I have spent most of the last three weeks feeling as though I am failing miserably in all aspects of my life. I am not sure why the weight of failure continues to lay heavy on my shoulders; no one has criticized me specifically, I haven’t had any major disasters professionally or personally, and for the most part I have juggled the many balls I have in the air without too much struggle but yet it still doesn’t feel like enough. I made the short drive home last Friday night (Friday the 13th and a full moon…wow) exhausted and defeated from a long week and thought to myself, “this is why teachers get burnt out”.
I spent the weekend with teacher burn out on my mind and although I had already made a week’s worth of plans and copies knew it was time to throw it all out the window and find some lessons that would help reignite my passion for teaching this week and help me remember all the reasons why I love what I do. Thankfully we are in the middle of ratio and proportions in 7th grade math and with the help of the wonderful folks at Mathalicious I was able to spend the first two days of this week falling in love with my classroom all over again. We spent Tuesday comparing Lebron James’ salary to the average teacher’s (the kids were ready to start a Go Fund Me account for teachers by the end) and today we learned all about how long the average person’s life is and how many days we spend doing various tasks (we spend over 9,000 days of our life sleeping!).
It was fun watching the kids spark for mathematics come back and their engagement in class increase from the use of these real-world lessons but a quote from today’s lesson about time really brought me back to the idea of teacher burn out. We spend over 1/3 of our life or about 10,000 days at work and according to the video we watched, “that is why it is so important to find something you love to do”. I kept coming back to those words over and over again and asking myself, do I really love teaching, and if so why do I feel so burnt out?
The answer to that question is complex but important. Good teachers don’t burn out because they don’t love teaching. Good teachers love teaching so much that it keeps them coming back day after day in spite of everything going on around them. Good teachers don’t burn out because there are too many papers to grade, kids to love, or lessons to plan.
Good teachers burn out because they aren’t given enough time to do the very thing that brought them to the profession; teaching kids.
Good teachers burn out because they are required to spend more time assessing kids to prepare them for state and national assessments than they get to spend teaching.
Good teachers burn out because the message sent by political and education leaders is that real change comes at the district, state, and national level rather than recognizing the magic that happens in the trenches everyday in America’s classrooms.
Good teachers burn out because each time they turn on the news they are forced to hear about charter schools, vouchers, and the privatization of schools rather than support of the work they pour their hearts into every day.
Good teachers burn out because they continue to try and teach more and more children each year with less and less funding.
Good teachers burn out because they are asked to selflessly give their time, money, and resources unlike any other profession.
Good teachers burn out for a lot of reasons but none of them involve not loving the 30+ faces that stare at us each day in classrooms across America. Good teachers need the time, support, and resources to keep falling in love with teaching every day. They deserve work days filled with inquisitive kids, interesting lessons, and confidence in their professional judgement and ability instead of being focused on politics, lack of resources, and accountability models. Good teachers deserve the chance to be good teachers.