Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Burned-Out? Please Reignite the Flame Or Get Out the Kitchen!

Usually what happens on Linkedin, stays on Linkedin, but this discussion topic warranted a post.  A teacher started a discussion regarding 50+ educators and survival tips. Many, many 50+ educators responded with wonderful, positive, ideas and comments about what they do in order to "survive" teaching. As a matter of fact, the responses weren't even those of educators who are just "surviving". Most of the teachers who responded, like me, are still passionate about teaching.

Somewhere along the line of reading the comments, one of the comments really bothered me, and this was my general response:

I think, as a teacher, when you reach the point where you can't stand your job, you should find something else to do. I know it sounds harsh, but we are dealing with children. This past year was really difficult with a new thing being thrown at us every day, but I have not lost my passion for teaching. Imagine your child or grandchild sitting in a room where the teacher is miserable.
And I refuse to hold my kids accountable for the actions of their parents. If their parents don't care, that means I shouldn't care about them? I know it's hard in the teaching profession right now, a lot of the public hates us, standardized testing, charter schools, class size, you name it. But if you don't like what you do, when working with children, maybe it is time to get out of the classroom.


Of course, the teacher I was thinking of  when I wrote this response, wrote a direct comment berating me. But as I stated to her,  in a friendly sort of way, I stand by what I said. I know the economy is bad right now. I know people still have mortgages to pay. I know there is a ton of crap being thrown at us every day, from every angle, from people who don't have a clue of what it means to be an educator.  If you have 3-5 years left until retirement inputting data , it's not that bad. But, we deal with human beings, children, we deal with children!

I am no saint. If you've read my posts on Blogger or Wordpress, you know I get angry at my kids, their parents, administration, and heck, even President Obama.  Each day in my school is not sunshine and roses. But, I get over it, and I find a way, ready to do what I said I was going to do, educate our children! Most of the time, most of the time, I am patient, loving, and passionate about what I do.

Can you imagine what it's like being stuck in the room with a teacher who is miserable? He or she has no real interest in teaching? Those poor kids! Parents in the know tell the principal not to put their kid in that class. Parents insist their kids be pulled out in the middle of the year. The strategy for teaching is "death by worksheet", and no real learning takes place in the classroom. The teacher is miserable, and doesn't care who knows it, teachers, parents, and most of all, her students.

My first year of teaching, I had a principal who was retiring in a year. The teachers would come in and sit on the desks in the front office, drinking coffee. He would go in his office and close the door all day. There was no interaction with the students and staff, he was just waiting it out.  From what I heard, he used to be a great principal, but he was done by the time I got there.

I read a post the other day, "You Are a Difference Maker!", and I posted the link as one of the comments on Linkedin.  The quote in this post by Haim Ginot moved me. "I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration."

 If you are burned out, and your only thought each day is how much you hate your job, how much of yourself will you give to your students? Do those kids a favor, get help.  Please find a way to reignite the flame or think about getting out the kitchen.

17 comments:

  1. Wow...I loved this and I wish more people would follow your advice. There so many people teaching that treat it like a job instead of a career or calling. They do the bare minimum of everything and it drives me catastrophically crazy because I can't really do much to shift their just get by mentality. They make those of us who care look bad and I'm tired of the press berating us for the actions of the less committed.

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    1. I really think that those kind of people think there is something wrong with those of us who care.:)As far as the press, I don't think they differentiate, we're all lumped in the same barrel!

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  2. Unfortunately, there are some teachers out there who are decades away from retirement who behave this way, too. It is sad and frustrating to have to work with them. Can't they see what they are doing to their students? I realize that we all have bad days and that sometimes those days can even stretch into weeks. I'm sure most of us have even had "one of those years". However, even during those times we still had that ember burning inside of us and never just gave up on the students.

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    1. You are right Danya, I know one. She is so negative, and the sad part is, she takes pride in her negativity! She wears it like a badge of honor!

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  3. Unfortunately there are teachers who are decades away from retirement who behave like this, too. It is miserable to work with them, but worse than that, it's miserable to see the faces of the students in their class.

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  4. That is a wonderful post. You make a good point about educators being able to make such an important difference in the atmosphere of their classrooms and schools. It is very important to find a way to keep your passion to inspire strong. I don't know how long it will take for me to need a booster to rejuvenate myself, I guess it could happen at any time. However, those who are just counting down the days until retirement I think have lost the dreams they had when they first decided to go into education to begin with. As they say, "you don't become a teacher to become rich".

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    1. Thank you Dale! I agre. In this profession, we all need to find a way to rejuvenate ourselves, or teaching just becomes old and stale, and our students suffer.

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  5. Hi Lisa,
    I have been a part of this discussion on Linkedin and have been bothered by the comments of one teacher who is so negative. I have gone to the forum several times to post a response to her, but left without doing so. Well today I posted my response to her. I thought I'd shared it here for your readers as well. Thank you for speaking your mind and sticking to your beliefs.

    It saddens me that you work in such dismal conditions where you are blaming everyone and everything else for your unhappiness. There are thousands of teachers working in very similar or even worse conditions then you have described across the United States and the world. They teach children of severe poverty, from families who look at school as a baby sitting service, with principals who are abysmal leaders and they still retain their passion for teaching. They go into their classrooms where supplies might be scare, the children may be hungry and scared, others around them are full of negativity, and still manage to make it a great place of learning for the children that have been entrusted to them.

    I worked with a teacher for a few years who was so negative that every time I saw her headed in my direction, I headed the other way. I couldn't eat lunch in the teacher's lounge when she was there because her constant complaining made my stomach hurt. I finally looked at her one day and said, "If you are that miserable here, you need to find a job somewhere else. " Well to say she was shocked would be an understatement. But somewhere in her very negative brain something seeped in because not only did she leave our school, she decided to leave the profession.

    I am spending my last few weeks of summer vacation getting my supplies and lessons ready. I am on Twitter and attending webinars like crazy to glean all of the wonderful ideas I can to try in my classroom this year. I have already been to school and set up my classroom for the coming year. And I go to bed each night with sweet dreams of entering my classroom and seeing the wonderful kids who will greet me as I start my thirty-seventh year as an educator - one who had the option to retire, but didn't because I LOVE what I do.

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    1. Love your response Paula! And like I said, so may of the comments were positive, but this teacher...Grrr! It made me so angry because all I could think about were those kids who sit in her room, year after year, knowing she can't stand them!

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  6. And all God's people said Amen! :)

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  7. I've only been teaching for 26 years and I do find myself railing against the inequities and injustices of being a teacher .... Public opinion... Continued cuts in pay and benefits while being told- not asked or even allowed to be a part if the educational decision-making- to add new programs and responsibilities....to constantly work on behalf of other hardworking, dedicated teachers whose commitment to the children in their class is absolute...to deal with administrators who view teachers as employees and not professionals because that's what their administrative bosses tell them to do and exacerbated by the fact that many of our administrators don't even have 10 years of teaching under their belt...Well.

    So...the only thing that keeps me and many others in teaching is being in the classroom and teaching children. We love teaching... and it's more than just a job .

    But beware... and caution yourselves... It doesn't mean that you should see the world through the rose colored glasses that are reflected in many comments. Some might see many of the previous comments from teachers as the perfect examples of why teachers are known to be such enablers. How can the system get better if we keep patching it with our own resources and the rest of society continues to blame, punish and then let us continue to do everyone's jobs?

    It seems to be a Catch-22. It is.
    So the next time you hear someone complaining about the injustices of being a teacher. Practice what you preach: be compassionate, try to understand where they're coming from and inspire them.;)

    Or walk the other way with a smile on your face.

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    1. Thanks Ari for sharing a different take on the situation. If you read some of my posts, you know I took those glasses off a long time ago. We all complain, that's acceptable. But to let our complaints take us to the point where we take it out on our students, it's not.

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  8. I met that burned out teacher. I was mortified. Students were mortified, and staff who worked with her kept their distance as well. After I met her, I met the student we had in common. The student said, "My teacher hates me so I hate her." That sums it up, it's probably not going to improve much for that year.

    I cried when I got home that night. I wonder how many students cried when they found out she was their teacher for the year. I'd have pulled my kid out of that classroom before school even started. There were those who said, "She's a really good teacher." Ummmm... no she's not. She might have ability to teach but if you "hate your student" you are not a good teacher.

    Keep the passion and flame for education alive... Share your passion, support your colleagues, but don't let their negativity bring you down. I am honored to work in a field with people who have passion and energy to make a difference.

    Educators, be proud and show the world we do what we do because we love to have a positive impact on the lives of children. WE ROCK!!!

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  9. They know when you don't like them, they know.

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  10. I was a classic case of 'Mr. Holland's Opus' - after seven very starry early years of teaching, I sought greener pastures. However, as my high school counselor advised, "You can always fall back on teaching" which is exactly what I did... for 33 MORE YEARS!

    Mind you, I was VERY GOOD at what I did; pouring my heart and soul into my lessons; adding my own personality and 'life' lessons. Meeting students years later, they often reminded me of those 'life' stories that stuck with them more than anything else I taught them.

    I did my 40 years and I 'WAS' burned out. It was scary yet exciting all at the same time to learn an entirely new career. But I KNOW I did the right thing - for myself and my students. I would NOT, COULD NOT 'fall back' on teaching anymore!

    And I feel that I went out ON TOP! I can hold my head up high knowing that I'm still regarded as a positive life changer. I totally agree with this topic and I LOVE the directness of some of the responses - get re-lit or grab a rocking chair and sit!

    All the best from Toronto,
    Russ

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  11. @Russ That is great! I am glad you knew when it was time to get out. I'm sure the students miss you though!

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