Are you busy, burnt out - or both?

By Carl Smith, Principal, Casterton College, Rutland


That's a good word. Not like fatigued (or frazzled or other words beginning with F).

It’s good to be busy. Everyone wants to be busy. It means we have things to do, which in turn means we are useful to others. It’s why there are so many centenarians in those small mountainous communities where no-one ever retires, because everyone has their part to play. Not being busy means not being useful, at least for a while, and who wants that?

But there is a point on the ‘things to do’ continuum where busy becomes burnt out or broken (or other words beginning with B).

It’s not good to be burnt out. It means we’ve got nothing left to give, which in turn means we feel useless to others. It’s why there are so few centenarians in places where everyone wants to retire as soon as possible, because they can’t play their part anymore. Being burnt out means being unable to serve any purpose, at least for a while, and who wants that?

There are a lot of people in schools feeling burnt out right now.

It’s that feeling that nothing you ever do is good enough. When you give your best and someone tells you they want more, OFTEN IN BLOCK CAPITALS ACCOMPANIED WITH LOTS OF EXCLAMATION MARKS and the odd reference to Ofsted. It's when you get the blame for everything and the credit for nothing and your job consists of an endless succession of endless tasks that never end, except when they start again. 

Burnout isn’t good for productivity. In fact, it is hard to think of anything that is less good for productivity. Of course, low educational productivity doesn’t result in bankruptcy or a run on the markets. Interest rates don’t rise, and an epidemic of internal truancy doesn’t topple governments. In fact, nothing really happens at all, unless you work in a school, in which case everything happens most of the time. And that’s when we become overwrought or overwhelmed (or other words beginning with O).

It happens because everyone feels insecure, and insecurity is like a virus; we catch it from other people. According to trauma-informed practice, people who have suffered trauma have a problem with trust and if you don’t trust people, you make them feel insecure.  We have a pandemic of insecurity in our schools, and we really need a vaccine. That vaccine is trust.

Trusting the experts. Trusting the professionals. Trusting the intentions of people who have dedicated their professional lives to the service of others. And that means having a bit of faith in others and not finding faults in them but seeking solutions with them. We all want to be busy. 

So, let’s be busy together for a change.

Carl Smith is Principal at Casterton College, Rutland.
Posted: 08/12/2022 11:34:59