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twistkick kid
Orange Belt
Orange Belt

Joined: 12 Jun 2009
Posts: 171
Location: San Diego, CA
Styles: Tae Kwon Do, Shaolin Kempo

PostPosted: Mon Jan 07, 2019 3:35 pm    Post subject: Burnout as an Instructor Reply with quote

Hello All-

For purposes of this I'm defining instructor burnout as an inability to enjoy teaching brought on by feeling overworked or stressed out about it. May or may not need a recovery period of stepping away from teaching.

I've been approached by my CI to take on more teaching responsibility. I currently teach Tuesday nights from 5 pm till 7.45 and the ages and ranks I teach are as follows (within the timetable)

5-5.25 Individualized lessons (9 and up, intermediate to advanced ranks, between 3 and 6 students)
5.30-6.25 Group lesson for Juniors (7 and 1/2 to 14, all ranks from beginner to Jr Black, as few as 10 students and up to 30)
6.30-6.55 Individualized lessons (7 and up, mostly intermediate and advanced ranks, between 3 and 6 students)
7-7.45 Group lesson, Open Mat (6 and up, beginner and intermediate students, attendance is right around 7 students)

Sometimes I have help during classes, sometimes I don't. The level of help also varies from students who are in our STORM program, to adult assistant instructors, to me being a co-instructor with the CI.

From what I understand, I would also be teaching on Thursdays with a similar timetable to Tuesday, just no group Open Mat class, and different ages/ranks during the individualized lessons. Also would have more consistent help

Normally, I would say "yes Ma'am, no problem!" and dive on in.

However, there's some factors that complicate the matter so I'm a bit hesitant to dive back in. (work, car accident aftermath, and personal life adventures)


So I guess my questions are these:

1) What are the signs/symptoms of burning out as it pertains to being an instructor?

2) What are strategies to prevent burnout?

3) Assuming 1 and 2 fail, what are things that can be done to minimize the effects of being burned out on myself and my students?

4) How do you effectively recover from burnout and get back to a point where teaching is fun again?



One of my goals this year is to be more proactive about my mental health as it pertains to a work/life balance, and I'd like to keep my relationship to martial arts as positive as is possible not only this year, but also into the long term

Any insight is welcome. I'm also available to clarify points in here that may/may not be clear.

Thanks-
Joe
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Shaolin Kempo, 1st Dan (earned 3 July 2018 in China)
ITF Tae Kwon Do, 2nd Dan (earned 6 June 2009 in San Diego, CA)

Almost 20 years of martial arts training in total
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sensei8
KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 23 Feb 2008
Posts: 14401
Location: Houston, TX
Styles: Shindokan Saitou-ryu [Shuri-te/Okinawa-te based]

PostPosted: Mon Jan 07, 2019 6:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Burnouts looks and feels different from person to person, so this might be difficult to pin point.

I've been teaching ever since I was 13 years old, I'm 61 years old presently...I've owned and operated my own successful dojo's ever since 1977, when I was a 21 year old Sandan. Yes, I've experienced a few burnouts over the years for one reason or another.

Yet, I never abandoned my Student Body; that would be selfish of me to have ever done that. I might've not ran a certain class due to burnout, for some given time frame, but I was there for my Student Body in one capacity or another.

Burnouts look differently person to person!!

Quote:
1) What are the signs/symptoms of burning out as it pertains to being an instructor?

Lack of drive/desire!! You'd rather be anywhere else but on the floor. When going to the dentist for a root canal seems far more inviting than being on the floor teaching some or all students.

Quote:
2) What are strategies to prevent burnout?

You think the Student Body dreads the class, wait, so do instructors, and then some. If class is a lesson on boredom, one better fix it, and super duper fast. Nothing worse than a bored out of their skull class. This two-way street gets crowded in a real hurry.

Seeing that change is inevitable, then tweak the curriculum in order to steer the drowning ship away from the jagged rocks. This change is beneficial for both the Student Body as well as the Instructor too.

My fix of each time I hit burnout, was to not teach the same class(es) each and every day/night. Of course, I was the CI, AND, I had a plethora of Instructors to run classes for the time being. So, when teaching the beginners was dragging me down, I would stop running those classes, even tough I'd be in the class assisting or observing. Same thing with black belts, when I was burned out teaching them, I'd run the advanced or intermediate Kyu classes; and trust me, teaching Godan and above isn't all ice cream and cake. So, I'd teach the lower Dan ranks for awhile.

But I was either assisting or observing...but I was there!!

Quote:
3) Assuming 1 and 2 fail, what are things that can be done to minimize the effects of being burned out on myself and my students?

Stay away; take a break from teaching and/or from the dojo all together!! Burnouts aren't fun to watch, and not fair for the Student Body; they deserve much better always!!

Fresh air AWAY from the floor/dojo are the best cure for burnout!! Take a vacation from teaching!!

Quote:
4) How do you effectively recover from burnout and get back to a point where teaching is fun again?

TIME!!

Don't rush to end the burnout or it will never go away. You'll know when the time is right, and no one has the right to tell you to shut up and teach; that's a destructive formula.

How will you know the time has come to teach, as you were meant to, and that the burnout has run its course?? YOU'LL WANT TO BE WHERE YOU DIDN'T WANT TO BE BEFORE!! That unquenchable desire to teach once again.

However...Not all black belts can teach!! If you can teach, then teach!! If you can't teach, then don't teach!!

Speak with your CI!! Communication is everything; express you thoughts with your CI honestly and openly!!



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tallgeese
KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 04 May 2008
Posts: 6851
Location: McHenry County, IL
Styles: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Bujin Bugei Jutsu, Gokei Ryu Kempo Jutsu, MMA, Shootfighting, boxing, kickboxing, JKD, Pekiti Tersia Kali

PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2019 9:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great questions, and great news that you're being looked at to increase your leadership role in the school. That reflects well on you. Getting ahead of this is a great thing and it means something different to everyone. Diagnosing your own level and capabilities in regard to it is paramount. That said, here's some thoughts from my experience:

1) What are the signs/symptoms of burning out as it pertains to being an instructor?

This generally reflects in how you feel as you're headed to class or preparing. If you are dreading it on a regular basis you're at risk. Next comes a general lack of caring about how it goes while you're teaching. This leads to not individualizing instruction around the mat. If you let it get to this point you're going to have long term problems. Students are smart. They recognize it when it gets to here.

2) What are strategies to prevent burnout?

Time away is the easy answer, however, not always realistic. For instance, if you end up owning/ running a school it's on you to instruct. People will cover for you, but not routinely, nor should you expect them to. So it really become "how do I prevent burnout while still fulfilling my obligations?"

Once we attack it from this end (understanding that you can and should take vacation now and again) we get to more useful items.


First, don't be afraid to deviate from your curriculum . I know, it's there for a reason. That said, boredom is the enemy and will start you down the path to burn out. Experiment. Teach something you don't use often. Spend a week or two on it. Or, attack a principle or problem you're having from a radically different angle. Heavy sparring cycle? Throw in a knife. Working specifically on distance management? Instead of the same drill you've run a hundred times break out the sticks, do distance management from the guard. Pick something out of the ordinary.

My most recent example? Take downs (hate 'em anyway) and instead of my usual fundamental curriculum (which I was bored with that night) I did some small joint manipulation along tuite lines from my first system. Very little to do with jits, however, its the same problem (getting the fight to the ground) from an angle most of the students had never seen. You'll find they really enjoy a divergent night now and again as well.

3) Assuming 1 and 2 fail, what are things that can be done to minimize the effects of being burned out on myself and my students?

Here's where things get trickier. There are times, you just have to be there. End of story. In these cases, even when I hate changing out. I take a second to try and get my mind right. I may not want to be there, have a million things on my plate from my day job, be missing something my kid is doing, and want to burn the building down... it's time to put it away and go to work. These people are paying you to show up. That's what you do. Despite how you're feeling you have to put on the happy face and do your thing. That includes, getting around the mat and spending time with each student making individual corrections. This tiny detail is the one thing I've found more indicative of a good instructor than any thing else. And you have to purposely make it a priority on bad days. It's the detail that makes sure that your students aren't feeling the effects of your burn out.

Now, if you really need to change channels you'll need to get creative in class. These people will lose the desire to give you money if you're an absentee instructor. However, they'll like the change if you're on the mat and having a student share something they just learned at a seminar. Or breaking down fight performance from a recent competition. IF you're there to make suggestions and game plan solutions. It takes the heavy lifting off you for instruction, but reassures your people that you're there and want them to continue to improve.

Don't overlook the occasional question and answer session either. I use these in short weeks where a holiday or other event has disrupted our schedule and I have trouble getting excited to teach. Having students ask questions to clear up problems they are having is a great way to keep you engaged in problem solving, a good way to beat the boredom that is the begging of burn out. Plus it really varies the class up.

Note, that the key word is "occasionally" this stuff works to alleviate your pending burn out, but it must be used sparingly or your students will note.

4) How do you effectively recover from burnout and get back to a point where teaching is fun again?

If you let it get all the way to "I hate life" recovery is hard. You'll need time away. And never be afraid to do this. Before I owned a school I'd step away for a week at a time, just not go. Didn't even need to be on vacation. I'd just decide to pursue one of my other interests.

If you're a long time student, don't be afraid to walk away for a month or two. You'll be back.

Again, this is the easy route and unfortunately, most instructors can't do this due to responsibility at the gym. So, I'll share some of my work arounds.

The single best one is, for me, to start working on your personal game in a radically different way. For instance, I was burning out pretty good last year. Sick of being on the mat, sick of teaching.... it's a bummer. But here I am, owning the place. So I can't stop teaching, or showing up, so I looked at my personal growth during the last 6 months. I'd been pretty stagnate and doing the same thing for that entire time. So I took every thing off the table I'd been playing. Spider guard- gone. Sleeve grips- gone. Top side- gone. North/ South shin control- gone. On the table went- deep half guard, butterfly guard, knee on belly and my personal white whale- the north/ south choke. Now suddenly I was thinking again, problem solving, and seeing improvements daily. Pretty soon my funk was gone.

A couple years prior I had a bad case of it. I started focusing on kali after my jits classes and that made me drive thru jits to get to my stick and knife time. Suddenly, no more burn out. I was excited about something again.

Sometimes it's changing the channel just a bit that matters. It can go a long way when you can't just be off the mat and take time away.

If you need to, I've found mini-vacations to be kind of effective as well. Lets say you teach M/W/F/Sat. That's pretty robust for a lot of instructors and you're getting the point that the preventative measures we talked about are starting to wear thin. Take a couple of weeks and teach M/W as normal. Then have a "guest instructor" for Fri/ Sat. And most importantly about this- don't be around. Don't stick you're head in to "see how it's going" or check in. Be gone. Take a weekend trip. Indulge another area of interest. Just don't think about MA for those two days. Relax on Sunday and get ready to attack Monday again.

This abbreviated schedule for a couple of weeks can really help out on the sanity.

Anyway, just some thoughts. Hope you find them helpful. Having dealt with this in the past if you have any questions please let me know.
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twistkick kid
Orange Belt
Orange Belt

Joined: 12 Jun 2009
Posts: 171
Location: San Diego, CA
Styles: Tae Kwon Do, Shaolin Kempo

PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2019 5:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for your input and suggestions @tallgeese and @sensei8
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Shaolin Kempo, 1st Dan (earned 3 July 2018 in China)
ITF Tae Kwon Do, 2nd Dan (earned 6 June 2009 in San Diego, CA)

Almost 20 years of martial arts training in total
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bushido_man96
KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 31 Mar 2006
Posts: 27757
Location: Hays, KS
Styles: Taekwondo, Combat Hapkido, Aikido, GRACIE

PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2019 8:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Both sensei8 and tallgeese have offered great advise, and I agree with them completely.

I also agree with what tallgeese mentioned about perhaps not having the option to step away for an extended break.

A lot of this will depend on whether or not you have some kind of agreement or contractual obligation to your head instructor, and what that entails. If your rank and status at the school requires you to teach, then you'll probably not be able to avoid it long enough to step away.

Like tallgeese mentioned, changing up the curriculum is a great idea. It will be helpful for both you and the students, getting everyone out of the regular routine. If your instructor allows you a considerable amount of flexibility in teaching your classes, then this is easier to accomplish. You might also talk to your instructor about switching your days/times that you teach, to perhaps give you a fresh set of students to work with. This can help out just as much, as every student responds to different teaching methods and approaches differently, and this applies to instructors getting to teach different groups of students.

The other very important thing you have to do is make sure you make time for yourself to train. As practitioners get higher in rank, it gets easier to just get focused in on the grind of always teaching others, and you lose that love you had when you were the student, and forget what it was that drove you to be the dedicated student you were in your time. Find training time somewhere, and train what is fun for you, because you deserve it.

I hope that helps, and please keep us posted.
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JR 137
KF Sempai
KF Sempai

Joined: 10 May 2015
Posts: 2373
Location: In the dojo
Styles: Seido Juku

PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2019 9:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm a school teacher, not an MA teacher, but I think there's a ton of parallels, so here's my insight...

As has been said, everyone exhibits symptoms of burnout differently. And people get burnt out for different reasons. In my field, it can be administration, the parents, the whole tenure process (in states and locales where this is applicable), the pay and seeming no respect for what it is you do, and the students' attitudes and behaviors.

Its typically a combination of things and not any one single thing. And when burnout is setting in, the issues that didn't seem like issues become bigger. The smaller things become much larger. You stop seeing the upsides and perseverate on the negatives. You no longer have that passion and love for the profession.

Part of this can be due to it simply being not the new and exciting thing anymore; you've lost your rose-tinted glasses. Part of it could be you didn't truly realize the daily ins and outs of the profession. Part of it could also be that you feel like you're not moving up the ladder as quickly as you wanted to.

I'm going through burnout at my job right now. My reasons are I'm not teaching what I truly intended to teach, I'm stuck in a pay rate that's never going to catch up with what comparable teachers are earning in a public setting, and there's no genuine promotion to be had; I've hit the proverbial glass ceiling.

While this should have no bearing how I should go about my responsibilities to my students, at the end of the day it does impact my job performance. I try my best not to let it show, but people who I've worked with for several years can see it. New people don't. It kills me, but it is what it is.

I'm genuinely trying my best to not make this about me; rather I'm trying to show you I'm burned out and why. I didn't see you actually identify why you're feeling burned out. If you can identify some reasons why, it'll help you start to determine what it is you need to do. It'll also help others give you some advice.

Just some thoughts.
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twistkick kid
Orange Belt
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Joined: 12 Jun 2009
Posts: 171
Location: San Diego, CA
Styles: Tae Kwon Do, Shaolin Kempo

PostPosted: Wed Jan 09, 2019 12:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I haven't been in a state of recognizable burnout with teaching in the last few years. Instead of being reactive, I would rather be proactive so as not to end up burnt out, hating teaching, and being grouchy.

My current agreement is teaching every Tuesday from 5 till 7.45 in exchange for what would be included in monthly tuition (1 individual lesson and 1-2 adult group classes a week). any extra teaching I am asked to do gets compensated monetarily. (Been in and out of a real job and don't always have the extra money to put towards training. My instructors know I love to teach and that I do a good job of it). I am allowed quite a bit of freedom to teach what I want to (within reason and some curriculum boundaries) ... perhaps a bit more than some other instructors because I can come at a topic from the position of more than one style.

I've held various leadership roles and been a part of my school's Academy of Instruction and Management since earning my blue belt (2nd intermediate rank). I earned my Shodan in July 2018 and the privilege of being called Sensei shortly after.

Being a part of our Academy means that I can't solely teach. I have to further my own abilities within the art to be able to further the abilities of my students.

I hope some of what I wrote is clarifying where I am coming from. If not, please let me know and I'll add more.

-Joe
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Shaolin Kempo, 1st Dan (earned 3 July 2018 in China)
ITF Tae Kwon Do, 2nd Dan (earned 6 June 2009 in San Diego, CA)

Almost 20 years of martial arts training in total
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singularity6
Pre-Black Belt
Pre-Black Belt

Joined: 26 Jun 2017
Posts: 958
Location: Michigan
Styles: Jidokwan Taekwondo and Hapkido, Yoshokai Aikido, ZNIR Iaido, Kendo

PostPosted: Wed Jan 09, 2019 8:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've felt burnout a few times in my career while teaching (13 years now.) Sometimes it's just a rough class. Other times it's external things. Either way, the best way I can describe it is a greatly reduced interest/motivation to do my job. I've always been able to power through, and based on my student evals, they haven't noticed when it does happen. Sometimes you just need to put on a game face!

Here's some ideas (mostly based on my experience as a MA student, as well as a math instructor.)

Anything that involves a long-term commitment can suffer from burnout. This is why it is important to always mix things up. Keep a journal about what worked well in your classes, and what could stand some tweaking. Doing the same thing each day gets boring for you (and to the students!) A class full of disengaged students makes things that much worse.

The internet should be able to provide you with a number of ideas to keep things fresh in your dojo. Changing the warm-ups or changing the drills a bit will force the students to pay more attention to what they're doing, and it'll force you to interact more with them.
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