Dear Future Teachers,
After a lot of reflecting, I wanted to briefly diverge from my regular content to address the very real and extremely prevalent matter of Teacher Burnout. I feel that the content I plan to produce over the length of my internship will sound upbeat and exciting (which is how I truly feel about teaching!). However, I do feel like it would be inauthentic to my journey if I didn't discuss the pitfalls of becoming a teacher, especially in the U.S. in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. I am passionate about becoming an educator, and I know that there are many others who are as well. However, I do not want to discount the collective exhaustion experienced by so many educators over the last two years, and I do not want to portray teaching as an entirely positive and happy experience. I believe in creating realistic expectations for those aspiring to become teachers, and I decided to share what keeps me motivated despite my fears and worries surrounding teaching.
Another disclaimer: What motivates me won't necessarily motivate others! We each have our own experiences and motivating factors to becoming a teacher. It's okay to have different methods for motivation. I wanted to share mine for those who can relate, or simply to help others feel less alone in their burnout.
Why Is It Important To Recognize Teacher Burnout?
I get it, talking about burnout on a Monday morning is probably not the most motivating thing to read. However, it is important to acknowledge the real issue of burnout because it causes many teachers to fall out of love with teaching, or leave the profession altogether. In my experience, there is a belief that teachers shouldn't teach for money or resources; instead they should only teach because they care about their students. This belief feeds into the narrative that teachers are superheroes and that "good" teachers won't complain about a lack of support in the classroom. Rather than getting increased pay, classroom funding, and a more sustainable workload, teachers are scolded for not smiling through the difficulties they face in the field of education.
Let's be clear: you can care about your students and want to be able to make enough money to support yourself. You can expect better and more consistent resources for the classroom because you care for your students. Ignoring teacher burnout is ignoring the core issues that drive people away from teaching, thus jeopardizing the education of students. We cannot create an effective learning environment for students without taking care of their teachers!
My Motivations for Teaching
As part of documenting my journey to becoming an educator, I want to be as candid as possible. There have been several points in my college career where I have contemplated whether I should pursue an alternative career path. I wondered if teaching was worth it, or how I would support myself independently with increasing living costs. When COVID-19 struck, and I witnessed first-hand how the pandemic impacted the inside of a classroom, I was scared. I wondered if I would even make a good teacher in the face of all the challenges teachers are forced to handle currently. Even though I am still admittedly nervous to go into education, I do have several factors that motivate me to continue to pursue licensure.
The students. It may sound cliché, but I truly enjoy working with students. I find it so refreshing to interact with students and help support them as developing individuals. They definitely have their challenging moments from time to time, but I genuinely hold so much love in my heart for the dozens of students I've been able to work with throughout my various experiences.
My coursework. I have learned so much through my Human Development and Family Studies major that has changed my view and relationship with Education. I have been introduced to culturally responsive pedagogies, social justice education, and overall just creating a better environment for students to learn in. I've appreciated the majority of my college classes as I've felt that they helped me think critically about who I want to be in the classroom, and I'm excited to implement a lot of what I have learned in my own classroom someday.
Role Models. I have been honored to have such excellent teachers and mentors since I began my journey into education. When my blog first started, I wrote about my absolute favorite teacher, Mr. Edmonds (check it out here). He inspired me to go college to pursue teaching, and he set a great example for the type of educator I hope to become. I've also been able to see my peers and colleagues in action with my work at Student U. I was able to see people my age who had the same goals and dreams as I do, and I learned so much by watching their teaching practices and how they interacted with their students. Finally, I admire my current mentor teacher at my internship site so much. Even in the three weeks that I have spent in her classroom, I have been blown away by her passion and her effective teaching methods.
Balancing my schedule. I have to dedicate a lot of time to my internship and classes this semester, but I've also tried to be intentional with how I spend my free time. I set a realistic schedule, and I make sure to set aside time for rest and rejuvenation. This semester I have made more time for working out, reading for pleasure, or seeing my friends. I'm still figuring things out schedule-wise, but I do make it a point to continue to do things that I enjoy to help me relax outside of work.
Other Means of Preventing and Addressing Burnout
Like I mentioned earlier, we may not have the same motivations pushing us forward! Take time to explore what helps you unwind or stay dedicated to the field. A few ideas for preventing and/or addressing burnout in the classroom are:
Set boundaries. Give yourself a firm "quitting time" so that you aren't working for hours on end each night. Some tasks can wait until the next day to complete. Try not to allow work to take over your entire personal life!
Connect with colleagues. Every workplace is different, but I believe teaching should be a collaborative field! Find allies at work to help keep you balanced, help you facilitate different ideas, or simply to be a friendly face at work! Teaching doesn't have to be done in isolation, create meaningful relationships with colleagues to help each other out can be an awesome support system.
Counseling. There is no shame in getting professional mental health assistance. Sometimes it can be beneficial to seek counseling to talk through your worries or stressful emotions. It may be nice to unload your thoughts and have someone guide you to the best path for protecting your mental and emotional wellbeing.
Have fun in the classroom. Learning and teaching don't have to be dull. Switch up how you teach certain lessons, explore play in the classroom, or make games out of the content you are learning. Make the classroom an enjoyable and upbeat environment for your students and yourself!
Take a break. This one might not be feasible for everyone, but sometimes taking a break is necessary. If you are truly unhappy or need to reset your intentions and goals for your career, it's okay to step away from the classroom. Protecting yourself is vital to producing your best work. If you need to take a break from being an educator, and wish to do something else, have grace with yourself and listen to your feelings! You do not have to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders.
Again, everyone is so different, and this post doesn't even begin to touch the ways that administrators and school governing policies can adjust to create a healthier and sustainable environment for educators. If you're an educator that is struggling, I see you and I want to stress that burnout does not make you an ineffective or "bad" teacher. We are all only human, and this pandemic has pushed past the bounds of what teaching encompasses. If you are an aspiring educator, don't lose faith completely! There are challenges in this field, so if you truly wish to become a teacher, prepare in advance to take care of yourself so that you can allow yourself to become the best teacher you can be!
If you have any other ideas for preventing or addressing burnout, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a message through the Contact Form on my Home Page!