Is Your Teacher Burnt Out?

If I gave you a five page speech on any topic, asked you to memorize it and then had you repeat the speech regularly for 5, 10 or maybe even 30 straight years, your head might explode into a fiery ball followed by a simmering sizzle. This phenomenon is called teacher burn out and it’s caused by repetition. Remember when you were a kid and you repeated the same word over and over until it sounded unrecognizable. You see where I’m going with this. Teachers are in the business of presenting similar material consistently each semester.

Can’t teachers just change-up the lectures and format? Yes and no. Teachers are required to teach the core material as outlined in the syllabus. There’s not a lot of wiggle room there. (I’d be hard-pressed to get through a semester without reviewing basic marketing concepts with my students.) Teachers can, however, add new and updated information to supplement the basics. But even then, your teacher might, after years, become robotic in their delivery.

Here’s my question. How can you, as a student, help prevent the inevitable teacher meltdown? It’s easy. If you want to snap your teacher back to the present, bring your own material to class. This can be in the form of questions, experiences, internships, and good old-fashioned curiosity.


See me in this picture? I’m with two students – Dan Clark and Khalid Michel-Simms. They’ve launched their own line of clothing under the brand Dare to Be Different (D2BD) and their hands-on experience added a new dimension to my Marketing 101 class last semester. My standard lectures soon turned into interesting conversations about their business. The whole class benefited from their shared entrepreneurial spirit. And I got a much needed slap in the face and a renewed sense of purpose. I love the topics I teach and these students’ genuine energy reminded me of that fact.

A big thanks to the Dare to Be Different business partners –Dan and Khalid. Please visit their site and check out their stuff.


  • Carrie Miller

    I’ve often wondered about this very topic myself. It seems like it would be a blast (as a professor) to share your passion with your students, but when you’re repeating yourself over and over, the material can get boring for both you as well as the students. I thought it was very interesting what you mentioned about the two students you had in your Marketing 101 class last semester. The fact that you were able to teach your standard lessons and apply it to Dan and Khalid’s business, it makes the lessons seem real and more interesting. It isn’t like you’re sitting there spitting out information to the class–you’re engaging them and getting them involved in the material that’s being taught. I honestly love it when professors use this approach! It keeps me engaged and interested in the lessons and makes me want to come to class day after day. A professor who can keep lessons fun, new, and fresh is a professor I want to have time and time again.

    I once had a professor who would literally read out of the textbook and would rarely use real world examples–never anything engaging. What I learned from that experience was that if the professor is excited about what they teach, then the students will be excited to learn and will WANT to ask questions! I also find it easier to grasp concepts when real world examples are used and talked about throughout class. I love it–it keeps everything fresh for the professors as well as the students!

  • Chris Guida

    I love the fact you brought this up! It seems to be an ongoing battle for professors to maintain their vigor. Quite honestly I am always shocked by the amount of professors that still ARE engaged after so many years. Personally, I can’t even eat the same thing twice a day much less provide a stimulating educational experience year after year. By acknowledging that over time the subject being taught can become stale, you have already found a way to keep it fresh. Keeping a class interested is only half the battle. I loved the way you described the two students and their product. You even took an interest in their marketing and probably helped them a great deal. More professors should use the approach of incorporating student involvement and new materials in their lectures! In order for the appreciation of a subject, I think that the professor must keep an interest in it themselves. It seems that you are indeed keeping an interest and for that I think all of the people you teach will be much better off!

  • Nicole Loscri

    This post has provided me with a new outlook on a professor’s career. I have never truly thought of the effort professors make every day of every semester, every single year to constantly share their knowledge with their students in an engaging and exciting new way. As you mentioned, this scenario is called teacher repetition, and it must certainly create frustration, exhaustion, and burning out. Students, including myself, are often anxious for class sessions to conclude, however, I haven’t thought of how professors must feel until now: teaching countless classes the same subject over and over again until it’s almost like a broken record. If I put myself in a professor’s shoes, I would find that I wouldn’t get so burnt out and bored if my class was engaged in my lecture and asking questions and taking notes. If my class wasn’t paying attention nor interested in my lesson plan, I would feel disappointed and unmotivated to teach. College is a team effort fueled by not only professors’ enthusiasm, but also students’ enthusiasm.