After talking with different teachers in my PLN at the end of this year, I found one common theme- Burnout. While this is not surprising at the end of the year with all that we put into our classroom and students, there are other factors that contribute to it. This post came about because of those conversations and are not associated with any specific known person.
Burnout. We all feel this over the course of the school year, some more than others. We are also victim to colleague’s burnout issues- bullying, apathy, loss of student interest. Burnout is a big cause of the loss of individuals in the teaching field, and most of it isn’t even caused by the pressure of meeting standardized test scores, it’s dealing with peers.
So here are a couple of questions you should ask yourself:
1) Why am I still teaching?
2) Why did I want to become a teacher?
Here’s the thing: if you didn’t say students and learning in either one, teaching might not be the best profession for you.
We are teachers, we have a passion for our chosen discipline and for students. That isn’t enough. Let me say that again, that isn’t enough. We also need to have a passion to help students learn about our discipline, did you catch that “key word”? Help. This brings me to my second point- if you only had the word “I” in your answers, teaching might not be the best profession for you. either. I have heard too many teachers say “I need to share my knowledge.” Wrong. If you are sharing your knowledge, there’s a high chance that you are instructing on an old teaching model called procedural instruction. You tell students what facts you deem necessary and students memorize it and reproduce it on demand. Students do not create any connection with what they do, which causes them problems if they are asked to apply the procedure to something they don’t think it is related to. We have changed, and our teaching needs to change as well. I have also had teachers tell me that they don’t need to change their teaching methods or practices because they only have X years left to retirement, so does that mean you retire on your students for that many years as well? Should they not receive the same passion you gave your first year students?
I recently had a colleague talk with me about CCSS, and he also felt that is was BS. He cited one of the viral problems that has popped up on the web, and did not really think about what it was actually asking students to do. He went on to tell me that an 8th grade teacher supplied her students with drill and kill the whole year and had 100% passing rate on their state assessments- great evidence of how effective it is. The one problem with that, and that I pointed out, is that assessments also need to change, they too are procedural. Doesn’t it make sense if all we are going to assess students on is how many questions they compute correctly that the teaching method that follows that outline performs? Or could it also be that if students do not pass their 8th grade test in that state they do not move on? I have often wondered if MN should have some type of student investment in their testing options. While I know that holding students back increases their chance of dropping out, how would it effect that rate if students knew that they themselves were accountable for their success in learning? But I digress, this isn’t about students- it’s about us. How does this colleague’s thinking align with yours?
If your two answers has changed for the worst, ask yourself why that is. Personal reflection is really important here. You need to be honest with yourself. If the reasons for that change is because of where you work- find a different school. If it is because of co-workers, talk with them. If you can’t come to an understanding with them (and sometimes it takes a long while, but usually you have a good feel if it will ever come about), then you should think about finding another place to work. But if you find that the change is in yourself, then you might not be offering your students the best possible experiences they deserve.
Providing your students the best possible experiences they deserve, that is what our job is. We have the privilege to work with our young adults and provide them with experiences that will shape their future. You are in contact with hundreds of students over the year, think about how devastating that contact could be if you are not in a place or position that your love for learning is not there. If you realize what caused this change and know how to change that path then do not wait a moment longer- go do it. If you know what your problem is but do not know how to go about fixing it, contact a trusted peer and talk with them- find options to become the best you possible. If all else fails, send me a message and I will try to help you out, I am always willing to help.
We need to always be reflective, and the biggest thing we need to reflect on is ourselves. We have a great profession, one that I would be hard pressed to ever give up, and we have a responsibility to make sure we are here for the right reasons- for our students. You may not be their favorite teacher, but you are still regarded with respect and students will model actions and beliefs because of you. Make sure they get the right message about the worth of education, their worth and the worth of their future.