You are dreading returning to the classroom next month.
That's it, there isn't a punchline there. If your chest aches and especially if you get a flash of irritation, or hopelessness, or just classic indigestion when you think about seeing students again...you might be done with the classroom.
But there are bills, and that so-close-and-yet-so-far retirement package, and...oh, well, just money and stability in general. And it's not as if you don't like kids anymore. You just don't know how long you can keep a room of them together, moving forward to the satisfaction of parents, administration and general public scrutiny. (At least not and still sustain normal daily serotonin levels.)
You might be a burned out teacher if you hear yourself saying "kids these days," "they don't have any respect anymore," or "it's the parents now, who think their kids can do no wrong." If you don't return emails to parents, or you can't handle the sound of your colleagues' voices or the sight of your principal's name in your inbox, you might be a burn out.
But what do you do if maybe you used to love the job and it's all you've done? If the system changed under your feet (it did, you aren't crazy), if too much on the American teacher's plate keeps you and your colleagues feeling like it's a losing game?
Many teachers want to leave but they just don't have the confidence that they could be happy and successful on the "outside." When I left the classroom I hadn't created a resume or job hunted in years. I didn't know who I could be on the outside of the school system or if I had the right kind of lungs to breathe and sustain myself in that rarified air.
This is the truth: the world needs you out there, to create your business. The one you think about all of the time, that would solve that problem that maddens you because it is so easy to fix. There are positions for educators in businesses, non-profits and philanthropy that need you for your experience as an educator, not despite it.
If it makes you sad to think of "having to keep teaching," that may be rock bottom beneath your feet. This is a great place to be. From rock bottom, you have the leverage and angle to push the hardest to propel up, up, up to the light and the air that you are craving. Craving light and air are also great things. A tolerable life of routine and apathy is just not as good as rock bottom, where you know that immobility just won't work anymore--and you finally choose to make your own momentum.
If your work does not energize you, even though it once did, you might be a teacher who deserves to look up again at the horizon. Try looking inside of yourself and being still. Meditation, prayer or just silence all work. Describe to yourself what your bliss is now, as you are now, after all of those years of investing and nurturing the students that knew you believed in them. And start to believe in yourself. You might be a burned out teacher if your heart feels lighter, warmer, hopeful at the thought.