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Presented by: Jen Johnson, PhD

What My 3 1/2 Year Old (and a Candy Cane) Taught Me

Have you ever heard the phrase “put out into the world what you want to get back”?

Some people call it Karma. Some call it the Law of Attraction. But it really comes back to this idea that if you show up in the world in a certain way, it seems to come back around to you. 

I’ve never really thought about this in terms of a burnout mitigation strategy until recently — and I learned it from my 3 ½ year old. 

While we were putting away our holiday decor this year, my son found a candy cane, and he really wanted to eat it. He asked me to help him open it, and I said what I usually do to positively promote independence and growth: “You try first. You can do hard things.

He sat down and tried and tried. Finally, he lamented, “Mommy, I tried really hard, but I can’t get it open!” 

I told him I would help him and started trying to unwrap it.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve unwrapped a candy cane as of late,...

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Getting to the Bottom of Burnout

If you follow me on social media, you may have noticed something: I haven’t written a new blog since the beginning of November.

Here’s what you may not know: even back then, I was struggling. 

In fact, my second-to-last blog was actually about how I was struggling to write the blog. 

It was about that time that I met with my social media manager and mentioned I felt “burned out” in terms of writing the blog. She suggested I take some time off through the end of the year. 

That sounded wonderful, so that’s what I did. 

January came around and I still thought to myself, “I don’t want to blog. I’m burned out.” I had to roll my eyes because I hadn’t written one in months! 

As I sat and reflected, I remembered the part in my book where I talk about how breaks or vacations don’t cure burnout. (Guess that applies to taking breaks from writing blogs, too.) 

I decided to pick up my book and read...

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Police, Toddlers, & Detachment From Work

This past week I was driving my three year old son to preschool. We're usually the family that gets there 5 minutes before class starts, and I've been working really hard on arriving earlier. So I was feeling really proud of myself. 

I was also thinking about an executive coaching session I had the day before with an administrator. The administrator has been dealing with some heavy situations, and I was thinking about strategies we could implement moving forward. As I was deep in thought while driving, I looked in my rearview mirror and realized a motorcycle cop had his lights on behind me. 

In confusion, I pulled over. "Maybe I was going 40 by accident," I thought. As we pulled over, my son inquired what was happening, and I told him the policeman needed to talk to mommy because I may have done something wrong. I turned my car off, rolled down the window, and waited. 

As the officer approached the car, my son yelled, "MOMMY MADE A RED CHOICE!" 

At school,...

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How the Halloween Baking Championship Reminded Me I'm Human

If you've followed my blog for a while, you know that each of my blogs corresponds with a pillar of my burnout recovery model, THRIV. 

T - Tending to Yourself

H - Harness Social Support

R - Recharge Through Detachment

I - Ignite Compassion Satisfaction

V - Vow the Honor Your Humanness

I cycle through these on the blog, through the THRIV Newsletter, and in the Support Communities. This week is about Harnessing Social Support, so last week I was supposed to write the blog by Friday. Most weeks I have a draft done by midweek so my copywriter can proof it and make suggestions. But last week, Friday came around and I still hadn't written this blog. 

And I just couldn't make myself.

I was sitting at my desk staring at the blank page and nothing was coming. So finally, with great frustration, I Slacked a message to my copywriter and said, "no blog this week unless I get inspired." I closed my laptop, left my desk, and went and sat in the living room. 

I turned on the tv,...

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Coping with Emotional Triggers During An Election Cycle

I never knew education was a controversial topic until I became a teacher. I didn't realize there were people who believed that I was trying to sway students to believe a certain way or accept certain beliefs. It was completely out of my awareness. 

Then when I became a teacher, I started to listen and focus in on those conversations I saw happening on social media and in the mainstream media related to education, and it was really upsetting for me. 

I felt confused and offended and betrayed and angry. And there were times that I would ruminate about it for hours on end. I just couldn't understand how people could believe that me and my colleagues were doing anything other than teaching the curriculum we were mandated to teach and using best practices to do it. 

It hurt me emotionally because I didn't have the skills to know how to disconnect myself from that kind of negativity, and sometimes I felt like I couldn't look away! I just kept watching and reading comments...

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Moving from Surviving to Thriving: What Needs Are Not Getting Met?

What are the things you need to survive? 

In education, we often talk about Maslow's Hierarchy when we consider student needs.

If you need a reminder, Maslow proposed that our needs exist on a hierarchy where certain needs must be met before we can have other needs met. For example, physiological needs must be met before we can experience safety and belonging. While Maslow's theory of needs being hierarchical has been debunked, the categories of needs Maslow proposed are still valuable to consider.

When I talk with teachers about their needs in relation to Maslow's Hierarchy, most teachers will report that their needs are met. When asked about "self-actualization" most folks will respond with something like, "Well, I'm a work in progress, but the others are met for sure."

When I think about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, I think about the minimum we need to survive - the minimum we need to be "okay." 

But don't we all want to feel better than just "okay"? 

That's where...

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How Difficult Student Behavior Tanks Compassion Satisfaction

Compassion satisfaction is the positive feelings you experience about your work and about your effectiveness as a teacher. 

When thinking about how to build compassion satisfaction, it's helpful to ask, "What happens at work that causes me to NOT have positive feelings or NOT feel effective?" 

When I ask teachers to make a list, almost every single teacher includes something about student behavior. 

The reality is that students engage in behaviors sometimes that we find inappropriate, unhelpful, or outright annoying. When this happens occasionally, it doesn't have a big impact on our overall feelings about our work, but as those challenging behaviors increase, the negative impact on our general feelings about work can begin to build.

When working with students with challenging behavior, we're trained to ask, "What is the function of this behavior? What need does the child meet by engaging in the behavior?" Then we develop interventions that help the child get...

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Two Focus Apps To "Try On" For a More Effective Work From Home Experience

Working from home is something most educators don't want to do, but sometimes it's inevitable. One of the most common concerns I hear from teachers is how long they spend engaging in preparation at home. Whether it's writing lesson plans or IEPs, most teachers are working from home at least once a week.

As an educational psychologist that supports burnout reduction, my goal is to help educators engage in behaviors, routines, and strategies to help them reduce the stress associated with completing clerical tasks at home. 

When I talk with teachers about their work from home habits, I hear a couple of patterns. 

1) I feel guilty when I work from home because I'm not spending time with my family, but I also feel guilty if I don't work because the work has to get done.

2) I try to multitask while I work on the weekends. Sometimes that looks like work + Netflix or work + kid's soccer game, etc. 

We know based on the research that multitasking increases stress and the...

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How to "Marie Kondo" Your Social Media to Support Emotional Health


Social media takes a lot of heat when it comes to impacts on mental health. For years we’ve been hearing that social media can be detrimental to emotional health and even exacerbate symptoms of depression and anxiety, not to mention lower self-esteem (Frost & Rickwood, 2017).

Because of this, for the longest time I resisted hosting support communities on platforms like Facebook. I didn’t want teachers going to FB to get support if it actually harmed their mental health; that’s the opposite of my mission and values at the Teacher Care Network.

How I Discovered the Benefits of Social Media

One of the values of the Teacher Care Network is that we offer evidence-based resources and strategies, so I’m always knee deep in the scientific literature reading and discovering new ways to help educators. During one of my deep dives last summer, I came across an article about the benefits of online support communities for teachers (Chung & Chen, 2018), and that...

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Creating an Emotional Intervention Plan: Because You Need Support Too!

In education, we talk a lot about Behavior Intervention Plans for students, and we talk about how to teach children coping skills for emotional regulation. We recognize that even students who don't have a need for special education services might have emotional needs, and that's why we employ counselors in schools and provide Tier 1 supports for all students in the area of social and emotional learning. We even recognize that some students might need additional help learning emotional coping skills through Tier 2 services, never needing services from special education, but needing interventions nonetheless. 

However, we rarely think about how teachers and staff cope in moments of emotional dysregulation. There seems to be an assumption that we all have the skills necessary to emotionally regulate, even after assisting students in crisis, or that we know where to go to learn those skills if we need them. 

I don't know about you, but when I was in the...

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