue with these. Of course this was all great and all but while my Burnout was gone I did run the problem of being burned out by all of these new and exciting venues I was exploring now, so I did the next best thing. I started working on my books.
While My Life as a Comic Book Reader was nearing an end in 2014, I was starting to feel a bit of a Burnout due to focusing on a book so much but I decided to pull a James Patterson and wrote another one and then something really strange happened, I loved it. So much, I started writing a teacher/classroom book myself that I plan on releasing in early 2016. Looking at these key factors, I see that avoiding Burn Out is a lot simpler than I thought. So, here is my advice to you in 2015:
1. Don’t get discouraged.
This is what really put me in the Burnout in the summer of 2014. It wasn’t just one thing, it was several and even after I started feeling good again. Life happens and you have bad days but as the saying goes: “Not everyday is good but there is some good in every day.” Take this to heart, I have already seen dark clouds follow me from 2014 into 2015 and I would be lying if I said they didn’t worry me but I have to look for that rainbow in those dark clouds. Someone came and was a rainbow in my clouds in July 2014 and lead me to Teach Like a Pirate and if you have read P is for Pirate also by the Burgess Crew, you can see that saying is part of the book. You have to be a Rainbow in someone else’s cloud because many times we can’t see those rainbows. Something likes to always come out of nowhere and discourage us and no matter how much we try to smile it keeps coming down at us and it takes someone to show us that there is light in the dark. I had one horrible thing land on my doorstep on New Year’s Eve and I was so frustrated and then not even an hour later there was a knock at my door and a package was given to me. I opened it and like magic the page of a book inside made me go: “Yes, I will get through this too.” As another famous saying goes: “One small act of kindness can change a person’s day.”
2. Move out of your Comfort Zone.
Matt Miller said it best in Ditch that Textbook: “My “ditch that textbook” path has been a winding one.
There was lots of trial and error. Reading and talking about other people’s experiences. Trying to create learning opportunities that would pique my students’ interest.” You aren’t going to avoid your Burn Out by doing what you have been doing. I said earlier it was when people didn’t want to come to my sessions that made me want to walk the plank as Dave Burgess has said. I always thought I was inventive and original and people wanted to learn. Yet, if they didn’t want to come, then they didn’t. What did I do? I decided to try something different, something I thought wasn’t really in my area and when I decided to leave my Comfort Zone. Something happened. My own teachers have told me many times you can’t learn everything and you have to use what you believe will make a difference. I ventured out of my Comfort Zone into something I believed would make a difference and boy, was I right to head out. You can be comfortable using chromebooks, iPads, making your classroom be a Maker Space or even ditching the textbook. However, the true way is to get out of your comfort zone and try something you have never tried before. I did this before Teach Like a Pirate with educators like Tony Vincent, Kyle Pierce, Kasey Bell, Sue Gorman and Megan Zigmond and I became better as a result. What I sadly forgot was I had to once again venture out of my new Comfort Zone into uncharted waters.
3. Talk about It.
When I met my wife in 2008, she told me she had Epilepsy and something she learned early on was when you didn’t talk about it. Nothing changes. I learned a long time ago from my own mother you have to talk about what is bothering you. It doesn’t matter if its professional or personal, when you talk about what is bothering you, you are enacting the first step in changing things. I was feeling Burned out, I talked to someone about it without giving away the whole story and they pointed me towards #tlap. I talked to a friend of mine about something that was weighing in on me and they told me they went through it too and there was no quick easy fix but that it would get better. Then I did the craziest thing, I wrote a book about it and sometimes you have to look at your own message to realize that you can pull yourself up too. One of the most amazing compliments I have received from My Life as a Comic Book Reader was a person in Europe who sent me an email and told me: “Your message is powerful, it hit on what I’m going through and have been through.” “Thank you for writing this because you just changed my life because of it and that its OK to be me.”
We feel many times we are alone in our struggles and the truth is, we aren’t. All of our situations are unique and there isn’t an easy answer for everything but there is one message we can convey to each other. “There are better days ahead even if you can’t see it now.” That’s my best advice to avoiding Burn Out in 2015. There are better days ahead, always remember that.