Teaching is Stressful

Here's What You Can Do About It

There are people in the general public who think that teachers have an easy job. They have no idea. These are often the same people who can’t wait to send their one or two children back to school after a break. They never stop to think that their kids’ teachers manage 25 to 30 kids all day long five days a week.

 

We are all more stressed today than ever. There are many reasons for this. Just consider what has happened in the last few weeks:

(1) Three category 5 hurricanes that we watched play out on TV with 24-7 coverage including breathtaking rescues.
(2) The ongoing rescue, recovery, and agonizingly slow aid efforts in Puerto Rico along with the Virgin Islands and other territories that may take years to recover.
(3) A 7.1 earthquake in Mexico, and again, we watched breathtaking and sometimes, heartbreaking rescue and recovery efforts.
(4) The largest mass shooting in America’s history (so far) and the never-ending debate about gun control in this country.
(5) Fires that swept through whole neighborhoods in California. Thousands of people have lost their homes, cars, pets, and everything they ever accumulated in their lives. They are starting from scratch.

(6) And if you are a political junky, you can’t stop watching the drama that is playing out in Washington, DC. Regardless of your personal politics, the division and the polarization that has gripped the country is taking a toll on all of us, even if you try to block it out.

It’s almost too much to think about. Yet, think about it, we must. It’s part of our current reality, and unless you live under a rock or in a cave, you cannot be unaffected by it all.

And then there is work. The average professional–not just teachers–finds that work is taking up more and more time and energy. We are all trying to do too many things at once. And even when the clock says it’s time to go home, we often take our work with us. We are also “on call” to respond to email well into the evening unless we decide to say, “no.”

Busy woman trying to do many things at once.

All of these factors impact stress and burnout in teachers and other busy professionals.

Right now, I am just speaking to teachers, however.

 

When teachers call me about burnout, it isn’t always because they are burned out with their students. Most of them admit that they still love their kids. In fact, they will say, “If I could just be left alone to teach, I’d be okay. It’s all the other stuff that I can’t take anymore.”

If you are a teacher, that may sound familiar.

 

Teaching has grown to be a difficult job because of the increased demands upon teachers in general. Again, people in the public have no idea what their child’s teacher does in their time off. And let’s be honest. They don’t care. They are unaware of the hours it takes to prepare for a typical day or lesson. They don’t understand what goes into grading papers. They just don’t get it. And why should they?

 

So, what’s a teacher to do if they are feeling stressed out and overwhelmed with the job with no remedy in sight? If the stress goes unchecked, it may lead to burnout, and burnout could mean changing your whole career path. Wouldn’t it be better if you could find a way to manage your stress and avoid burnout altogether?

 

That is what the next several posts will be about. I will offer suggestions for teachers. These suggestions will include specific tools, techniques, and strategies for managing their stress. These recommendations will help you feel more relaxed and less stressed. They will also help you build physical, mental, and emotional resilience.

Want to know more? Then subscribe to TeachersinDistress.com right now so you can get alerts as the next few posts are offered with tips, techniques, and tools that will help you feel less stressed out and overwhelmed.

If you aren’t sure if you are dangerously stressed or not, I invite you to take a free stress test to check yourself. To download it, click this link: https://kittyboitnott.com/stresstest
Take the test. If you answer 10 or more questions with a “yes,” it’s time for you to seriously consider what you can do to lessen your stress. Stress gone unchecked for too long will make you sick. And you don’t want that.

Again, to get the free stress test, click on the graphic below:

Stress Meter Showing Panic Attack From Stress And Worry

Speaking to the Issue of Teacher Burnout as a Guest on the “Always a Lesson” Podcast

A few months ago, I went in search of people who are offering podcasts related to education, and I found that there are many. In fact, many of them are connected through the Education Podcast Network. I reached out to a number of these individuals and connected with them through LinkedIn so I could follow their work.

In the process, I connected with one young teacher who is passionate about empowering teachers. She offers both a blog and a podcast and is a member of the Education Podcast Network.

Gretchen Schultek Bridgers who offers the podcast, “Always a Lesson” asked if I would be willing to be a guest on her podcast. I was thrilled to do that, and the resulting interview was released just this morning.

If you feel that you may be experiencing the signs or symptoms of burnout, don’t despair. There is hope. Perhaps you will hear something in this podcast that will spark an idea or generate an action plan. I sincerely hope so.

And if you have any questions about what you might be able to do if you decided that teaching isn’t what you want to do anymore, we should talk. Make an appointment for a no-obligation strategy session by using the form to the right of this message. It won’t cost you anything but a little bit of your time, and it may help you decide on next steps in your career.

Enjoy the podcast by clicking here.

Until next time.

Yes, Teachers Do Need Freedom, But Few Feel They Have It

I just read an excellent article by Ashley Lamb-Sinclair in The Atlantic. It is entitled, “Why Teachers Need Their Freedom,” and she describes how she and her co-teacher used some of the techniques offered in a book called Teaching Content Outrageously by Stanley Pogrow. I applaud Ashley for being willing to take a risk. I am sure her students enjoyed the lesson that she described in the article, and I do not doubt that engaging them differently make an impact.

I agree wholeheartedly with the premise that teachers need their freedom when it comes to deciding how to teach effectively. They have been trained, after all, to do just that. The dilemma, of course, is that few teachers feel they have any freedom or autonomy at all.

For them to feel “free,” they would have to break the chains of restraint that most districts are imposing upon them.

 

I talk to teachers every day who feel the restrictions upon them in such a way that they feel chained–strangled, even–by the uncompromising demands made by their administrators.

I have to wonder if Ashley and her co-teacher would have used the lesson described in her article if it had been a day that they were being observed by the principal for evaluation. Perhaps they would have. It would have been instructive for the administrator to see, but somehow I doubt that they would have felt the “freedom” to be that innovative on observation day. I hope I am wrong about that. But even though they might have been bold enough to offer that lesson for administrative observation, I know many teachers who wouldn’t feel that kind of confidence.

In fact, the teachers who call me are talking increasingly about their profound sense of burnout with their jobs. They talk about feeling overly restricted by the demands of the administration to comply with rules that don’t make a lot of sense to them.

Just this week, a teacher who cares deeply about her students said to me, “I feel that I am out of integrity with myself because I am doing things that I don’t even believe are in the best interests of my students.”

She was referring to the endless round of tests that she is required to administer. Learning is taking a back seat to testing. It doesn’t seem to matter to the people in charge of schools these days if any authentic learning is taking place. Everything hinges on how well the students do on their various tests.

 

Student filling out answers to a test with a pencil.

People, in general, like to feel that they have some control in their lives including how they conduct themselves on the job. When you feel that every move is prescripted and every decision is made by someone else, it tears at the individual in a fundamental way. I believe that this is a cause of the rise in teacher burnout that I am witnessing just anecdotally.

The teachers who call me say without exception, “I still love my kids. I love teaching, but it’s all the other stuff I don’t want to do anymore.”

I know how they feel. Part of the reason I left education and started this business is that I could not bring myself to participate in the teaching of arbitrary standards and administering tests that have little real meaning. I long for the days when I was treated like a professional. And most of the people I talk to feel the same way.

I wholeheartedly agreed that teachers DO need their freedom. I wish they had it. I wish they felt like they could declare it for themselves. Few feel that they have that freedom, however. And the result is teacher burnout on the rise.

BURNOUT

 

If you happen to be one of those teachers who feels that your job is causing you undue stress, the first order of business that you should address if your stress level. I invite you to download a free PDF on stress management that offers some simple but effective strategies for managing your stress and becoming more resilient. To get the free report, click here.

 

And if you think you might be suffering from symptoms of teacher burnout, you may also download another free PDF that offers 7 questions that will help you determine if you are burned out and your level of burnout. Get that PDF by clicking here.

 

If you have questions, please feel free to contact me.

Until next time.

A Major Challenge Teachers Face as School is Starting

Sometimes, the hardest thing and the right thing are the same.

I have to say I do not envy teachers who are headed back to school this fall, and for those who are already at it, I hope you are doing okay. What is happening in the country at the moment is hard enough for adults to understand. I cannot imagine trying to explain it to children. Yet, at some point, depending on the age and maturity of the children you teach, you will need to try to explain it.

Most classrooms operate like mini-democracies.

Students are taught basic fundamentals of respect for adults in the room and their classmates. They are told that it isn’t okay to hit, bite, or punch their classmates, although I am told that hitting, biting, and punching is on the rise in some areas. (I was told this by an HR person for a large school district, so I trust it to be an accurate depiction of what is happening in some places.)

Bullying is not allowed in our classrooms. In spite of that basic premise, we are all well aware that bullying has become a national epidemic.

As teachers, we emphasize the importance of fundamental fairness and respect for authority and for one another in our classrooms.

We also teach that facts matter. And (I hope) we teach that history, when ignored, has a bad habit of repeating itself.

We don’t just teach the fundamental curriculum. We teach students the importance of caring and sharing and having empathy for one another.

How in the world does a teacher teach these fundamental concepts to impressionable children when the leaders of the free world–and I am not just talking about the President of the United States but any leader in Congress or any state official who is guilty of arguing on national TV that somehow, two wrongs make a right? Because at the moment, that is exactly what I hear many of them are doing.

I am writing this post because I, for one, am sick and tired of hearing adults argue that just because one group did something wrong it is somehow okay for the other group to do something wrong.

THIS IS WRONG.

Two wrongs do NOT make a right…they make for two wrongs that build on one another and only exacerbate an already bad situation.

As teachers, it is your challenge to somehow communicate that in spite of whatever your students may be hearing on TV or in community discourse, fundamental goodness, honesty, integrity, and justice are not things of the past.

We must keep those concepts alive if we are to survive as a civil and just society. It is imperative that every teacher in the country make this their number challenge for this year.

Please don’t succumb to cynicism.

I know it is easy to get sucked into the nastiness. Please hold yourself above the fray. Please remember that we need you to stay strong. We need you to be good role models for our children.

Don’t give in out of weariness that all this craziness is creating in all of us. You may be the only example of goodness that your children get to see! It is up to you to be a light. It is up to you to bring about an understanding of what civil discourse is all about. It is up to you to try to maintain a cool head in spite of the confusion going on around you.

It is a heavy burden, and I am sorry to lay it on you, but I worry about where we are headed if cooler heads–and kinder hearts–don’t prevail here.

 

Respect/disrespect give and earn respectful a different and other opinion or view

I write this blog for “teachers in distress,” and I am usually writing for those who have considered that maybe they have come to the end of their teaching career. I help those folks figure out what else they might do instead of teaching.

But today’s post is dedicated to those teachers who are showing up in the nation’s classrooms now and in the weeks to come. You must meet the challenge ahead of you. I don’t envy you, but I am glad you are there. Your children need you. Your country needs you.

Equality Rights Balance Fair Justice Ethics Concept

 

Whether you teach civics or history or math…whether you teach 5th grade or kindergarten…we need you to be the voice of reason. We need you to bring a sense of balance and justice and ethical decision-making to your job every single day. We need you to teach your children about fairness and individual rights. We need you to do all of these things.

Thank you for being a teacher. I appreciate you more than you can possibly know and today more than ever.

Until next time.

 

 

It’s “Back to School” Time!

Back to School

It’s “Back to School” time! Sales for school supplies, school clothes and shoes have all started. Even if the school doesn’t start for you until after Labor Day, you have already started thinking about going back, I bet.

In my last post, I recommended that if you are a teacher and you are contemplating your return to school for another year, it may be a good idea to do a “gut check.”

After writing about that, I had teachers tell me that they literally feel sick to their stomachs when they contemplate going back for another year.

That isn’t good.

Here is what I know for sure.

If you go back with an attitude that you are just hanging on by your fingernails, your kids will sense it. You aren’t going to be having any fun, and neither are they.

It bothers me that teacher burnout seems to be on the upswing. After all, if everyone left teaching all of a sudden, what would happen to our kids? Who would teach them?

On the other hand, if you are a teacher who is experiencing the pain and heartache of burnout, it is a cinch that you aren’t doing your best work anymore, and you owe it to your kids to either get your burnout handled or look for something else to do.

Taking care of the burnout may be the simplest approach. Have you taken advantage of the free e-book I wrote a couple of years ago on stress management? If not, I invite you to take a look at it. It is a simple, straightforward approach to 7 strategies for managing stress more effectively and proactively. Burnout is the result of stress gone unmanaged for too long.

Take a look at the book and download it by clicking here:  http://kittyboitnott.leadpages.co/ebook.

Stressed, Stretched, and Just Plain                               Overwhelmed ebook

If you aren’t sure if you are experiencing burnout, perhaps you would benefit from checking out my free 7 Signs of Teacher Burnout Assessment. To download the assessment for free, click here:  https://kittyboitnott.leadpages.co/7-signs-of-teacher-burnout/.

If your burnout goes beyond needing simple stress management techniques, it may be time to explore other career alternatives. As a Career Transition and Job Search Coach, I specialize in helping teachers who are feeling burned out explore their career options.

For many teachers, just knowing that you have options helps alleviate some of the sense of being stuck where you aren’t happy anymore.

So, I urge you to take note of how you feel as you consider going back to school this fall. If you are excited and looking forward to it, good for you.

If you are filled with dread at the prospect, it may be time to get help. Contact me by visiting my website at TeachersinTransition.com.

Sign up for a complimentary Discovery Session. I would love to talk with you to see if I can help.

Until next time.

 

Gut Check: Attention Teachers — Are You Excited about Going Back to School?

 

Gut Check Intuition Hunch Instinct Box Mark 3d Illustration

Gut check

 

Summer is flying by! The fourth of July is already a memory.

 

Perhaps you still have that summer vacation to the beach ahead of you. You still have a lot of summer left! But if you are a teacher, I bet you have already begun to think going back to school.
I urge you to take a gut check right now. When you think about going back, are you excited?
Are you eager to get back into the building so you can start arranging your room?
Are you the teacher who goes in early on your own time to put up bulletin board displays?
Did you buy the bulletin board displays with your own money at the local school supply store?
I used to do that. I used to be that teacher. I loved school.
In fact, I loved my job! I never dreaded a single day of work once I made it through my first year. That first year is another story, but I survived it and made it through 32 more years. Not that everything was always peachy-keen. Every school has its challenges after all.
All in all, however, I had a great time as a teacher/library media specialist. Truth be told, I had the best job in the building. I loved being the school librarian. It was the perfect job for me.
 The best days to be a teacher, however, were before the politicians began to meddle in our schools.
Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t have anything against being held accountable for doing a good job. I think everyone should have annual or bi-annual reviews of their performance.
And I think principals should be honest with those teachers who need to step it up. If a teacher isn’t doing a good job, I hold the principal responsible for that.
It is the principal’s job to evaluate honestly and provide honest feedback. Too often, they are too busy, though. They just check the boxes without having done a proper observation.
I know this because it happened to me…a lot!
I went through several evaluations without the principal ever observing me. That should not happen. But it did…too often.
That is probably why the politicians felt like they had to step in in the first place. They observed that teachers they knew weren’t doing a good job and came up with a scheme for evaluating.
The scheme they came up with is flawed, however. I don’t buy into holding teachers accountable for things outside their control. Using arbitrary benchmarks that have nothing to do with real teaching and learning is ludicrous. Tying those arbitrary test scores to a teacher’s evaluation is wrong. It is harmful to all concerned, and the entire system is suffering for it.

School has become less about learning and all about testing.

Something is wrong with that whole picture.
Yet, teachers have been powerless to do anything about it. In fact, they are increasingly powerless to do anything of their own accord.
Would those in the public sector accept similar accountability measures for themselves? Let’s create some arbitrary performance figure for them to meet. Then let’s throw in a bunch of variables that they have no control over. How would that go over? Not well, I imagine.
But I digress. Believe it or not, this is not a post about testing or accountability.

It’s about you as a teacher doing a gut check to see how you feel about going back this year.

If you are excited and can’t wait to start a new year, that is awesome! I hope you have the best year ever!
If you are feeling a sense of dread, though, you need to take note. If you feel a heaviness in your heart every time you consider going back, it may be time for you to consider a change.
Worried woman with book

Unhappy Teacher

It is probably too late in the summer for you to find a new job that pays you commensurate to what you are making now. I don’t recommend that you quit your teaching job without having something to go to.
But if you are dreading going back to school and it’s only early July, it may be time to explore what your options may be.
I always urge people to plan their next move carefully. Don’t be impulsive. Don’t quit your job in a huff. You may need a good recommendation from your principal someday.
But you should think about planning your future. You don’t have to stay stuck in a job you don’t love anymore.
Stuck Inside the Box

Stuck?

Your options may be more varied than you think! I know a lot of teachers think they are stuck with teaching because they are “just a teacher.”
Most of the teachers I know are pretty smart, however. Many of them have talents that are being underutilized. In fact, your current sense of discontent may be the result of your feeling that you could be doing “more” in your career
You should open yourself to possibilities. Let yourself consider what options you may have.
If you aren’t excited about going back to school this year you may want to schedule a chat with me. Sign up for a complimentary 20-minute Discovery Session. It won’t cost you anything but your time. Just click on this link to schedule a time that works for you:
And check out my free giveaway, “7 Signs of Teacher Burnout.” You may find it useful in assessing the level of your discontent with teaching. Click here to download it instantly: https://kittyboitnott.lpages.co/7-signs-of-teacher-burnout/
If you aren’t sure what your dream job might be, download this additional giveaway. It’s entitled, “What is Your Dream Job?” It may help you consider what you else you are called to do. To download it instantly, click here:  https://kittyboitnott.lpages.co/what-is-your-dream-job/

If teaching is still your dream job, that is wonderful!

We need dedicated teachers who want to stick with the profession. The more experienced you are, the better!
For those who are feeling the ill effects of teacher burnout, however, here is what you need to know. If you aren’t having fun anymore, your kids aren’t enjoying themselves–or you–either.
Kids deserve to have teachers who are 100% committed to them. If you have started to feel that your future as a teacher is limited, we should talk. I want to help you discover the world beyond teaching that you may not even know exists.
Until next time.

 

The Doctor Prescribes Summer Vacation to Treat Teacher Burnout

If you are a teacher, you will recognize the truth of this statement:  Summer vacation is the best medicine for treating teacher burnout.

dog sunbathing

Many people–those who have never taught and don’t know a teacher well–don’t appreciate that teachers can suffer from burnout. They think you have a great job. One such insensitive soul recently wrote to me, “Teacher burnout? No other profession had one day off for every day worked! And many of those work days end at 3 PM.”

This individual has never taught a day in his life. Nor does he know or care about a teacher.

From the outside looking in, people think teachers have it easy, though. They don’t understand all of the work that goes into planning, grading, department meetings, faculty meetings, professional development meeting, IEP meetings, parent-teacher meetings, etc., etc., etc.

They don’t appreciate that when you are a teacher, you take on the burdens of your students. Because you care about them, you do everything in your power to help them. You face multiple challenges a day. By the time summer comes around, you need–and deserve–a break.

The teacher on summer vacation will feel carefree for the first time in months. They take charge of their own schedule. They can relax and read when, whatever, and where they want. They can meet friends over leisurely lunches.

There are no lesson plans to prepare and no papers to grade. They have no parents to call and no principals to please for the next eight to ten weeks, and it feels heavenly.

I know this because I was a teacher and school librarian for over 30 years. I experienced the freedom of summer vacations a few years during that time. Most summers, I wound up working because I needed the income. I still recall the lazy days of summer during the vacations I was able to take, however.

Unfortunately, summer vacations are partly responsible for keeping teachers stuck in the profession long after it feels satisfying. Over the summer months, it is easy to forget the frustration of the previous year. By mid-summer, when school supplies go on sale, most teachers start to look forward to the beginning of the new year.

This is partly why teachers stick with teaching even when they are deeply unhappy. I have written about the cycle that keeps teachers stuck in this blog.

If you are a teacher who has complained about your job for the bulk of the past school year, you need to take a look at that post. Letting summer vacation lull you into inaction delays what may be inevitable. If you are a teacher who thinks that you have made a wrong career choice or that you are ready for a different choice, I recommend that you don’t wait. Start investigating your career alternatives now. Consider what your dream job would be if it isn’t teaching after all.

“Dream Job” is written in the sand.

I recently hosted a webinar about how to create a plan for leaving teaching, and one of the participants commented that she wished she had started making her plan five years ago. It reminded me that there is no time like now.

In fact, it reminded me of the adage that the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The next best time is now.

You can’t change the past. You can’t predict the future. You only have now. You get to choose how to handle the present.

Your dream job does not have to remain a dream. We currently live in an emerging economy where people are creating their own jobs every single day. They are retooling themselves. They are recreating themselves. I did it. You can too!

I am excited at the possibility that we are on the cusp of a new economic era. One in which people are doing more of what they love. They are creating work for themselves that they not only love and feel satisfied doing, but they are contributing to the world in a meaningful way. It is possible. Millions of people of doing it right now. You can too, if that is what you want.

Enjoy your summer vacation. You deserve it. You earned it. But don’t let the time slip away when you could be looking into your various options.

Truth is, you may decide that teaching is what you were meant to do, and you will decide to stick with it. Making that decision will help you will feel more empowered than you did before. You will feel more in control of your own professional destiny.

If you decide that teaching has lost its attraction to you, however, there are many other things you can pursue instead. You just have to be open to looking into them.

If you are open to examining your alternatives, you may be interested in a free guide on the 10 things you should consider if you think you are ready to make a job or career change.

Get this 95-page guide on the 10 specific considerations you may or may not have thought of and how to deal with them. Click here to get your FREE copy.

If you haven’t looked for a job for a while, there is a lot you don’t know and haven’t thought of. This guide will help you avoid some costly mistakes.

Do you need help looking for your next career opportunity? Why not try out a 20-minute complimentary Discovery Session? Just click here for my calendar. I would love to chat with you about your possibilities.

Kitty J. Boitnott, Ph.D., NBCT, RScP is a former educator and Past President of the Virginia Education Association. After over three decades teaching and advocating for public education, she retooled and reinvented herself. She became a Certified Life Strategies and Stress Management Coach and a Career Transition & Job Search Coach trained by a nationally known career expert. Kitty specializes in helping teachers who are suffering from teacher burnout. She is the owner and CEO of Boitnott Coaching, LLC and the founder of TeachersinTransition.comTeachersinDistress.Wordpress.com, andKittyatCareerMakeover.CoachesConsole.com.

Not sure is you are experiencing teacher burnout? Check yourself with this free checklist. Click here:  :  https://kittyboitnott.leadpages.co/7-signs-of-teacher-burnout/

Business man in office with burnout syndrome at desk

Teacher feeling burnout.

In addition to one-on-one coaching, Kitty provides training and workshops on stress management for educators and busy professionals who need to learn how to better manage the stress in their lives in addition to career transition counseling and job search advice.

Work should be fulfilling and FUN! If you aren’t living the life and working at the job or career of your dreams you need to consider what changes needed to be made. Contact Kitty for a Discovery Session now.

A Little R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Are you familiar with the Aretha Franklin song from 1967, “RESPECT?”  I was 15 years old when it hit the airwaves. I loved that song just as much I loved the artist, the legendary “Queen of Soul.”

It occurs to me that a little respect is what teachers need these days.

I started feeling the slippage of respect for my chosen profession as early as the early 1980’s. Salaries for teachers had already taken a huge hit because of the recession of the 70’s. And in my state, at least, teacher salaries never caught up with the rest of the economy.

Salaries are one way the public displays its lack of respect for teachers. For those who have never taught but think it looks like an easy gig, the salary may even seem inflated. After all, teachers only work “half of the year” which is what one misguided gentleman told me in a Facebook exchange a few days ago. They get their summers off, and they only work 6 hours a day if you only count the face time spent with kids.

But here is the thing that non-teachers don’t understand. You can’t only count the hours spent with kids. A teacher’s duties begin with hours and hours of planning. After the lesson plan has been executed, there are more hours spent in grading and assessing. Then there is more planning to do, not to mention endless meetings and requirements for professional development credit along the way.

respect

Lack of respect from the public is one thing. In recent years, the lack of respect has become more personal. Students disrespect their teachers, and so do their parents.

When I was a child, my father taught me that if I was anywhere where he wasn’t, I was to listen to and respect the adult in charge. If I was on the school bus, that meant I was to listen to and respect the bus driver. If I happened to be at school, that person would be the teacher or the principal. Failing to respect the adult in charge would yield negative consequences.

I always respected my teachers, even when I didn’t always like them. I never talked back…not once. I sometimes disobeyed by talking too much or not paying attention when I should, but if I got caught behaving poorly, I knew better than to complain about it at home. I took my punishment.

It doesn’t work that way anymore. No one respects anyone anymore. We are worse off culturally and socially for it, it seems to me, too. This lack of respect for people and institutions is worrisome. It is doubly worrisome in our schools.

Teachers can’t teach, and children cannot learn if the classroom is in chaos. I know that teachers sometimes possess poor classroom management techniques. It is easy to distinguish the ones who do from the ones who don’t. Stand outside any classroom. Tell-tell signs include yelling, threatening, and a general impression of disorder.

Even the best teachers have trouble with classroom behavior these days, though. I had dinner with a colleague recently. She may be one of the best teachers I have ever known. She shared that she had just had the “worst day of her entire career.”

Pupils running wild in classroom at the elementary school

She had subbed that day. The 3rd graders to whom she had been assigned didn’t have a routine yet–and it was mid-March. She knew she was in for a bad day by 8:30 that morning. She made it through the full day but swore she would never go back to that school or that classroom.

One has to wonder, though. Is the problem with the teacher alone? Or is part of the problem that children are no longer taught to respect the adult in the room anymore? Do they respect their parents? Do they respect anything or anyone?

What I know for sure is that there is a price to pay for not having children respect teachers. In fact, teaching as a profession already feels outdated. It is fast becoming “just a job.”

I am concerned that classrooms of the future are going to run by people who in it for the short term. Teaching will be seen as a temp job until they decide to go back to law school or start a family or start their own business.

I dread that day, but I have to admit, I see it coming. As respect diminishes for teachers and the profession, I see it coming faster and faster.

Until next time.

Photos by Depositphotos.com

A New Resource for Teachers Headed for Burnout

I am always 41sobhp5rl-_ac_us160_looking for information on teacher burnout. Not coincidentally, there are an increasing number of resources available because teacher burnout is on the rise.

The most recent gem I found is a new book entitled, First Aid for Teacher Burnout:  How You Can Find Peace and Success, by Jenny Grant Rankin. I wrote a review for Amazon just this morning, and this is what I offered:

“I appreciated this book and the author’s approach to teacher stress and burnout very much. Dr. Rankin provides proactive suggestions for readers, and her research on the subject is impeccable. I found only a couple of suggestions to be slightly off the mark. For example, submitting an anonymous note to the administration is suggested as a tactic for “avoiding drama.” As a former educator who witnessed lots of drama that resulted from an anonymous note turned into my administration (a note I did not write), I believe that tip is particularly ill-advised. That reservation aside, the book is extremely well-organized, and I believe it would be a great resource for teachers who may feel that they are heading for burnout but are not quite there yet. The strategies may prove to be “too little too late” for those who have had that final moment of reckoning when they realize that teaching is not the profession it used to be. Dr. Rankin’s experience as a teacher and educator herself provides credibility to her advice, and I will recommend this book to my clients as a good resource for those needing strategies to ward off a complete break from the profession.”

I was impressed by the depth of the research Dr. Rankin did in preparing this book, and she has organized it in such a way that it can easily become a workbook for teachers individually or collectively in a study group. She offers numerous strategies and tips for handling the stress and overwhelm that increasingly go with teaching.

Many of the strategies are sound, and she is right in offering that some of the stress a teacher feels is sometimes self-imposed. Teachers who are perfectionistic or true Type A personalities often go the extra mile until they have run out of gas, and then they can’t go any longer. Those are the ones who are leaving in greater and greater numbers because they have just run out of the enthusiasm they once felt for the profession.

I hear from an increasing number of teachers every day who have hit that point. This book might have helped them had they found it much earlier, but it is too late for many of them. The ones who have hit the point of no return won’t find solace in this resource, but those who are just approaching burnout and need some solid strategies for cutting back on their workload or developing a different mindset about their situation may find it helpful.

If you have hit the point of no return and feel that leaving teaching is the only option left to you, there is help available. You can seek out the resources of your college or university. Most offer their alumni some level of career counseling and services.

And then, there is the option of hiring a career coach. There are plenty to choose from, so I suggest you do your homework and check them out. You need to find someone with whom you can relate and who will understand exactly where you are coming from.

Let’s be honest…some people don’t understand why you are unhappy with your teaching career. Perhaps you are even having a difficulty explaining it to your spouse or your family members. They may think you have it easy. You only work 9 months a year (a myth), and you have your summers off (unless you have to work to supplement your income or go back to school to keep your licensure current). You only work from 7:30-2:30 (another myth), and you have every holiday off (probably accurate unless you have a second job) with pretty decent benefits compared to those in the private sector (sometimes accurate, sometimes not, depending upon where you work).

Given all these perks, what’s not to like about teaching? That is what they may be thinking.

They can’t possibly understand or appreciate the degrading way you may be treated by your inexperienced or incompetent administration.

They can’t imagine that you can’t deal with 35 kids in your classroom built for 25, many of whom can’t speak English or have a variety of learning disabilities.

They don’t understand why you have to buy most of your own materials like pencils and paper and bulletin board supplies. Why isn’t the school supplying all of those things?

They can’t fathom that your classes have gotten so large you don’t have enough books to go around.

And on top of all of that, you must adopt a new initiative every few months whether it makes sense for kids or not because someone who hasn’t been in a classroom for years thinks it might be the next “silver bullet” that will make your kids suddenly top test takers.

So much is broken in our system right now that I think I may have to write my own book.

The point is that if you can find someone who understands what you are experiencing, and they are in a position to help you figure out what your options are, then you should latch on to that person and don’t let go.

Life is just too short to spend a single day of it feeling miserable.

That is why I decided to become a career coach and counselor to teachers instead of returning to a middle school classroom to teach English after my term at the Virginia Education Association ended in 2012. I had burned myself out on that job and had nothing of value to offer energetic (and often drama-ridden) pre-teens whom I knew were much different from the 6th graders I taught from 1977-1980. I just couldn’t make myself go back. I didn’t want to spend one day of the rest of my life feeling that I wasn’t performing in a career that lit me up and made me feel good about myself. So I took charge of my career.

Everyone deserves to be able to that for themselves. So, if you are just beginning to experience twinges of burnout, get Dr. Rankin’s book. If you are already at the point of burnout, take a look at my website to see if you can find a resource there that might help.

I reinvented and retooled myself for a new career, and I have helped others do the same. The hardest part may be giving yourself permission to leave teaching while also giving yourself the permission to consider an alternative career. After all, if all you have always wanted to be was a teacher, making the decision to leave is scary. After making that decision, deciding on a path and having the courage to take the necessary steps to get you where you want to go is not easy, but it is so worth it in the long run.

I started out on my new career adventure 4 years ago this month. I have never regretted my decision, and my new mission in life is to help others find the same satisfaction in their lives that I have found in mine.

Sometimes the biggest obstacle holding you back is YOU.

This is a new year. What do you want to be doing a year from now? If you want your life to be different, you will have to start behaving differently. Why not start now?

Until next time.

 

 

The Cycle that Keeps Many Teachers Stuck

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The career of teaching is unique in that it is one of the only jobs of which I know that allows you to complete a  full cycle, experience a period of rest and practically complete separation from the job, and then the start of a brand new cycle each year. If there is any job like that other than that of a college professor, I don’t know of it.

The school year in most parts of the country starts around August or September and ends in May or June, allowing students and teachers alike a full 6-8 weeks away before coming back and starting the cycle again.

The cycle that is embedded in the typical school calendar is part of what keeps teachers stuck–sometimes for years. They hang on from vacation to vacation. And certain specific emotions accompany each part of the year.

For example, at the beginning of the year, there is a certain sense of anticipation that is almost palpable. In fact, for a few weeks before the first day of school, the excitement mounts as school supplies appear on store shelves and preparation for the new year goes into high gear. Teachers and students alike enjoy the first day of school and the ensuing first few weeks. Eventually, however, the honeymoon period wears off as the routine of day-to-day school activities get under way.

In general, teachers are just as excited as the kids the first few weeks of school. If it is a “good year,” the teacher will count his or her blessings, and the year will proceed in without much incident.

If it is a “bad year,” however, that is another story. What constitutes a “bad year?” Teachers will know the answer to this question, but for those who haven’t experienced it, let me recount what a “bad year” was like for me back when I was starting my 2nd year of teaching.

There are 180 school days in the school year for my state not including teacher workdays and holidays. One hundred and eighty days of students.

I started my countdown on day #179.

I remember telling myself as I drove into my apartment complex after the 2nd day of school, “Only 178 more days.” That was 40 years ago…I remember it like it was yesterday.

Why was it a “bad year?” I didn’t have “bad” kids. In fact, on paper, they should have been a dream class! They were all bright with IQ’s hovering around 120, and they were all from nice, middle-class families. In fact, they were all in the band, so they had that in common. They were also incredibly poorly behaved with little or no impulse control, even for 6th graders.

I had a set of twins who were so similar that the only way I was able to tell them apart was the color of their tennis shoes. One of them forged his mom’s signature on a homework assignment…so I had to call Dad about that. Dad didn’t question that the twins were a handful. What he questioned was whether I had the experience I needed to manage them. (He was right to wonder given my relative inexperience.)

Another one of my students that year was like the Charlie Brown character, “Pig Pen.” He traveled with a cloud of chaos and clutter around him all of the time. His desk always looked like it had just exploded papers from who knows where. Maneuvering around his desk was impossible because his books, book bag, coat…and everything else he owned…was strewn in the aisles around him. He was a sweet kid, but I bet today wherever he is, he has left a trail of clutter in his wake. He could not seem to help himself.

I had another student who would occasionally sit on the floor and rock back and forth, hitting his head on the radiator. Nothing would console him when he was in one of these moods, and class would come to a screeching halt while I tried lamely to calm his ragged nerves over whatever the distress of the moment happened to be.

Another student…Richard…never stopped talking! He was extremely good-natured, likable, and entertaining…he is probably very successful today and a leader somewhere…but he was physically unable to restrain himself from talking…so I put him next to me at my desk so I could keep him close to me and away from his neighbors. It didn’t work.

I had yet another student in that class who was such a contrarian that if I had said the sky was blue, he would have wanted to argue that it was green instead.

The point is that this class never gelled into the highly functioning group I wanted them to be…the way the class I had the year before had or the way the group I had the year after did. There was always some drama going on with them, and teaching them English and Language Arts was more than a little challenging.

It didn’t help that the teacher they had before me went out on sick leave around the middle of October, and their long-term sub was too easy going and didn’t have the classroom management skills needed for the group. Neither did I given that I was still new and still learning. But that is what I mean by a “bad year.”

During a “bad year,” things just don’t as well as you might like. What keeps most teachers going is that for every “bad year” they might have, they will usually have a couple of “good years.” At least that was the case for me. I had a great group the year before and the year after. In all of my 33 years as a practitioner, I only had that one really “bad year.”

That doesn’t mean that the rest of my professional career was perfect, however. I was often frustrated with the low pay and the lack of respect I felt people had for my chosen profession. At one point, I even sought out a career counselor to investigate other types of work that I might do. Finding nothing suitable, I decided to go for my Master’s degree instead. If I was going to stay in education, I thought I should at least maximize my earnings.

Each year for the full 33 years of my career, I experienced the same cycle of excitement about the first of the year, sometimes feeling tired and frustrated as early as October and early November, hoping for a long weekend over the Thanksgiving break. I decided that you can do almost anything no matter how tired or sick or frustrated you are for the few weeks between Thanksgiving and the Winter Break. The New Year represented another fresh start, and then we would get into the slog of February and early March. I would start to look forward to Spring Break. Then, toward the end of my career, we started the testing season around the time of Spring Break. Testing season consumes all else. In my last school, the anxiety around the spring state tests was palpable. The school had been an at-risk school at one point, and each year, the fear was that the kids wouldn’t make the cut this year. I was there for eight years, and that fear never went away.

Once we got through the testing season, it was downhill to summer vacation. And that is the cycle that teachers typically experience.

This is also the cycle that I believe keeps teachers stuck in a profession that may or may not serve them any longer. Matthew Boomhower sums it all up pretty well in his blog post, “Emotional Stages of a Teacher’s Career.”

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The point is that when I talk with teachers who are feeling the painful symptoms of burnout by the time they are into year 9 (or 18)–they can relate to this cycle. It is the cycle that has kept them coming back year after year until they decide they just can’t do it anymore.

If you are suffering from those symptoms of burnout (and if you aren’t sure, you should down the free checklist of 7 signs of teacher burnout here), you should acknowledge them and consider if you can continue in the profession or if it is time to consider alternatives.

If you aren’t sure, you should check out my presentation on the 7 Signs of Teacher Burnout. You might find the information useful. I hope so.

So, if you can relate to this cycle, let me know. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Let me acknowledge that I know not all teachers feel the symptoms of burnout, and I am glad that is the case. Our students need and deserve teachers who want to work with them and be with them. I am concerned about the teacher who has hit the point of no return and is having such a miserable time of it that all he/she can think any more is “there must be more that I can do than this.”