Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Burnout Series - Part One

Last year was been tough for me. I got engaged and then married. I had an amazing group of talented and creative students. I began work with an innovative and invested administrative team. But I sure did struggle.

During the worst times, I felt like I was checked out of school. I was doing the bare minimum to take care of my students and finding very little joy in my work. I’d spend my lunch period browsing blogs on line rather than doing the things that used to make me feel invigorated such as reading up on education research or taking a walk outside to clear my head and get ready for the next class.

From almost the very beginning of the year, my grading load felt next to impossible. Figuring out ways to mitigate that really helped me, and I started feeling better. But the joy I’d had in my first two years of teaching dissipated, and I didn’t know how to get it back. I used to come home every evening from school exhausted and impassioned and with a “teacher high” from the sense of wonder I felt at being a part of students growing and learning every day.

In addition to my joy, I also lost a lot of my anger at watching really bad reform policies. I couldn’t muster the same sort of logic and statistical analysis when I saw another cheap, easy, and poorly-designed standardized test coming down the pike. As you all probably noticed, I stopped blogging about ways to craft meaningful and rigorous assessment.

No one event or student or situation drove me to this malaise. My students were just as wonderful. Our administration was really supporting innovative ideas. I was just going through something that happens too many teachers: burnout.

This isn’t meant to be a sob story. I’ll give away the ending here: I got better and some specific things helped. In the next few days, I want to share what worked for me and find out what’s worked (or not) for those of you who teach or have ever been able to work through burnout at a stressful and demanding job. I think teachers don’t talk enough about what’s happening in our classrooms -- the good and the bad. And the whole point of this blog is to change the conversation around teaching.

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