Alyson Levine on teacher burnout

What does the word burnout mean to you?

Burnout just means you’re done. Like, you don’t have anything left [inside].


What does burnout look like for you?

Personally, I’m just exhausted. I just can’t think clearly and I shut down. Where I really shut down is more at home —things pile up a little bit — and but at school, I do enough to finish [everything] on the front burner, but when things pile up, you don’t have enough time or you don’t have enough energy to do it.


Rate your stress level currently from a scale of 1 to 10 and why?

It’s probably a seven. It was much higher right around conferences, because we had conferences and then I had a lot more letters of recommendation. I feel better after Thanksgiving break and I’m pretty caught up on my things.


How much time do you spend on school related activities? 

If I didn’t teach AP, it would be less. But basically from 7:15 a.m. till about 4:00 p.m., I’m working with students or I’m working at school. Then I go home and probably put in another hour or two at night.


How has the pandemic affected your stress levels?

Since the pandemic, I’m still adjusting tp teaching and being in school all day. On top of that, I think my students, as much as they want to do well, they’re tired too. It’s been a year and a half since they have been in school all day. They have lost some academics, and the social maturation. We just basically went back to school with mask which I’m glad I’m thankful for but we’re not acclimated. It’s just gonna take some time to get back to where we were.


What’s the most stressful part about being a teacher? What type of stress do teachers face?

You just feel like you are just on a treadmill. And I describe the school year like a fast marathon. It’s like a sprint but you just keep going and going and going. I think the stress is trying to keep up. I just, I don’t know how to describe it.

The luxury of being a student is all you have to do is worry about yourself. But as a teacher, you have to worry about everybody. You have to worry about the kids who are not doing well. You’re doing all you can to help that kid and there’s stress in that. But the kids also have to meet you halfway. It’s just a lot on you, too. Just trying to make sure all the kids are doing well and that everything is okay with them socially, emotionally and academically.


Final question — do you think COVID has made stress worse or better?

COVID made it worse because of where the kids are. That’s my personal opinion because I do think the kids are struggling. And so then you stress or struggle with them. They really lost a year of that social, emotional and academic rigor. However, it’s not that they can’t do it. It’s like they forgot how to do school.