Avoiding burnout- Don't pour from an empty cup, look after yourself first.


Almost a year ago I travelled from Bedfordshire down to Hampshire for a great day of CPD. During the closing speech Vivienne Porritt claimed that it all would have been just a lovely jolly if we didn't go back to our schools and make a change, not just in our practice but within the school as a whole.

So inspired by her words and the day as a whole, I stopped off on the way home and drafted a wellbeing policy based on the Twitter movement #teacher5aday‍. I was adamant that I would make change happen, I even blogged about it here to confirm my plans.

Being part of the extended SLT at my 'then' school, a special school for children with social, emotional, communication and interaction difficulties, made it easy to get this onto the agenda, which I did but the long term change never happened.

I couldn't have known that a couple of weeks after this event that I would come to breaking point. With an overloaded timetable and ever increasing duties, with staff on leave and no replacements I felt that my work life was imploding. I started to look for something else, saw the ad for my current school but didn't really consider it as I was so invested in my previous school.

What happened during the first week of October would change all of that. Following an assault from a student I was severely concussed and found myself inside a CT scanner. Despite memory loss and serious mood swings, I was back at work after a few days. In the end it was my sister who jolted my view: 'you owe it to your family to find a safer place to work'. When I was offered my new job, my husband felt able to tell me that he thought I had  been a shadow of myself for the past two years, having the life literally sucked out of me by the intensity of my work. As you can imagine, pretty hard words to hear, but important ones too. 

The pressures on all staff now, wherever you work, are high. My session at PegagooHampshire17 will be experiential, talking about the times over my 18 years of teaching that I have experienced burnout, how it could have been avoided and also some mindfulness and relaxation techniques which we use at my current centre.

There won't be a PowerPoint,there will be a chance to relax and share with others.

I'm looking forward to connecting and reconnecting next Saturday. I'm also thinking of treating myself to a hotel the night before. Very early mornings on a Saturday are not something I enjoy and this year for me, it's all about enjoying life!

Author Profile

Helen Shapter Wheeler

Helen Shapter Wheeler

13 years in secondary, moved to SEN-SEC&I. Now AP at a PRU for medical & mental health.

4 stories


Andy Knill Andy Knill @andyknill 2 months ago
Looking forward to meeting. I have made MHWB bingo cards and prepped a mind map of ideas but I agree see who is in session and go with the flow and 40 minutes won't be enough. See you tomorrow.
Andy Knill Andy Knill @andyknill 2 months ago
Thanks for the session helen
{{ modalTitle }} {{{ modalData }}} {{ modalTitle }} {{{ modalData }}} Join the conversation
Sign in or sign up to post comments, follow colleagues, recommend stories and build your own professional profile.
Staffrm is the professional network for educators passionate about their work.
Please Sign In {{ modalData }} Sign In