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Dear Teacher, Don't Give Up!

Dear Teacher, Don't Give Up!

By Make Them Master It

Every teacher hits a low point. Many recover. Some don't.

Dear Teacher, Don't Give Up! is a show that brings you stories of how some of today's best teachers have gone from surviving to thriving in one of the toughest jobs there is. Jeffery E. Frieden is on a mission to connect teachers so that we can increase our impact and WIN in the classroom!

Join us as we draw encouragement from great teachers who have pushed past the lowest points in their career and found that teaching really can be the job of their dreams.

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"Am I Burnt Out or Demoralized?" with Doris A. Santoro

Dear Teacher, Don't Give Up!Nov 25, 2019

"Am I Burnt Out or Demoralized?" with Doris A. Santoro

"Am I Burnt Out or Demoralized?" with Doris A. Santoro

Dear Teacher,


If you’re like me, the middle of the fall semester is the most difficult time of the year. And it was my plan to release this episode last month, but October. Just before we entered the month of November, I learned of a new acronym (Just what Education needs, right?). It’s DEVELSON. That’s D-E-V-E-L-S-O-N. It stands for Dark Evil Vortex of Late September, October, and November. I don’t know of a more fitting acronym for education for this time of year.

If there is a season that makes me question whether or not I am going to stay in the classroom, it is this time of year. It was October of my seventh year of teaching when I came very close to the decision to leave the profession for good. Everything we are expected to do as teachers (which includes those expectations we place on ourselves), seem to collide into one six-week window, and for many it becomes too much.

I see many teachers online talking about self-care as a way to manage burn out. I think leaving work at work and making time for those things that make life worth living are essential in sustaining our energy for the work. But sometimes self-care doesn’t seem like enough. At those times, we educators need to be asking ourselves, “Am I burnt out or demoralized?”

In this episode of DEAR TEACHER, DON’T GIVE UP! I talk with Dr. Doris A. Santoro, a philosopher of education and chair of education department at Bowdoin College. As a professor of education she conducts empirical research to study, and theorize about, the moral and ethical sources of teacher dissatisfaction and resistance. She wrote the book Demoralized: Why Teachers Leave the Profession They Love and How They Can Stay, which is a wake up call! All educators need to read this book!

Connect with Dr. Doris A Santoro:

For the past year, as I have interacted with educators on social media, I have seen periodic calls for teachers to exercise self-care to avoid burnout. And depending on the situation, especially one where a teacher is heaping unrealistic expectations on themselves, this is needed advice. But is self-care enough for those situations where teachers are being asked to give all of their time and energy to parts of the job that do not involve teaching or working directly with the students? It’s not. Keep listening to find out why.

Nov 25, 201949:44
"Does My Principal Even Want to Hear My Ideas?" with Dr. Christina Podraza

"Does My Principal Even Want to Hear My Ideas?" with Dr. Christina Podraza

If you're a teacher with ideas and you are looking to connect with your principal about getting them in motion, this is the episode for you. 

Back in February of 2019, I posed a question on Twitter that got a lot of attention. It sparked an ongoing conversation with on of the administrators initially tagged in that Tweet. that conversation has brought us to this episode of Dear Teacher, Don't Give Up! 

In this episode, I talk with Dr. Christina Podraza, Principal of Jefferson Elementary. The conversation is wide-ranging about how teachers and principals can better relate with one another. In the end, teachers, we can walk away with some actionable tips:

  • Engage with your principal on a personal level, assuming he or she is open to the idea of building any kind of relationship.
  • Announce that you are trying something new, and invite your principal to give you feedback.
  • Teachers, HAVE A PLAN. The faculty meeting is not a public forum, or brainstorming session, where you get to volley half-baked ideas for change.
  • Show your principal that you are connecting with their priorities BEFORE offering your suggestions for improvement.
  • REMEMBER, it’s not a once-in-a-life-time sales pitch; it’s a process.

If you would like to connect with Christina further, you can find her the following ways:

As for me, the host of the show, if you are currently working in education and have EVER thought about leaving, or right now, you’re a classroom teacher looking for the nearest exit, I want to hear your story. Please, contact me

Sep 22, 201946:15
"Where Are My Peeps?" with Michael J Crawford of Edspace

"Where Are My Peeps?" with Michael J Crawford of Edspace

Dear Teacher,
When putting our best teacher foot forward, we will inevitably hit snags, set backs, or difficulties of some kind. At times, those set backs are small bumps in the road. And sometimes the problems we run into are deep, serious, and abiding. Whatever the case may be, all of us need support. But lots of teachers leave the profession because they did not get the support they needed, and they did not get the chance to develop the resilience needed to remain in the classroom.
When it comes to the support we all need, some teachers will wait for it to come to them. Others are more proactive, and they seek it out. Most of those go-getters start at their campuses, looking for a teacher-friend who will help them overcome their roadblocks. And if they can’t find those friendly colleagues at their place of work, they will extend their search for like-hearted educators through social media.
I am fortunate to work alongside great people who help me when I need perspective and challenge me when I may be stuck in a rut. In addition to my wonderful colleagues at my brick and mortar location, I also have made amazing connections through Twitter, Facebook, and Voxer. I truly believe I am living in a great set of circumstances as a teacher. And my situation is NOT the norm for many teachers out there, but I have faith that there is another teacher, or group of teachers, out there who are ready to connect and support teachers in need.
In this episode of DEAR TEACHER DON’T GIVE UP!, you may find a space that will help you answer this question: “Where are my peeps?”
Sometime ago, while interacting with teachers on Twitter, Michael J. Crawford suggested that I would be able to find the answers I was looking for on an app he and his team were building. When he explained that it was being designed with tons of teacher input to be a space where teachers could connect, I immediately understood the potential.
Shortly after that interaction, he and I set up a time to talk, and the link to the audio above is our conversation. As a teacher who is continually growing his professional learning network (PLN) through various apps (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, and Voxer), I gravitated toward the concept of a Social Learning Network. Instead of individual teachers "hacking" social media to network with colleagues around the world, Michael and his team are designing a space that fits that purpose, and it's called Edspace.
If you're interested in learning more about Edspace and what their platform can offer you, check out the following links:

Twitter: @EdSpaceLive
Michael's Email:
Michael's Twitter: @mjcraw

If you are currently working in education and have ever thought about leaving, or right now, you’re a classroom teacher looking for the nearest exit, I want to hear your story. Please, find me at…

Twitter: @MakeThemMastrIt
Aug 26, 201945:58
"Am I Present at Home?" with Aimee and Rob Skidmore & Lindsey Frieden

"Am I Present at Home?" with Aimee and Rob Skidmore & Lindsey Frieden

Dear Teacher, 

If you’re like me, you struggle with knowing how much time, effort, and energy you should give to the job. My lessons are never good enough. I worry that I have not given enough to assessing my students’ progress. And I am constantly tinkering with my craft to make it just a little bit better. When I give so much of myself to the job, I don’t leave time for the other parts of my life that matter. I have missed moments loved ones. There have been plenty of occasions where I am in the same location with my family, but I am NOT present with them. 

As my wife and started having children, this started to eat at me more and more. And a few years after my first child was born, I started to ask myself, “Am I Present at Home?” 

Shortly after launching Dear Teacher, Don't Give Up! Aimee Skidmore (@skidmoreaimee) sent me an email sharing about the time that she almost walked away from teaching. She included details about how it affected life at home, so I reached out to her and Rob inviting them on the podcast to talk about how that difficult time for Aimee was also a difficult time for her loved ones at home. Aimee has been teaching Language Arts for over 20 years, and Rob does work in international development, which caused a few moves over the years. At present (and I get the impression that they plan to stay), they are in Geneva, Switzerland. 

A few years ago, Aimee stepped into the role as Head of English in her middle school, and as she invested herself in this new position, things started to grow dim rather quickly. Over time, Rob noticed that Aimee was perseverating on her work as a teacher, and because she had such high ideals for herself, she worried over everything. He did his best to help her see what really mattered, which eventually led Aimee to make the difficult decision to step down from that role and focus on teaching. When she did, Aimee found new life and energy in the profession, even starting a Forward Thinkers group for like-minded teachers who wanted to get more involved in their own professional development. Aimee loves connecting with other educators online at Twitter and LinkedIn. She invites anyone who identifies with her struggle to reach out to her.  

Also joining us on this episode is my wife, Lindsey Frieden (@Lindseyspalette). When I meet people who ask what my wife does for work, I tell them she's the CFO -- the Chief Family Officer. She spends her days taking really good care of our four children who are 10, 8, 5, and 6 months, at the time of this post. Before she took on this roll, she was a classroom teacher for four years, teaching junior high and high school art. She has stayed active in art through painting and making decorative wood signs.

Sometimes I had to face tough conversations about my priorities. She's sharing about how even though I carried the burden of my work, she experienced the stress and anxiety I brought home with me too. We have both learned a bit more about how to approach conversations about these seasons of high stress, and she has some words of wisdom to share with those who may be married to a teacher who is very dedicated to the job.

Jun 19, 201901:05:05
"Am I Saying 'Yes' to Too Many Things?" with Matthew M. Johnson

"Am I Saying 'Yes' to Too Many Things?" with Matthew M. Johnson

Dear Teacher,

When I was in my ninth year of teaching, out of the 180 I was contracted to spend in front of my students, I was out of the classroom for 33 of them. For thirty of those days, I was out of the classroom for one of the three district committees I was participating in. I'm ashamed to admit, that the other three were due to illness and the birth of my third child! Luckily, for our family, she was born at the very beginning of a break in the calendar. At the end of the year, I had to look at my situation and ask, "Am I saying 'yes' to too many things?"

Several months ago, I started interacting with Matthew M. Johnson. Beginning a friendship around the content we publish online, we eventually learned one another's stories about the twists and turns of our teaching careers. There were a few stand out parallels, and I asked him if he would be willing to share about the time he almost left the teaching.

As Matthew learned what opportunities to say 'yes' to--and which ones to pass on--not only did he become a better, more focused teacher, he was also able to make time for what mattered most: his loved ones. With the little time what little time remains on his calendar, he writes about how writing teachers can give timely feedback, deeply improving student writing, all while make it home in time for dinner each night.

If you're looking to make your writing instruction feedback loop tighter and more robust, you can reach Matthew in the following ways:

If you are currently working in education and have ever thought about leaving, or right now, you’re a classroom teacher looking for the nearest exit, I want to hear your story. Please, find me at…

May 15, 201937:46
"Am I Allowed to Have a Life?" with Dave Stuart Jr.

"Am I Allowed to Have a Life?" with Dave Stuart Jr.

Dear Teacher,

Tell me if this sounds familiar. You have a roster full of students who are at differing levels of ability. And it’s your job to get ALL of them to an acceptable level of proficiency. As the year unfolds, to do this, you realize that you need to stay at work a little later, take home a few more assignments to grade, get up just a little earlier in the morning to be in the classroom for a few more minutes to get it all done. Tired, and leaving your classroom after the sun has set for the third day in a row, in a flash of sudden anger, you say, “Am I allowed to have a life!?”

In this episode, you will hear from teacher, content creator, and professional developer, Dave Stuart Jr. Several years ago, Dave started a blog that turned into a website, which has been turned into a couple of books, and eventually leading to the development of a couple of online courses.

Believe it or not, a few years into the job, Dave actually quit teaching! For many of us, this is hard to believe. But after you hear his story, you will get a clearer picture of the why behind Dave's writing, speaking, and professional development workshops. You will hear about how Dave figured out how to set limits on himself, two teacher archetypes to avoid, and why you should write an Everest Statement right now.

You can reach Dave in the following ways:

To hear more stories like Andy’s, subscribe to the Dear Teacher, Don’t Give Up!podcast.

Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts |

If you are currently working in education and have ever thought about leaving, or right now, you’re a classroom teacher looking for the nearest exit, I want to hear your story. Please, find me at…

Apr 17, 201940:55
Introducing Dear Teacher, Don't Give Up!

Introducing Dear Teacher, Don't Give Up!

Dear teacher, when it comes to the challenging work of classroom instruction, have you ever felt overwhelmed? Maybe boxed in? How about exhausted? If you have, guess what? . . . That's completely normal!

Teaching is a joy, at least it should be, right?

My name is Jeffery E. Frieden, and I am here to help CONNECT teachers so that we can intensify our impact and WIN in the classroom.

Dear Teacher, Don't Give Up! is a show that brings you stories of how successful, joyful teachers have gone from surviving to thriving in the job they love. Teachers who have endured set backs, struggles, and hardships. Teachers like you!

SUBSCRIBE TODAY on Apple Podcasts, Google Play,, or wherever you may be listening, and together we can learn to face the reality of teaching in today's classroom, and discover that it really is the most rewarding job a person can have.

Mar 21, 201901:32
"Am I Valued?" with Andy Milne

"Am I Valued?" with Andy Milne

Dear Teacher,

When you got your first job, did you get the most undesirable position in your department or grade level? What about passed up for a position because the other applicant had more seniority? Have you presented ideas at meeting only to get shot down?

If this sounds like you, I’ll wager that you have looked at your situation and wondered, “Am I valued?”

There were many times in my career when I have shared my ideas because I thought they would make the situation at my school better. I would get one of several responses. Sometimes, I was Ignored, but this was rare. Usually I was acknowledged for the idea on the spot, but that's as far as it went--when there was no follow-up, I suspected they did not place much worth in my words. Other times, I was flat out told "no" and given the kinds of reasons that led me to believe that they wanted to maintain the status quo.

Our guest for this episode of Dear Teacher, Don't Give Up! is National Health Teacher of the Year, Andy Milne. He's a teacher at the top of his game! Outside of his teaching duties, he also runs the website and is a sought after public speaker. And though he presents as very "put together," he'll be the first to tell you that things weren't always that way for him. For a time, he questioned whether he was a good fit for the job.

Seven years into the job, feeling undervalued at the school where he was teaching at the time, he walked away. And that time away gave him the perspective he needed. He eventually made his way back to the classroom, and he has some great perspective to share about his journey.

If you find yourself in similar circumstances, or you would like some perspective from an experienced teacher, you can reach out to Andy in the following ways:

Ways to Connect:

Also, if you have a story to tell, about a time you considered walking away from education, I want to hear all about it. Here's where you can find me:

Mar 20, 201934:11
"Don't You Trust Me?" with Nancy Erwin

"Don't You Trust Me?" with Nancy Erwin

Dear Teacher,

"Don't you trust me to make good decisions in my classroom?" I don't know about you, but there was a time when I both wanted and didn't want to know the answer to that question. This was especially true when it came to a particular principal I was working under. In my case, I never had to face an interrogation of my practice. Instead, what I experienced can be described as a looming, lurking specter of disapproval. When I was on campus, judgment felt like it was laying in wait around each corner. And even though I did not get called into the front office, nor did I ever get written up, what I experienced internally--both mentally and emotionally--bordered on the oppressive.

I know that I am not alone in the experience of being under the watchful eye of a distrusting administration. As a very young first grade teacher, my good friend Nancy Erwin found herself in a classroom where she was watched very closely. Hired by a district that was working to improve certain metrics, not only did she have to learn the ins and outs of being a first time teacher--one where she had to familiarize herself with the curriculum, differentiate instruction, and learn all the different (and sometimes heartbreaking) backgrounds of her students--but she also had to discern when to administer a seemingly never-ending battery of assessments. And if she deviated from the prescribed curricular route, someone was sure to check in just as she was about to get creative with her instruction.

She claims that she wouldn't have made it if she didn't have the support of a wise mentor. But after three years of teaching in this environment, Nancy and her husband  had an opportunity that required the family to relocate, which meant that she was no longer teaching in that district. She took the move as an opportunity to question whether teaching was for her or not.

After talking with a friend who taught at a nearby charter school, she decided to test the waters there by applying to substitute teach. After one week of covering classes at the school, Nancy was smitten! She knew she had to teach there! She saw a school that trusted its teachers, allowed them to be creative, and that teachers could adjust their curriculum and instruction to meet the various needs of their students, not the demands of a program.

As soon as she could, she filled out an application. She was eventually hired, and has been there ever since. She loves her school, and she loves teaching (now Kindergarten). She has found the school where she can be the teacher she dreamed of being while she was an undergrad.

If any of her story rings true for you, and you’re looking for some encouragement, you can reach out and find Nancy by email at

QUESTION: As a new classroom teacher, what unexpected initiative, program, or practice tended to take considerable time and energy away from planning instruction for your students?

To hear more stories like Nancy's, subscribe to the Dear Teacher, Don't Give Up! podcast.

Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts |

Ways to Connect:

Also, if you have a story to tell, about a time you considered walking away from education, I want to hear all about it. Here's where you can find me:

Feb 20, 201930:38
"Am I Enough?" with guest host Justin Kirkpatrick

"Am I Enough?" with guest host Justin Kirkpatrick

Dear teacher, "Are You Enough?" Has that question ever crossed your mind? Seven years into my career, during the fall semester, this question was continually before me. Something had to change.

My name is Jeffery E. Frieden, host of Dear Teacher, Don't Give Up! I am on a mission to connect teachers so that together we can intensify our impact and WIN in the classroom!

If you have ever given serious thought to leaving the classroom, but you hung in there and it got better, we need to hear your story. Email me at and tell me about the time you came close to quitting.

In This Episode:

Since this is the launch of this podcast, I wanted to introduce myself and tell the story of the time I almost walked away from teaching forever. But, as I have learned over 14 years in the classroom, if I talk for 30 minutes straight, people will tune me out. So I invited my good friend Justin Kirkpatrick to be the host while I played the part of a guest. Thanks, Justin!

When I started teaching, just like most newbies, I was idealistic. I kept thinking that if I could explain things just the right way, or put enough comments on papers, everything would click for students. I invested a lot of time into my teaching. The idealism never faded, and I developed unsustainable habits. As my family grew, this became more apparent, and I hit a point of crisis where I experienced a lot of guilt over how much time I was giving to the job and how much time I was missing with my loved ones. 

Since I wasn't willing to sacrifice my family for my job, I started to give serious thought to quitting. And just before I was about to move forward with finding a new profession, something stepped in and changed my perspective and my approach. It was at that point that hope was restored and I eventually found the joy promised all young teachers when they enter the profession.

Listen to hear what made the difference.

How We Can Connect:

If any part of this episode resonate with you, let's connect. Here's where you can find me:

Jan 23, 201928:57