Burnt Out?

Some teachers get what I would call burn out once a semester, It usually hits in the 3rd month of the university term.  In my case, usually I am bored with what I am teaching because I have done it so much, or just the stress of dealing with 200 students per week plus administration, plus other teachers, takes its toll.   It`s a marathon not a sprint, but by the third month, you are often tired.  You need a new jolt of energy

I get myself out of burn out by asking myself: What would I like to do?

When I find something fun, the students often do too.

I also avoid or get out of burn out by trying new things.  Here are some suggestions from helpful teachers:

“The best thing I was a part of was called Video Appreciation and Production. Students were in groups of 4 or 5 for five weeks. They worked together in class on YouTube videos I presented in the first four weeks. In week 5 they presented videos they made together. Shuffle and repeat twice for a fun, challenging 15-week class.”

-A teacher in Saudi Arabia who has taught extensively in Japan as well

I used to play a game where each student was given a secret identity (the most popular version, each one was a different famous person, but I think it worked better when each one was a different inanimate object). You don’t know your OWN secret, but you do know the other three players’ secrets. They then have to give clues to one another to help them all guess who or what they are.

Example: The students might be a strawberry, whipped cream, ice cream, and slice of cake. Or a baseball pitcher, catcher, batter, and umpire. The players can tell you how you might interact with other players, or some facts about yourself, but they can never tell anyone directly what they are. You could also break it into teams, where you don’t know your own OR your partner’s ID to increase the difficulty.”

–a teacher who taught for some years in Japan


A teacher based in South Korea suggests:



It is grammar based but every grammar unit has activity sheets, pair/group activities and speaking board games

A non-teacher suggested the following:

Disc Golf… grow the sport (and talk too)

Some teachers teaching lower level classes have done this.  They have often gotten the students to write about the experience.

I often use handouts of two Breakingnewsenglish.com reading texts at student level. One half of the class gets copies of one; the other half the other text. Students have time to silently read text. Pairs (within the two “half” groups) discuss what they read and clarify meaning. Make new pairs from each half groups. Each person has 1.5 minutes to explain the text/ideas to partner. Rotate to make new pairs. Each person has 1 minute to explain the text/ideas to partner. Rotate to make new pairs. Each person has 30 seconds to explain the text/ideas to partner. Rotate partners. Each person has to summarize what they heard from the three previous partners about the text he/she DID NOT read. Further option if time: Students write a short summary of their text (not allowed to look at original). Further option if time: Students read the other text. The students enjoy the interaction, movement, energy, and challenge of trying to explain the information.”

“Here is an example of a handout. The additional content in the handout can be assigned as homework:  Example

–from a veteran university teacher, who has taught all over


One veteran teacher from Australia who also taught in Japan writes:

have you tried film-english.com
Lesson plans included and large range of topics. Highly communicative.”

Film English


Another suggests DnD in the classroom.  I have tried roleplaying.  I may try this too!

He writes:

Yeah. Roleplay game like Dnd… Any genre.. Works great to make conversation. Try murder mystery… Feed the students data as they solve clues.”


Great advice from veteran teachers and some interesting advice from a non-teacher.   Never dismiss the advice you get from a non-expert, they often think outside the box, and therefore are the most creative!

I hope you enjoyed this!  I know I found it helpful!  Thank you to all the teachers who responded!


Kevin Burns







About kintaro63

Writer and teacher in Japan
This entry was posted in Teaching, Universities and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Burnt Out?

  1. Pingback: How long have you been learning English! (Japanese) | How to teach English in Japan

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