I subscribe to several teacher networks on Facebook and there seems to be a theme in all of the subscriptions: teacher burn-out. Now, I’ve been a teacher since 1993, and in comparison, the 21st century has caused more teachers to leave the profession. I will go a little further, most college students in this century are not going into the field of education.
Anyway, I read an article from the We Are Teachers website titled “We Need to Do More for Teachers Who Are Exhausted, Stressed, and Burned Out.” As I read it, I wondered if school administrators and parent organizations read articles like this, because teachers are aware of the feelings of burnout and exhaustion. However, school administrators and district administrators don’t realize the stress teachers are carrying. Most administrators were teachers, but some of them “drink the water” or (as one of my colleagues had put it) “took the red pill” and forget what it is like being a teacher. For example, the calendar is filled with meetings and I am not talking about staff meetings, but other types of meetings. We (teachers) must attend IEP and 504 meetings because those meetings are federally sanctioned. But, we have so many meetings that I am afraid my students are going to forget who I am! I have a district English Department meeting on a Thursday (all day) and the next day is a PBIS meeting (all day).
The pressure comes when our students are not performing well or they are failing classes, but in my case, two meetings in a row are one too many! Besides the nursing career, teachers are tired and, according to the article by Stacy Tornio, no one cares! I have heard of police officers taking their life, ministers who commit suicide, and now I am hearing about how some teachers have taken their own life too!
Tornio (2018) provided statistics such as 61% of educators find work either always or often stressful; 27% of educators have been threatened, bullied, or harassed; and 86% feel disrespected by US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Who is she anyway and how did she get that job? What is she doing for or against education? Trump has been making such a spectacle of himself, are we keeping a close eye on the status of education in the United States?
Anyway, we have been conditioned to care for the students and watch the students for any emotional changes, but what about the teachers? We educate future engineers, doctors, CEO’s, nurses, attorneys, and athletes – but our pay is significantly lower than those jobs I had mentioned. Can you imagine looking into the eyes of future NBA players and telling him “Your assignment is late? You need to do your homework. You need to come to tutoring.” We literally beg students to turn in their work, and then that student goes to college for two years, gets signed to an NBA team and makes more than you’ll ever see in your life! You have two degrees, state certification, Nationally certified, and you’re barely bringing home enough money to pay for rent and your car payment.
I’m not making this up! Lack of money causes a lot of stress! I have to work two jobs to make ends meet! I tell my students that I didn’t get into teaching because it pays so well; I got into it because I love the written word so much, I want to share my love and knowledge of literature and writing. However, it has come to my attention that I’d like a little respect and be compensated for helping our young people to become literate and enlightened.
OK. My point is that teachers have a lot to do, plan, teach, reteach, meet, meet, meet, meet. We are caregivers. We are counselors. We are school parents. We are a lot of things in one occupation, and we cannot possibly do everything without burning ourselves out! Tornio said taking care of ourselves is a necessity, not a luxury. To be a good teacher, having positive well-being, and good mental health should not be a challenge for teachers.
Last Friday, I had a meltdown. I was in an all-day meeting and I was trying to explain through an email to a district director the troubles the English department was having with an assessment. I had directed the email to him and I was being honest and open; however, his return email was not sent to me, but my principals. Needless to say, I was extremely upset that he had decided to not address me like a professional but treated me as if I was a child.
I love teaching. I love the students I teach. I love what I’m teaching. I enjoy the camaraderie of my colleagues. But when I am disrespected, I am unhappy. Most of this weekend I have repeated this story to friends and family to have the same responses: “That’s not right.” I wasn’t looking for sympathy; I just wanted people to know that I was going to quit because of the incident.
But, no matter how much I am battered, tired, sick, or angry, I want to be the best for my students. It’s all about my students – therefore, I have to take care of me for me and my students.
Now, it’s Sunday Night. I’m watching Dallas on Sunday Night Football and I have to work on lessons for this week.
Good Night and have a good week.