It’s TESTING TIME for Teachers and Students

If you are a teacher, you are probably already feeling the pressure of testing time, and it isn’t even April! I have started getting messages from teachers who are too busy to think about what they might want to do next year career-wise. They are in simple survival mode.

And I get it.

During my last 20 years of serving as a library media specialist at the elementary school level, I served two schools. The first school struggled for the first year or two after testing mania took hold in Virginia, but once we figured out what we needed to do and we actually had a curriculum to follow, we got accredited and it was fairly smooth sailing each year. Teachers were concerned, of course, and the spring drill began there just like it does most other places, but nobody was losing sleep worrying about whether the school would meet accreditation standards.

That changed when I changed schools in 2001. I moved from a fairly affluent suburban community to a Title I school with a majority minority population. The year I arrived was the year after the school had finally reached accreditation status after years of being on the state department’s list of “failing schools.”

The photo below sums up how most of my colleagues felt for half of the school year.Business man in office with burnout syndrome at desk

In fact, I recall the tension beginning to build as early as February…months before the tests were to be administered. The climate on our campus changed dramatically. You could feel the tension as though it were a palpable substance. Teachers worried…would they be able to get their kids through this year or would we go back to being blacklisted by the state?

I was there for eight years, and that anxiety from February through June never stopped. Each year, teachers and administrators brainstormed new ways of trying to drill the standards into the children so they would pass the standardized tests.

I wasn’t a classroom teacher, so during each spring testing season, I was called upon to proctor. It always made me sad. I watched the teachers fret and the children struggle. The students all knew on some level that the stakes were high. They tried very hard. And each year, from 2001 until I left in 2008, they managed to pass, but that never alleviated the concern that they might not.

This is the time when stress really ramps up for teachers. They begin to lose sleep, staying up late making lesson plans or grading papers, or brainstorming ways to get their kids to understand better what they need to know for the tests.

They begin to eat more because they are stressed out. They begin to forget about exercise. Who has time? They start to gain weight but are too busy to do anything about it.

They leave off getting together with friends for the same reason. They are just too busy and preoccupied to be very sociable.

I get it. I’ve lived it. But here is what I know for sure. Taking on the weight of the world during this season will maybe mean the difference of a point or two on a student’s test, but it could ultimately make you sick.

Stress gone unchecked can raise your blood pressure, cause early onset diabetes, bring on heart attacks, and gastrointestinal issues.

This is the time of year when you need to take better care of yourself. It is more important now than ever!

Download my FREE eBook, Stressed, Stretched, and Just Plain Overwhelmed:  a Guide to Managing Your Stress and Creating a Greater Sense of Work-Life Balance. 

I can’t guarantee that you will feel as stress-free as this woman:  

stressfreewoman

But I can guarantee that you will learn some strategies that may help you cope more effectively during these last few months of school.

I also invite you to attend a live, FREE workshop entitled, “Stress Management Tools for Teachers.” 

To register, click here.

During this 60-minute class, you will learn more about the seven specific strategies that I recommend for you in the book. These are strategies for you to practice not just during the spring testing season, but all year long. You need to take care of your health! If you wind up sick, what happens to how your students prep for their big tests that are coming up?

Don’t let the testing season bring you down! “Do your best and forget the rest” as Tony Horton says. You need to be present for your spouse and your own children, after all. Heck, your students will be negatively affected if you are stressed out and cranky because you feel overwhelmed with work responsibilities.

So what do you say? First download the free eBook here.  Report cover Final (1)

Then sign up for the workshop, “Stress Management Tools for Teachers” here or click the button below.

Big red sign up now button

Photos by Shutterstock.

Until next time.

 

 

 

[Case Study] Learn How Richard Benefitted from Having Kitty Serve as a Sounding Board

Not everyone feels comfortable being in front of a camera, so for this case study, Richard has offered written answers to questions that I asked him about the work we did together as we considered the possibility of a new career path. He was experiencing symptoms of teacher burnout when he reached out to me a few months ago. Find answers to questions I asked him as we approached the end of our work together about the benefit of the work we did. He hasn’t yet made his transition out of teaching, but he is definitely moving in the right direction.

(Question) What particular challenge were you dealing with that led you to enroll with me to help with your job search?

(Richard) I have been a teacher for decades, and I was discovering that it was getting harder and harder to get my work done. I actually never believed in burnout, but in talking with Kitty and some others, I started to believe that burnout might, in fact have been the problem. A very long commute and having two small children drained all the enthusiasm and efficiency that I long had for my work. I simply started noticed that I was constantly fatigued and irritable. Furthermore, the school I worked at decided to grow class sizes and increase workload, despite many teachers there already putting in a good 60 hours a week. This kind of life for me started to become unsustainable. I found it hard to be an energetic teacher going at a full sprint for ten months a year. I’ve heard that many people switch careers several times in their lifetimes, but I never thought I would be one of them. So, I contacted Kitty, who specialized in working with teachers, to see what my options were.

Furthermore, the school I worked at decided to grow class sizes and increase workload, despite many teachers there already putting in a good 60 hours a week. This kind of life for me started to become unsustainable. I found it hard to be an energetic teacher going at a full sprint for ten months a year. I’ve heard that many people switch careers several times in their lifetimes, but I never thought I would be one of them. So, I contacted Kitty, who specialized in working with teachers, to see what my options were.

(Question) What was an answer, instruction, or inspiration you discovered that started to turn things around?

 (Richard) I spent most of my time working with Kitty on what might be realistic options for a new career. I started out taking an inventory of myself including my interests, skills, passions, wishes. Kitty’s course has several lengthy questionnaires, which took some time answering but were well worth the effort. Some of what Kitty noticed I already knew about myself.

My fascination with “big picture questions,” for example. Learning that she saw the same things in myself was encouraging for me. It gave me the confidence I needed to look into certain types of fields and not others. Indeed, Kitty provided a wealth of books and internet resources to help my self-exploration. It helped me really start to look hard at what I loved about teaching (and would want to keep in a future career) as well as what I disliked about the profession (and would want to avoid in a new career).

The most exciting thing that I discovered was my interest in questions of meaning and purpose. This led us to discuss the possibility of entering a ministry or chaplaincy. I had long considered this possibility, but what I think I needed to hear was someone else tell me that this really could be something that I did with my life. It wasn’t a “pipe-dream” or a pure fantasy. This led me to look into theology programs, including secular and Buddhist mindfulness training programs. The idea that there were other things I could do actually made my current job a little easier for me too. I felt far less trapped. I think Kitty’s encouragement was invaluable for me to consider that I was freer and more in control of what I did with my life than I was feeling after teaching for so long.

(Question) What were your specific results? (i.e., How is your life, job, career different now because of what you learned and implemented?)

(Richard) I am presently still teaching, but what has been exciting for me is that, once I started to consider a more religious profession, more doors for such a career started to open up for me. I am currently apprenticing with a mindfulness teacher, and I will begin a year-long training and certification program in June to become a mindfulness teacher for adolescents and children. I feel particularly called to this task since I have found that the stresses I experience in my job are equally shared by my students and their parents. I would like to help them all cope better with the pressures that are imposed on us. I don’t know yet what this means for earning a living, but I am excited by the prospect.

(Question)  What were other benefits you experienced from your work with me? (e.g. financial, emotional, physical, or spiritual)

(Richard) I think what I most valued from our conversation was Kitty’s encouragement and positive attitude about making changes in my life. Sometimes, for whatever reason, it helps to hear someone give you “permission” to move on, to try something new, to follow your passion or your dream. I think I was waiting for an invitation to make a change and that doing so was what was needed in my life. Such a change, though, is scary, as one is making a leap or taking a risk.

There is no guarantee my plans will ultimately work out, but I was encouraged by all the examples that Kitty shared with me of people who did take the leap and did land safely on the other side. Kitty often said to me that if we can be clear in what we want, the universe will open up opportunities for us. I think this is true insofar as, by making a commitment to investigate a new path for myself, I became aware of a lot of opportunities that were right there in front of me but that I wouldn’t I have noticed had Kitty not encouraged me to look for them. I am grateful for her guidance and encouragement throughout our time working together.

(Question) Would you recommend me as a coach to friends & colleagues? If so, why?

(Richard) Yes, I would recommend Kitty as a coach, especially to those who feel burnt out and stuck in teaching. Teaching is a harder job than I think many realize, especially if one is a committed teacher. Kitty worked for years in education, and she understands what burnout looks like and how to move past it. I found her to possess a wealth of resources – from books to internet sites and businesses to innovators and entrepreneurs in a variety of fields. I would often take note of all these resources to track them down once our conversations were over, and I always found them helpful for giving me new ideas on how to look at my own situation and how to build a new career for myself. I also found Kitty to be extremely encouraging and positive about making good changes in our lives. I found our time working together invaluable, and I would recommend her with great enthusiasm.

[Case Study] How This Teacher Experiencing Burnout Transitioned from K-12 to Higher Education

When Nicky first approached me, she was ready to make a change in her career. She wasn’t sure what that change should be, however. She had gone back to school after a few years of teaching in high school, and she had earned a Ph.D. in chemistry. Upon graduation, she went back to teaching high school because it felt familiar, and it was “safe.”

After just a few months, she knew she wasn’t going to be happy in the K-12 world long term. She had no clue how to where to start a job search, however. Luckily, her friend, Brooke, was able to tell her about me. I had already been working with Brooke (see her case study above). She referred Nicky to me to get help.

Listen to Nicky’s own words as she describes what she believes she gained from working with me as her career coach.

Sometimes You Need Encouragement

As Nicky points out in the video, having a career coach helped her become more positive in her outlook. When we began our work together, she was feeling pretty down on herself. She lacked the personal and professional confidence that she needed to stretch herself and examine all of the various possibilities that were available to her.

In the end, Nicky left the K-12 world and entered the world of higher education. She is now doing the exact type of work that she said she wanted to be doing when we began our work together.

Changing Your Job or Career Path Takes Patience and Persistence

Nicky also learned about the roller coaster aspect of the job search process. There were a number of peaks and valleys along the way in her individual job search journey. Job search is fraught with complications, and most of them are outside your control. You can go from the elation of feeling you have found the job of dreams to the deflation of learning you came in “second,” and someone else got the job. A competent and experienced career coach can help you manage your expectations during the process.

Nicky’s was not an overnight success story. We started working together in October of 2014, and she didn’t land her new job until the summer of 2016. In the meantime, she turned down at least one concrete offer and took herself out of the running for another opportunity that just didn’t feel like the right “fit.” That takes courage. It also takes confidence and the belief that something better will come along.

 

The “3 Ps” of Successful Job Search

Nicky is an example of someone who learned to practice what I refer to as the “3 Ps” of successful job search. She practiced patience and persistence, and she didn’t allow herself to panic…even when she might have wanted to. She decided to take action and change the trajectory of her career. She is now working on a college campus and teaching students who are training to become teachers on how to teach chemistry the right way. This has been a passion of hers for as long as I have known her. To get where she is now, she had to step out of her comfort zone, and she had to take action. She has definitely grown in her confidence in herself, and she continues to work on stretching herself. Congratulations to Nicky on having the patience and persistence to make the change in her life that she wanted. Way to go!

[Case Study] Hear How Brooke Went from Near Teacher-Burnout to a Situation Where She is Flourishing

I help burnt-out teachers explore their career alternatives. Sometimes the alternative is simply a transfer from one school or school district to another. Sometimes what is called for is a completely new direction. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. That is what I want my clients to know. Helping them explore their career alternatives means exploring all of the possibilities that make sense for them. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

.Infinite possibilities world map

For information on how one teacher went from near burnout to a situation where she is not only flourishing but she is sharing with her students what she learned about the importance of managing stress and practicing mindfulness, click here.

To learn more about how you too might go from feeling stressed out and overloaded with your job, contact me. I would really love to help you if I can.

Also, check out my video presentation on the 7 signs of teacher burnout if you aren’t quite sure if you are there yet. Even if you are only experiencing a few of the seven symptoms, you owe it to yourself to consider your career alternatives, don’t you?

Until next time.