Feel the burnout

Students in advanced classes experience lack of motivation


Photo by Lizzie Debenport

Students labeled as “gifted” early on in their school career often end up feeling overwhelmed with expectations and school.

Story by Stephanie Jumper, Editor-in-Chief

The dreary eyes. The brain that exerts all of its energy on assignments only to end up drooling on them when the exhaustion is too much to bear. The heartbreak of receiving a less than stellar grade when you know you’re capable of more. 

If you recognize these symptoms, you or a loved one may be suffering from gifted kid burnout.

GKB is extreme academic stress or fatigue as a result of the pressure to excel in classes after success in previous school years. It often occurs during secondary school for those that participated in advanced education programs in elementary school, such as seniors Jessie Gamble and Madelyn Snow.

“I think there’s a lot of expectations that come with [gifted programs],” Snow said. “Those kind of follow you and build up over time, and I think after a while you just get sick of it. It’s overwhelming and too much, and it gets to the point you just don’t want to do anything anymore.”

Since this state of academic apathy can begin at any point in a student’s life, GKB can be thought of as early-onset senioritis for those that pride themselves on their work ethic. This means seniors overwhelmed from advanced classes have multiple reasons to avoid schoolwork.

“It’s this weird period where some of us are committed to colleges, some of us aren’t,” Gamble said. “I know I can work so much harder than I do. It’s like, ‘I know I’ve done it before, and I know I’ve had great grades before,’ but the second burnout hits, I stop. It’s really disappointing for myself, and I feel like my teachers expect better too; whenever they’re disappointed, it makes me really mad at myself.”

Although low self esteem is expected in burnout, Snow is able to fight the urge to procrastinate. Snow was enrolled in Morriss Elementary for six years. Due to learning alongside other school-savvy students since kindergarten, competition with her longtime classmates keeps her focused.

“I feel like I’m comparing myself with those people I’ve been at school with forever because a lot of those people have always just done really well in school,” Snow said. “I feel like I have to stay on that level. That motivates me.” 

When Gamble occasionally finds it difficult to remain academically motivated, feelings of guilt and disbelief may accompany any unimpressive grades she may receive. The ability to achieve stellar grades in other classes may make burnout feel like a problem some students will never encounter. Gamble struggled with coming to terms with her burnout for this reason.

“I think [my gifted education] made it harder for me to accept the burnout,” Gamble said. “It made me so much harder on myself to know that I have achieved higher in the past. Now, it feels like sometimes it’s too much to even do homework on school nights.” 

Although Gamble is cemented in the idea that taking advanced classes from a young age contributes to her burnout, Snow is more skeptical.

“I think a lot of people who went to Morriss are pushing at it and doing really well,” Snow said. “I’m still doing well in my classes, but it’s hard for me to find the motivation to. I wouldn’t say there’s too much of a relation, but I definitely think a lot of gifted kids in our school are the ones who came from Morriss and have expectations associated with them.”

Regardless of why people experience a sudden lack of interest in schoolwork, it is a persistent problem for Snow and Gamble. But with time it can fade. There is a cure to gifted kid burnout: allowing oneself a moment of rest.

“Sometimes, I just need a break,” Gamble said. “School breaks are really good, but sometimes I just need to get away from certain people, and that helps. It’s really just forcing myself to get back into it. Just cutting my losses and starting fresh on new work.”