Another Resource for Teachers Headed for Burnout (But Not There Yet)

I mentioned in my last post that I am always on the lookout for a new reimgressource for teachers who are feeling the pain and confusion of burnout. I found another one that you might find of interest. It is The Happy Teacher Habits:  11 Habits of the Happiest, Most Effective Teachers on Earthby Michael Linsin. I hadn’t heard for Mr. Linsin before, but I learned that he operates a web resource for teachers. He also offers personal coaching. His website is Smart Classroom Management, and if you check him out, you will find other books that he has written and other resources that he provides.

Here is what I said about this book in the review I just wrote for Amazon:

“As a Career Transition and Job Search Coach who specializes in helping teachers who are suffering from burnout, I am always on the lookout for resources that might help them. I might suggest this one to a more experienced teacher who hasn’t hit the wall of total burnout. I don’t think the suggestions are as practically useful to a new teacher, however. You can’t figure out how to narrow the focus of your lesson before you know what you are doing. And you don’t have the luxury of saying no to your new administrator when you are the new kid on the block. These are more useful suggestions to the veteran teacher who knows their subject matter well and for the teacher who has already earned the confidence to be able to set healthy boundaries and say “no” when asked to do something they don’t have time to take on. Having said that, as a veteran teacher who has now been out of the classroom for a while, I enjoyed the stories and anecdotes very much, and I get where the author is coming from and the value of some of his other suggestions. This book could be offered to anyone (not just teachers) who have gotten caught up in the vicious cycle of too little balance between work, home, and personal hobbies. Unfortunately, some of the first to five-year teachers have already hit the wall before they can get to the place that the author suggests…having the freedom to run their classroom more or less independently of anyone else’s interference. As a veteran teacher and one perceived to be a master teacher, no doubt, he has earned the flexibility that he seems to think any teacher can claim for themselves any time. I wish it were so easy. Perhaps if it were, the shortage that is looming in the nation’s classrooms would arrive later rather than sooner.”

While, as I said above, I hadn’t heard of Mr. Linsin before reading this book, and this is the only one of his books that I have read, I appreciated his clear understanding of the problems teachers are facing. I understood many of his recommendations, but as mentioned in the review, I just don’t know how practical they are for the new, inexperienced teacher who is still trying to find his or her sea legs.

What I really liked about this book was its easy readability and the fact that he uses many anecdotes and little-known stories to illustrate the main point in each chapter. One of his main points is that teachers might learn a long-held principle that is referred to as the 80/20 rule. In its simplest form, the 80/20 rule states that 20 percent of results come from 80 percent of the causes. Linsin uses this rule to illustrate that it is possible to streamline curriculum and to narrow the focus of any particular lesson to one or two key points. This would eliminate extra, unnecessary planning. He also offers that teachers might cut down on some of their work at home if they streamline the assignments they give.

While these may be fine strategies for that experienced teacher that I mention in my Amazon review, I don’t think it is useful to the new teacher who hasn’t gained enough experience yet to discern what is okay to keep and what is okay to leave out. That kind of judgment only comes with experience.

I am also not certain that the suggestion that a teacher declines a lot of extra-curricular activity is practical for the newer teacher. Most administrators frown upon members of their faculties ignoring direct requests for help or assistance with after-school programs or evening meetings that members of the faculty are expected to attend. Again, this may be a fine strategy for the teacher who has reached a level of job security that stretches beyond the first few years, but a teacher on probation chooses to use this type of discretion at their own risk.

With all of that said, I enjoyed the book and the anecdotes, so I was entertained while I was also being offered some food for thought.

If you are already at the point of burnout, this book won’t help a lot, but then, there are not many books that can help once you have hit the point of no return. I am talking to more and more teachers who are just not having any fun and are grappling with what to do next professionally.

Perhaps the most gut-wrenching message I have received lately is the one left on my website as a comment:

“Hi Kitty,

I’m literally sitting in my school parking lot dreading the day…waiting for the last possible second to go in. I’ve been teaching for 17 years, and I’m trying to make it to 20. I asked one of my now retired principals as what to do. She said go to the doc and get some anxiety meds to get you through. I don’t want to take meds to get me through work. I feel stuck. I make decent pay and love the summers off, but there has to be something out there where I don’t have to deal with all this that is comparable…Help!”

The troubling thing is that I know many teachers who are on anxiety medication to make it through their day. What does that say about the state of our profession?

If you are feeling that kind of pain and anxiety, your health is at risk. That is the bottom line. Stress can and will make you sick, so at the very least, if you are struggling with the symptoms of burnout, you should learn what you need to do to take better care of yourself. Teachers are expected to give, and give, and give to the point of exhaustion or the sacrifice of their own well-being and family life. This is not a fair or viable expectation.

If you aren’t sure if your stress level is dangerously high yet, take advantage of a free stress assessment that I offer in my stress management workshops.

Answer each question honestly without analyzing. Just go with your first reaction to the question. If you wind up with 10 or more “yes” answers, you need to get help somewhere.

Life is simply too short to spend it wasted in any endeavor that doesn’t make you happy. Don’t wait until you are like the person who wrote me yesterday. By then, it is getting too late.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A New Resource for Teachers Headed for Burnout

I am always 41sobhp5rl-_ac_us160_looking for information on teacher burnout. Not coincidentally, there are an increasing number of resources available because teacher burnout is on the rise.

The most recent gem I found is a new book entitled, First Aid for Teacher Burnout:  How You Can Find Peace and Success, by Jenny Grant Rankin. I wrote a review for Amazon just this morning, and this is what I offered:

“I appreciated this book and the author’s approach to teacher stress and burnout very much. Dr. Rankin provides proactive suggestions for readers, and her research on the subject is impeccable. I found only a couple of suggestions to be slightly off the mark. For example, submitting an anonymous note to the administration is suggested as a tactic for “avoiding drama.” As a former educator who witnessed lots of drama that resulted from an anonymous note turned into my administration (a note I did not write), I believe that tip is particularly ill-advised. That reservation aside, the book is extremely well-organized, and I believe it would be a great resource for teachers who may feel that they are heading for burnout but are not quite there yet. The strategies may prove to be “too little too late” for those who have had that final moment of reckoning when they realize that teaching is not the profession it used to be. Dr. Rankin’s experience as a teacher and educator herself provides credibility to her advice, and I will recommend this book to my clients as a good resource for those needing strategies to ward off a complete break from the profession.”

I was impressed by the depth of the research Dr. Rankin did in preparing this book, and she has organized it in such a way that it can easily become a workbook for teachers individually or collectively in a study group. She offers numerous strategies and tips for handling the stress and overwhelm that increasingly go with teaching.

Many of the strategies are sound, and she is right in offering that some of the stress a teacher feels is sometimes self-imposed. Teachers who are perfectionistic or true Type A personalities often go the extra mile until they have run out of gas, and then they can’t go any longer. Those are the ones who are leaving in greater and greater numbers because they have just run out of the enthusiasm they once felt for the profession.

I hear from an increasing number of teachers every day who have hit that point. This book might have helped them had they found it much earlier, but it is too late for many of them. The ones who have hit the point of no return won’t find solace in this resource, but those who are just approaching burnout and need some solid strategies for cutting back on their workload or developing a different mindset about their situation may find it helpful.

If you have hit the point of no return and feel that leaving teaching is the only option left to you, there is help available. You can seek out the resources of your college or university. Most offer their alumni some level of career counseling and services.

And then, there is the option of hiring a career coach. There are plenty to choose from, so I suggest you do your homework and check them out. You need to find someone with whom you can relate and who will understand exactly where you are coming from.

Let’s be honest…some people don’t understand why you are unhappy with your teaching career. Perhaps you are even having a difficulty explaining it to your spouse or your family members. They may think you have it easy. You only work 9 months a year (a myth), and you have your summers off (unless you have to work to supplement your income or go back to school to keep your licensure current). You only work from 7:30-2:30 (another myth), and you have every holiday off (probably accurate unless you have a second job) with pretty decent benefits compared to those in the private sector (sometimes accurate, sometimes not, depending upon where you work).

Given all these perks, what’s not to like about teaching? That is what they may be thinking.

They can’t possibly understand or appreciate the degrading way you may be treated by your inexperienced or incompetent administration.

They can’t imagine that you can’t deal with 35 kids in your classroom built for 25, many of whom can’t speak English or have a variety of learning disabilities.

They don’t understand why you have to buy most of your own materials like pencils and paper and bulletin board supplies. Why isn’t the school supplying all of those things?

They can’t fathom that your classes have gotten so large you don’t have enough books to go around.

And on top of all of that, you must adopt a new initiative every few months whether it makes sense for kids or not because someone who hasn’t been in a classroom for years thinks it might be the next “silver bullet” that will make your kids suddenly top test takers.

So much is broken in our system right now that I think I may have to write my own book.

The point is that if you can find someone who understands what you are experiencing, and they are in a position to help you figure out what your options are, then you should latch on to that person and don’t let go.

Life is just too short to spend a single day of it feeling miserable.

That is why I decided to become a career coach and counselor to teachers instead of returning to a middle school classroom to teach English after my term at the Virginia Education Association ended in 2012. I had burned myself out on that job and had nothing of value to offer energetic (and often drama-ridden) pre-teens whom I knew were much different from the 6th graders I taught from 1977-1980. I just couldn’t make myself go back. I didn’t want to spend one day of the rest of my life feeling that I wasn’t performing in a career that lit me up and made me feel good about myself. So I took charge of my career.

Everyone deserves to be able to that for themselves. So, if you are just beginning to experience twinges of burnout, get Dr. Rankin’s book. If you are already at the point of burnout, take a look at my website to see if you can find a resource there that might help.

I reinvented and retooled myself for a new career, and I have helped others do the same. The hardest part may be giving yourself permission to leave teaching while also giving yourself the permission to consider an alternative career. After all, if all you have always wanted to be was a teacher, making the decision to leave is scary. After making that decision, deciding on a path and having the courage to take the necessary steps to get you where you want to go is not easy, but it is so worth it in the long run.

I started out on my new career adventure 4 years ago this month. I have never regretted my decision, and my new mission in life is to help others find the same satisfaction in their lives that I have found in mine.

Sometimes the biggest obstacle holding you back is YOU.

This is a new year. What do you want to be doing a year from now? If you want your life to be different, you will have to start behaving differently. Why not start now?

Until next time.