English Teacher Burnout: How to Avoid It

by Jackie Bolen

It's That Time Again...

You know that feeling you get when you teach the ABCs one more time, or that unit in the book about movies or weather? Or, the students who email you asking for a higher grade when they've done nothing to deserve it? Or, admin at your school who tell you some important thing at the very last second?

If you're not careful, these things can start to get to you and you'll find yourself burned out in short order. Here are some tips that have helped me get through 10 years teaching English in Korea with a happy outlook on life.

Look After your Health

Get enough sleep, drink only in moderation, exercise and eat healthy food. If you’re hungover, but have a full day of teaching ahead of you, it will be your biggest nightmare.Teaching English isn’t exactly difficult, but where it can be hard is when you’re teaching a lot of hours and aren't in prime condition.

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

Most ESL textbooks have at least a few good things that you can use. Use them for most of your class and then, if you need to, put time and effort into making up one amazing supplemental activity. Don't even think about doing 2 or 3 of these extra activities for each class. That will equal burnout in short order!

Also remember to keep track of things in something like Google Drive so you can recycle them. Read this post for some advice on that:

Google Drive for Teachers: How and Why I Use It

Make Testing Easy

I have some colleagues who record all their speaking tests and don't grade while the students are talking but go back and listen to the recordings. That’s double the amount of work I want to do! I listen and grade at the same time while students are speaking to each other and find it easy enough. The key is to have students talk to each other, instead of you.

Here’s one simple way to make grading as easy as possible.

Just Say No

Unless you’re truly strapped for cash, just say no to all the overtime. At my university, there is so much OT that I could sometimes work every minute of the vacation if I wanted to. Except I don’t want to because if I did, I would return to my job at the start of the semester hating my life. Everyone needs a vacation if you want to be able to teach English for more than just a year or two.

Get Along with your Colleagues

Drama is exhausting. If you don’t like someone, just avoid them instead of stirring up conflict.

For some advice on how to avoid stress at work, check out: Make Life at Work Happy!

Avoid the Shared Office

If you have a shared office, try to avoid it because it’s usually gossipy, drama central. Can anyone actually work efficiently there? It’s far better to find a spot where you can put in a couple quality lesson planning hours rather than five filled with distractions, often of the negative variety.

About Jackie Bolen

Jackie Bolen teaches at a major university in Busan. When she's not in the classroom, you can often find her writing books and developing websites for English teachers in Korea and beyond. You can find all her projects at