- PTSD in Teachers: Yes, It's Real! - August 19, 2018
- Teacher Anxiety: How to Cope With Anxiety Under Stress - July 29, 2018
- Depression Kills Teachers if Left Untreated: It Should Not Kill Their Careers - July 23, 2018
- Amidst Declining Mental Health in Teachers, What Can Administrators Do? - June 30, 2018
- 5 Things I'd Tell Myself in My Earlier Teaching Years - October 15, 2017
- How Class Dojo Saves My Sanity Daily - October 1, 2017
- Surviving the School Year: Game of Thrones Style - August 27, 2017
- What to Change Behavior? Start With Class Meetings in Special Education - August 20, 2017
- When Your Administrator Doesn't Like You - July 3, 2017
- Conquering Teacher Biases Against Disabilities: Important Strategies - May 8, 2017
If you're a teacher you know that the saying that "those that can't do teach" is a complete falsehood. Teaching entails more than just providing instruction, especially if you're a special education teacher. The pressure to make better test scores while creating content that appeals to multiple intelligences while providing 21st century skills and writing Individual Education Plans (IEPs) can get exhausting. This is especially true if you attempt to get all of this done with no real planning time, because you end up staying up far too late trying to make everything work, from lesson plans to behavior contracts to writing measurable goals. I once stayed up until 2 in the morning writing an IEP after writing lesson plans for my 5 different multi-grade level classes, then got up at 5 in the morning to get ready for my day. Man, sometimes it's hard to continue to love teaching, but perhaps you still have enough fire left in you to rekindle your love for teaching if that fire has started to burn low.
Yes, the work gets tiring. And it doesn't end at paperwork or lesson plans. I'm glad that I got a psychology degree because it helped me prepare for my job as an unofficial counselor to my children, who come to me for every emotional need--from girl drama to family drama. They lean on me. Hard. I also serve as part-time wrangler as I attempt to quiet the incessant noise and confusion that comes every time we need to change the schedule for testing or assemblies or early releases and kids don't know how to handle the new transitions.
Doing all of these things and then feeling unappreciated can lead not only to exhaustion, but discontent. When you do this for over five years, statistically speaking, you will experience burn-out. The dissatisfaction in your job that comes from constant exhaustion combined with lack of acknowledgement defines burn-out. And it will likely happen to you if you have yet to experience it yourself. It's like taking one bad day and extending it out for months as you dread going into work and need to psyche yourself into getting out of bed. You work because you love the children and you want the best for them, but part of you doesn't want to do it anymore.
So, what can you do to help yourself when you no longer want to teach? What do you do next when you're unhappy with your job? There are a few practical solutions to this broad-based problem.
1. Surround yourself with happy people. That's right. Find the happiest employees in the building and hang out with them. Stay away from the fellow gripers. You can probably "vent" all day long, but that doesn't mean you should. It only makes you and the people around you feel more lousy than before.
2. List out the good stuff. What went right today? Even if it's something small, like Johnny came to class 2 minutes late instead of 8 minutes late, you should herald that as a success story. Maybe Stephanie answered a question voluntarily during class when you usually can't get her to answer even simple questions she knows the answer to already. Take it and run with it. Revel in your successes. That's pretty dang fantastic.
3. Stop working so much. Seriously--stop bringing it home. Or, if you cannot stop bringing it home, set a deadline for how long you'll work on it. For me, that deadline was 10:00 p.m., because that's when I decided I'd finally start going to bed. If it's not done by then, you're just going to do a crappy job on it anyway because if you're anything like me, you'll fall asleep doing it.
4. Remind yourself of your purpose. Why the heck did you get into this profession anyway? Certainly you have reasons for committing yourself to this job. You won't get any thanks from the people around you, so you may as well let that go. You didn't decide to teach for the accolades or for wealth. My whole identity revolves around teaching special education, and that's hard for me to give up because I feel it's my calling. I'm meant to help children and see growth in kids where no one else had any success. Best of all, they tell me they love me, which fills up my heart with joy. What's your purpose? Your reason for doing it all?
5. Read inspirational material. One book that I really enjoyed was Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56 by Rafe Esquith. The Educator's Room also has some good inspirational eBooks to help inspire teachers you can check out.
6. Look for other jobs. This doesn't mean you need to quit teaching or stop working in education, but if you're unhappy where you're at and nothing else works, look elsewhere! You can work at a different school within your district or work for a different school district. Opportunities exist everywhere. Just look and you may find yourself looking for happiness elsewhere. As scary the thought of changing schools might get, I think the scarier thing might be losing your passion for teaching.
The thing is, you and I got into this teaching gig for a reason. Maybe our reasons differ, but it all amounts to the same thing. We want to help children succeed and improve their lives. We care sometimes more than people think we should, but that's part of the reason we became teachers--because we care. Finding your passion again may prove challenging when you're exhausted, so do what you need to do, but don't extinguish the tiny fire that's left inside of you if that fire still exists, even if that means taking your fire with you somewhere else. It's like I tell my students before they take a test, "You got this!"
And if no one else has told you today, thank you for what you do. Because, in the words of Stuart Smalley from old school Saturday Night Live, "You're good enough, you're smart enough, and doggone it, people like you!"