Being of Service: Burnout, Mindset, and How Teachers can be Whole

In this conversation between The Teaching Well founder Kelly Knoche and Jenny Grant Rankin, PhD and author of First Aid for Teacher Burnout: How You Can Find Peace and SuccessEngaging & Challenging Gifted Students, and How to Make Data Work: A Guide for Educational Leaders, they explore the importance of resilience and well-being for teachers, administrators, and students.

Kelly Knoche: The Teaching Well works with a third to a half of the teaching staff one on one during work hours. All of what we do is really first aid for teacher burnout. We talk about meditation, decreasing stress response, etc. Have you worked with other organizations like that in the past? Do you have ideas about what that could look like?

Jenny Rankin: I've never conducted a study under those conditions, but it sounds fantastic. When there's talk about burnout, it seems to be exclusively mindset. I'm a huge fan of Carol Dweck.  I love her work on mindset. It's so fascinating to me how the conversation about burnout, it doesn't track to other areas that have such a huge impact on stress overall.

No one comes into this work who isn’t service minded.

I think a study that looked at all these factors of well-being and resilience would be incredible. It'd be a great way, too, to highlight what you're doing in a way that other people can replicate in other countries. It's basically about how to survive as a teacher.

Kelly Knoche: We have to survive because we have to serve kids. No one comes into this work who isn't service minded.

Jenny Rankin: Oh, totally.

Kelly Knoche: We all come into this work to be a service. I had this realization on my yoga mat, which is why it's based on self-care and well-being practices, "How can I be with my kids who I am to myself on my yoga mat." You're doing these complex poses but your breath is calm. I continue to improve, but the goal is not just to improve but to be in the moment.

I brought that realization back to my classroom. For three years I worked out the kinks and found a balance and started telling teachers about some of the units I built for my kids like stress resilience. They'd just done this huge report and identified their body cues. Teachers were like, "Wait, what? Can I have that?"

Jenny Rankin: They talk so much now about mindfulness in kids and all these doing yoga and brain breaks and all these things for kids. Gosh, teachers too, you know? We really need that, too. How wonderful if we had that for teachers how much more easily we could pass that down to our kids--and just shape their whole approach to life.

Kelly Knoche: Yes, and when our educators embody health, well-being, connection, and that ability to be present, which that's when the mindfulness can really transform a classroom.

Jenny Rankin: Yeah. That's incredible and another way to bring awareness to the issue of burnout and to let people know what works, what doesn't work, why this works, why that, you know, all those questions that can help them with implementation.

Kelly Knoche: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me. I'm just blown away by your book and by meeting you at the Illuminate Conference and feel incredibly honored to be with you today. Thank you.

Jenny Rankin: Oh, thank you. I feel the same. I really appreciate the chance to talk about this and the interview and I love your interest. I love meeting other people who are passionate about this and are doing great things.