- Staying Within Law: Special Education Teachers and IDEA - September 1, 2020
- Teaching With Minecraft EDU - April 3, 2019
- Self-Care Is Priority One for This Teacher - February 13, 2019
- Preparing Students For Teacher Absences - February 12, 2019
- Respect in the Classroom: Earned, Not Expected - February 11, 2019
- Dissing the Family Crazies: A Christmas Story - January 6, 2019
- Band-Aiding The Mental Health of Our Children - November 23, 2018
- We Must Love Them - November 5, 2018
- Take One For the Team: The Need for Self-Care - August 19, 2018
- The New Teacher Smell - August 19, 2018
I am in my twentieth year of teaching. I know I am doing what I was created to do. I know I am teaching where I need to be teaching. But after two decades of teaching, the ‘B’ word has begun to haunt me: I am burning out.
My dad used to always say if you burn the candle at both ends the flames eventually meet in the middle and there is nothing else for them to do except burn out. I always figured my ends were further apart.
When our publisher had suggested we do a week on teacher burnout, I figured I’d sit this week out and glean from the other writers since I felt like everything I had to say about it would just make it worse. But alas, I am always looking for ways to solve problems so this weekend I did some soul-searching.
I have noticed teacher friends dragging and giving up their timers, podiums and hand pointers for retail jobs, desk jobs and even jobs at convenience stores. These are degreed professionals who used to walk into school with huge smiles ready to change the world. These were teachers who couldn’t wait to attend conferences in order to learn more to take back to the hungry minds of classroom kids. So I’ve asked myself for the past few years, what causes this to happen? What causes accomplished, effective and excited teachers to sag and tarnish over the years?
And now I am in that same position.
As I soul-searched this weekend about what has caused me to embrace an Eeyore attitude, I came up with five reasons for my unhappiness: not feeling appreciated, not being compensated properly for what I do, increased workload and responsibility and not seeing progress happen.
With schools busting at the seams with students and more kids piled into a classroom with very few resources given to teachers to reach those students, it’s so easy to look at the overwhelming amount of paperwork, meetings, and material and not get the ‘atta boys’ and encouragement we so need. WE are the encouragers. WE are the ones that strive to pull potential out of kids. WE are the ones who comfort, listen to and help hurting kids. WE are the ones who are holding it together when everything else is falling apart. But we get to the point of being emotionally drained, and we need someone to encourage and appreciate us. When that doesn’t happen we aren’t able to last on empty for very long.
We all have seen the ‘posted educator’s starting salary’ sheet. And we have all had a good laugh at it. We have all also heard non-teachers make comments about ‘only working half a year’, having summers and holidays ‘off’, getting ‘breaks’ throughout the year and having an ‘easy’ work schedule, while still making ‘good money’. I think I may actually throat punch the next person who says any of the above, due to my burnout leading to unstable behavior. People do not realize what our days entail. They don’t realize that we take work home with us, have meetings and professional development on those so-called ‘days off’, go to conferences and workshops during the summer many of which are on our own time and dime and that we do not punch a clock or get overtime pay.
This leads to the increased workload and responsibility heaped on teachers for IEP meetings, mentor teacher responsibilities, professional development leadership, uncompensated substituting on planning periods; the list goes on and on.
And when all of the above continues to pile up and we are expected to produce stupid test scores from already exhausted students given by beyond exhausted teachers who are now weighed down with school funding depending on performance and we see no progress in our building happening with the goals that were set at the twenty million staff meetings, professional development days and email surveys from the admin building, well you bet we feel like we’ve hit a brick wall.
My already high blood pressure (caused from my job, by the way) just shot up even more, and my acid reflux (also caused by my job) just made me throw up a little in my mouth. And don’t even ask me about my bladder problems.
As I seethed over all of the problems that I have watched happen over the past two decades to my beloved career field, knowing that there isn’t anything I can do to ‘fix’ them, I thought about my health and how I have let these issues become more than just career issues: they’ve begun to take their toll on ME, MY BODY, AND MY RELATIONSHIPS. I never really looked at it that way. I decided I need to change my perspective.
So in this revelation, I have come up with five things that I am going to start doing for myself, with the hope that maybe my ‘burnout’ will begin to suffocate so I can see through the smoke and go back to knowing that I am making a difference one classroom at a time.
I have asked myself already, “Do I feel like I am where I should be, doing what I’m supposed to be doing?” I’ve answered an emphatic “YES” to this, so my first step has been taken.
Now that I have taken the first step, I have decided I am leaving school at school. No more bringing papers home to grade.
No more bringing forms home to fill out. No more consuming my weekends with lesson plans. I plan to shift some items on my schedule around so I can make this happen, not just for me, but for my family. My time management is not strong, so this will be a challenge for me, but I will make it happen.
Next I intend to initiate positive talk with my colleagues. It’s so easy to fall into the ‘misery loves company’ category. From now on the only thing I am going to do is speak positively with other teachers, with the knowledge that positivity can breed positivity. My mantra will be ‘I do not have room for negativity’.
I will be kind to myself. No more staying up late trying to finish projects (see above). No more telling myself that I need to give more. No more volunteering for projects that I KNOW I can’t handle or don’t have time to do, or just flat out don’t want to do. No more sacrificing my health. I have to be well in order to take care of my classroom kids, and even more importantly, to take care of my family.
Finally, I will look at the big picture. Along with negativity comes tunnel vision. I am only as effective as what I can see. If I can only see a glimpse of what I am doing, I get discouraged and begin to feel like I am not making progress. I need to look at the big picture. When we are around the same things day in and day out it is so hard to see the changes. Looking at the big picture will allow me to see the beginning to the end and not just the small changes in between.
I am ready to make a change in my life. I am ready to get back to teaching like I am on fire. I am ready to burn out the ‘burnout’.
What are you planning to do?