As another school year winds down, I find myself communicating with dozens of teachers each week either by phone or email. The conversations run along similar lines, and the theme remains consistent: “I love my kids. If I could just teach, I would be happy to continue, but there is more to it than loving kids, and I just can’t do it anymore. Can you help me?”
This conversation breaks my heart every time I engage in it, but I do so because I want to help those teachers who are experiencing the pain and heartache of burnout.
Without exception, the individual with whom I find myself talking is smart and talented and started out with high expectations and pure intentions. Each one once had a sincere desire to be a great teacher. The experience of each person I have talked to has varied from five to 26 years. Some have been in one school, and others have been in different schools, but the story lines are similar regardless of whether the teacher in question is calling from Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Orlando, or Richmond, VA. “I just can’t do it anymore. Can you help me?”
I tell each of them that I can relate. I left public education after being one of its fiercest advocates four years ago. I took early (I mean early) retirement because the idea of returning to a classroom to teach to curriculum standards I didn’t believe in and administering tests that are a travesty were unpalatable options for me. I left teaching and public education prematurely because I was burned out after four years as President of the Virginia Education Association. In part, I left because I knew I didn’t have the physical energy or stamina to take on teaching middle school English. I hadn’t taught English since 1980! Mostly, I retired early because I didn’t have any desire to participate in a system that I believe is counter to what is in the best interest of children.
So I quit–I took early retirement–and I now help others leave the profession sooner than they had thought they would so that they can discover what other career paths they can pursue instead.
My new mission in life is to help others accomplish what I have managed to accomplish for myself: find work that plays to their natural strengths, their talents, and their natural abilities.
Work shouldn’t feel like such a chore.
Are you experiencing teacher burnout? Not sure? Download the 7 signs of teacher burnout by clicking on the button below.
For those who are not teachers, here is why you should care about the epidemic of teacher burnout that is rampant and affecting teachers all over the country. If they all decide to quit, and the ones who are eligible all retire in the next few years, who will be left to teach?
Charter schools have become the rage, but they haven’t delivered in spite of all the hype about them. I don’t believe they are the answer.
And even if charter schools, private schools, and virtual schools were suddenly to provide the answer, they cannot possibly address all of the needs of all of the children who currently have a barely surviving public system to support them.
I worry about the future of public education in the country, but I am dedicated to the individual teachers who call me asking for my help. On a macro level, I think we are about to experience a teacher shortage of epic proportions. I worry that no one seems to care.
On a micro level, however, life is too short to spend it doing something you don’t enjoy…no matter what it is.
If you are a teacher experiencing the pain of teacher burnout and stress, here is a “cheat sheet” of suggestions for how you might better manage the stress of your current situation. Click on the button below:
Whether you are a parent, a grandparent, or just a citizen with a passing interest in what is happening in the world, I believe you should care about what is happening to our teachers and in our nation’s schools. The grinding nature of the job has become too much for too many, and they are looking for a way to escape. I am here to help them, but I also worry about the vacuum that is being left in the wake of their leaving.
We should all care about what is happening to public education in our country…before it is too late.