The Doctor Prescribes Summer Vacation to Treat Teacher Burnout

If you are a teacher, you will recognize the truth of this statement:  Summer vacation is the best medicine for treating teacher burnout.

dog sunbathing

Many people–those who have never taught and don’t know a teacher well–don’t appreciate that teachers can suffer from burnout. They think you have a great job. One such insensitive soul recently wrote to me, “Teacher burnout? No other profession had one day off for every day worked! And many of those work days end at 3 PM.”

This individual has never taught a day in his life. Nor does he know or care about a teacher.

From the outside looking in, people think teachers have it easy, though. They don’t understand all of the work that goes into planning, grading, department meetings, faculty meetings, professional development meeting, IEP meetings, parent-teacher meetings, etc., etc., etc.

They don’t appreciate that when you are a teacher, you take on the burdens of your students. Because you care about them, you do everything in your power to help them. You face multiple challenges a day. By the time summer comes around, you need–and deserve–a break.

The teacher on summer vacation will feel carefree for the first time in months. They take charge of their own schedule. They can relax and read when, whatever, and where they want. They can meet friends over leisurely lunches.

There are no lesson plans to prepare and no papers to grade. They have no parents to call and no principals to please for the next eight to ten weeks, and it feels heavenly.

I know this because I was a teacher and school librarian for over 30 years. I experienced the freedom of summer vacations a few years during that time. Most summers, I wound up working because I needed the income. I still recall the lazy days of summer during the vacations I was able to take, however.

Unfortunately, summer vacations are partly responsible for keeping teachers stuck in the profession long after it feels satisfying. Over the summer months, it is easy to forget the frustration of the previous year. By mid-summer, when school supplies go on sale, most teachers start to look forward to the beginning of the new year.

This is partly why teachers stick with teaching even when they are deeply unhappy. I have written about the cycle that keeps teachers stuck in this blog.

If you are a teacher who has complained about your job for the bulk of the past school year, you need to take a look at that post. Letting summer vacation lull you into inaction delays what may be inevitable. If you are a teacher who thinks that you have made a wrong career choice or that you are ready for a different choice, I recommend that you don’t wait. Start investigating your career alternatives now. Consider what your dream job would be if it isn’t teaching after all.

“Dream Job” is written in the sand.

I recently hosted a webinar about how to create a plan for leaving teaching, and one of the participants commented that she wished she had started making her plan five years ago. It reminded me that there is no time like now.

In fact, it reminded me of the adage that the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The next best time is now.

You can’t change the past. You can’t predict the future. You only have now. You get to choose how to handle the present.

Your dream job does not have to remain a dream. We currently live in an emerging economy where people are creating their own jobs every single day. They are retooling themselves. They are recreating themselves. I did it. You can too!

I am excited at the possibility that we are on the cusp of a new economic era. One in which people are doing more of what they love. They are creating work for themselves that they not only love and feel satisfied doing, but they are contributing to the world in a meaningful way. It is possible. Millions of people of doing it right now. You can too, if that is what you want.

Enjoy your summer vacation. You deserve it. You earned it. But don’t let the time slip away when you could be looking into your various options.

Truth is, you may decide that teaching is what you were meant to do, and you will decide to stick with it. Making that decision will help you will feel more empowered than you did before. You will feel more in control of your own professional destiny.

If you decide that teaching has lost its attraction to you, however, there are many other things you can pursue instead. You just have to be open to looking into them.

If you are open to examining your alternatives, you may be interested in a free guide on the 10 things you should consider if you think you are ready to make a job or career change.

Get this 95-page guide on the 10 specific considerations you may or may not have thought of and how to deal with them. Click here to get your FREE copy.

If you haven’t looked for a job for a while, there is a lot you don’t know and haven’t thought of. This guide will help you avoid some costly mistakes.

Do you need help looking for your next career opportunity? Why not try out a 20-minute complimentary Discovery Session? Just click here for my calendar. I would love to chat with you about your possibilities.

Kitty J. Boitnott, Ph.D., NBCT, RScP is a former educator and Past President of the Virginia Education Association. After over three decades teaching and advocating for public education, she retooled and reinvented herself. She became a Certified Life Strategies and Stress Management Coach and a Career Transition & Job Search Coach trained by a nationally known career expert. Kitty specializes in helping teachers who are suffering from teacher burnout. She is the owner and CEO of Boitnott Coaching, LLC and the founder of TeachersinTransition.comTeachersinDistress.Wordpress.com, andKittyatCareerMakeover.CoachesConsole.com.

Not sure is you are experiencing teacher burnout? Check yourself with this free checklist. Click here:  :  https://kittyboitnott.leadpages.co/7-signs-of-teacher-burnout/

Business man in office with burnout syndrome at desk

Teacher feeling burnout.

In addition to one-on-one coaching, Kitty provides training and workshops on stress management for educators and busy professionals who need to learn how to better manage the stress in their lives in addition to career transition counseling and job search advice.

Work should be fulfilling and FUN! If you aren’t living the life and working at the job or career of your dreams you need to consider what changes needed to be made. Contact Kitty for a Discovery Session now.

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.

 

 

 

The Cycle that Keeps Many Teachers Stuck

clock-apple-phone-books

The career of teaching is unique in that it is one of the only jobs of which I know that allows you to complete a  full cycle, experience a period of rest and practically complete separation from the job, and then the start of a brand new cycle each year. If there is any job like that other than that of a college professor, I don’t know of it.

The school year in most parts of the country starts around August or September and ends in May or June, allowing students and teachers alike a full 6-8 weeks away before coming back and starting the cycle again.

The cycle that is embedded in the typical school calendar is part of what keeps teachers stuck–sometimes for years. They hang on from vacation to vacation. And certain specific emotions accompany each part of the year.

For example, at the beginning of the year, there is a certain sense of anticipation that is almost palpable. In fact, for a few weeks before the first day of school, the excitement mounts as school supplies appear on store shelves and preparation for the new year goes into high gear. Teachers and students alike enjoy the first day of school and the ensuing first few weeks. Eventually, however, the honeymoon period wears off as the routine of day-to-day school activities get under way.

In general, teachers are just as excited as the kids the first few weeks of school. If it is a “good year,” the teacher will count his or her blessings, and the year will proceed in without much incident.

If it is a “bad year,” however, that is another story. What constitutes a “bad year?” Teachers will know the answer to this question, but for those who haven’t experienced it, let me recount what a “bad year” was like for me back when I was starting my 2nd year of teaching.

There are 180 school days in the school year for my state not including teacher workdays and holidays. One hundred and eighty days of students.

I started my countdown on day #179.

I remember telling myself as I drove into my apartment complex after the 2nd day of school, “Only 178 more days.” That was 40 years ago…I remember it like it was yesterday.

Why was it a “bad year?” I didn’t have “bad” kids. In fact, on paper, they should have been a dream class! They were all bright with IQ’s hovering around 120, and they were all from nice, middle-class families. In fact, they were all in the band, so they had that in common. They were also incredibly poorly behaved with little or no impulse control, even for 6th graders.

I had a set of twins who were so similar that the only way I was able to tell them apart was the color of their tennis shoes. One of them forged his mom’s signature on a homework assignment…so I had to call Dad about that. Dad didn’t question that the twins were a handful. What he questioned was whether I had the experience I needed to manage them. (He was right to wonder given my relative inexperience.)

Another one of my students that year was like the Charlie Brown character, “Pig Pen.” He traveled with a cloud of chaos and clutter around him all of the time. His desk always looked like it had just exploded papers from who knows where. Maneuvering around his desk was impossible because his books, book bag, coat…and everything else he owned…was strewn in the aisles around him. He was a sweet kid, but I bet today wherever he is, he has left a trail of clutter in his wake. He could not seem to help himself.

I had another student who would occasionally sit on the floor and rock back and forth, hitting his head on the radiator. Nothing would console him when he was in one of these moods, and class would come to a screeching halt while I tried lamely to calm his ragged nerves over whatever the distress of the moment happened to be.

Another student…Richard…never stopped talking! He was extremely good-natured, likable, and entertaining…he is probably very successful today and a leader somewhere…but he was physically unable to restrain himself from talking…so I put him next to me at my desk so I could keep him close to me and away from his neighbors. It didn’t work.

I had yet another student in that class who was such a contrarian that if I had said the sky was blue, he would have wanted to argue that it was green instead.

The point is that this class never gelled into the highly functioning group I wanted them to be…the way the class I had the year before had or the way the group I had the year after did. There was always some drama going on with them, and teaching them English and Language Arts was more than a little challenging.

It didn’t help that the teacher they had before me went out on sick leave around the middle of October, and their long-term sub was too easy going and didn’t have the classroom management skills needed for the group. Neither did I given that I was still new and still learning. But that is what I mean by a “bad year.”

During a “bad year,” things just don’t as well as you might like. What keeps most teachers going is that for every “bad year” they might have, they will usually have a couple of “good years.” At least that was the case for me. I had a great group the year before and the year after. In all of my 33 years as a practitioner, I only had that one really “bad year.”

That doesn’t mean that the rest of my professional career was perfect, however. I was often frustrated with the low pay and the lack of respect I felt people had for my chosen profession. At one point, I even sought out a career counselor to investigate other types of work that I might do. Finding nothing suitable, I decided to go for my Master’s degree instead. If I was going to stay in education, I thought I should at least maximize my earnings.

Each year for the full 33 years of my career, I experienced the same cycle of excitement about the first of the year, sometimes feeling tired and frustrated as early as October and early November, hoping for a long weekend over the Thanksgiving break. I decided that you can do almost anything no matter how tired or sick or frustrated you are for the few weeks between Thanksgiving and the Winter Break. The New Year represented another fresh start, and then we would get into the slog of February and early March. I would start to look forward to Spring Break. Then, toward the end of my career, we started the testing season around the time of Spring Break. Testing season consumes all else. In my last school, the anxiety around the spring state tests was palpable. The school had been an at-risk school at one point, and each year, the fear was that the kids wouldn’t make the cut this year. I was there for eight years, and that fear never went away.

Once we got through the testing season, it was downhill to summer vacation. And that is the cycle that teachers typically experience.

This is also the cycle that I believe keeps teachers stuck in a profession that may or may not serve them any longer. Matthew Boomhower sums it all up pretty well in his blog post, “Emotional Stages of a Teacher’s Career.”

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The point is that when I talk with teachers who are feeling the painful symptoms of burnout by the time they are into year 9 (or 18)–they can relate to this cycle. It is the cycle that has kept them coming back year after year until they decide they just can’t do it anymore.

If you are suffering from those symptoms of burnout (and if you aren’t sure, you should down the free checklist of 7 signs of teacher burnout here), you should acknowledge them and consider if you can continue in the profession or if it is time to consider alternatives.

If you aren’t sure, you should check out my presentation on the 7 Signs of Teacher Burnout. You might find the information useful. I hope so.

So, if you can relate to this cycle, let me know. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Let me acknowledge that I know not all teachers feel the symptoms of burnout, and I am glad that is the case. Our students need and deserve teachers who want to work with them and be with them. I am concerned about the teacher who has hit the point of no return and is having such a miserable time of it that all he/she can think any more is “there must be more that I can do than this.”

Why Teachers are Leaving, and Why We Should All Care


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?”

unhappyteacher

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 the 7 Signs of Teacher Burnout Click Here

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:

For the 7 Signs of Teacher Burnout Click Here (1)

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teachers, Are You Feeling the Painful Symptoms of Burnout?


Since I recently changed my headline on LinkedIn to “I help burnt-out teachers find career alternatives that are perfect for them because work should be fulfilling and FUN!” my LinkedIn connections have gone up almost 400 in less than one month. I am receiving at least four messages a day from teachers of all ages and all stages of their careers asking for more information about what I do. They want to know how I might help them because they have self-identified themselves as “burnt-out.”
Spring is the time of year when the feelings of exhaustion and a sense of overwhelm are most acute for teachers and students. Spring testing is driving every activity in every classroom across the country. Students in schools where passing the benchmarks is a given feel less pressure than those who attend at-risk schools. In those schools that have been deemed “failing” or “at-risk,” students feel the pressure just as much, if not more than their teachers. Kids know that their futures depend on upon how they do on standardized tests. For seniors, graduation hangs in the balance. Regardless of age or grade level, for those who don’t test well, this isn’t a fun time of year.
Fgrade
For the 7 Signs of Teacher Burnout Click Here

When I talk to them about their interest in my services, teachers tell me pretty much the same thing:  “I still love my kids, and if I could just teach without all of the other “stuff,” I would be satisfied to stay. (They often use a more descriptive term than “stuff.” I’ve cleaned it up for a G-rated audience.)

The problem is that the other “stuff” has become a non-negotiable part of the job!

Arbitrary standards that are attached to equally arbitrary test scores which have been linked to teacher evaluations (thanks for nothing, former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan) have made teaching an untenable proposition for a large number of teachers.

While the economy was crippled due to the economic melt-down of 2008-2009, many of the teachers who started suffering from job burnout long before now stayed put because there weren’t a lot of other jobs available to them. As the economy improves, however, the possibility that there might be other opportunities available to them has created a desire for many teachers to want to at least explore their options.

When teachers contact me, I tell them that I can’t offer them a job. I am not a recruiter. I am a Career Transition and Job Search Coach specializing in working with teachers who are feeling the pain and disillusionment of job burnout and who are ready to explore their professional alternatives.

Teachers need my help because many of them fall into the trap of thinking, “I can’t do anything else…I am ‘just’ a teacher.”

Here is the thing:  Because teachers are well-educated, have a solid work ethic, learn quickly, and are good communicators, they are ideally suited for many other lines of work. They just don’t know it yet! And that is where I can help.

What makes me an expert? I was a teacher and librarian for over three decades. I then went on to become the President of the Virginia Education Association. When I left that job I was burned up…worn out…done.

teacher burnout

I couldn’t find the energy or the desire to go back to the classroom although had there been a library for me, I probably would have gone back. What I was offered was a middle school English position which was out of the question for me. I knew I didn’t have the physical stamina. I didn’t have the emotional resilience that I would need to deal with middle schoolers. More importantly, I didn’t have the desire.

I believe that children deserve to have teachers who want to be with them. So, I retired a full six years earlier than I had planned.

Once I made the decision to retire, I felt relief flooding over me. I knew I had made the right decision for me. I took some time off to rest, and I needed a lot of rest.

At the end of six months, I decided it was time to reinvent and retool myself. That was three years ago.

I have established my own business, and I worked with one of the premier career coaches in the country where I received top notch training. I then launched out on my own, specializing in working with teachers who need my help in finding a new career path because their teaching career no longer lights them up or provides the sense of joy and satisfaction they hoped to find when they decided to become a teacher.

Melissa Bowers, a former teacher now turned writer, recently nailed it with 7 reasons teachers might not want to teach anymore in her blog which was offered in Huffington Post I believe many teachers will be able to relate to one or more of those reasons.

So what to do if you are ready for a change? Before we can determine if you need help, you should determine if you are, in fact, suffering from the symptoms of teacher burnout.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do you find yourself dreading going to work, feeling anxious on depressed on Sunday night before having to go to work on Monday?
  2. Do you feel stuck and unhappy because you don’t see room for advancement or promotion?
  3. Do you feel that you have control over your classroom and your curriculum, or do you feel that all of the major decisions are made for you, and you must comply…or else?
  4. Do you feel disillusioned because teaching isn’t what you thought it would be (or it has changed since you started)?
  5. Are you having trouble with sleep because you are worried about finances, your students, your general sense of overwhelm?
  6. Are you lacking the energy and drive you need to be consistently productive and effective on the job?
  7. Are you having physical issues such as headaches, backaches, gastrointestinal issues or other ailments?

If you answered “yes” to any of these seven questions, it might be time to consider making a career move.

 

stressed woman on computer.

For the 7 Signs of Teacher Burnout Click Here (1)

Regardless of your current level of job burnout or just general stress, if you are still reading this post, it means you need to consider taking action today to get yourself out of the rut of a job that no longer serves you. You are considering new goals or ridding yourself of a situation that is sucking all of your enjoyment out of life.

You get one shot at this life. You need to make the best of it.

If you have questions, thoughts, or suggestions that have worked for you, I hope you will share. My only rule for commenting on this blog is to keep it civil, keep it appropriate and keep on topic.

If you would like more information, please feel free to contact me at http://kittyatcareermakeover.coachesconsole.com or fill out the contact form below:

Until next time.

Thanks to Shutterstock for the photos.

 

 

 

Why Teachers Can’t Win

Detroit City school teachers called for a sick-out and closed 94 schools in the beleaguered city today. The sick-out is the result of the teachers learning over the weekend that Detroit Public Schools will not be paying them after June 30th unless the legislature comes to the rescue with additional funding. The problem with that is that the teachers will have already earned the money that they won’t be receiving for July and August.

Ironically, Teacher Appreciation Week began this week.

Teachers can’t win because they are halfway expected to work for free and to do it without complaining. The public has grown used to a paradigm that involves teachers sacrificing everything and working their hearts out, and even using their own salaries to pay for classroom supplies that their districts won’t provide.

It is ridiculous.

What is even more ridiculous is that the commentators on the news this morning…the pundits who have an opinion about all things whether they know what they are talking about or not criticized these teachers when none of them have a clue as to what kind of sacrifices teachers make daily. Additionally, politicians and legislators won’t own up to their culpability. Somebody has mismanaged millions of dollars or else the money would be there to pay those teachers. Where is the outrage about that?

I was a teacher for over 30 years. I never had to go out on a sick-out. I also never had to go without a paycheck, although I worked second jobs for two-thirds of my career in order to make ends meet.

The narrative that charter school supporters and education reformers have created is that teachers should be selfless. They should be super human beings. They should be the Superman that everyone is waiting for, and it is beyond ridiculous!

Let’s face it…without a sick-out today in Detroit, the rest of the country wouldn’t know about–or care about–what is happening there.

It is true that when teachers don’t show up to teach, it takes a toll on their students. I guarantee that there isn’t a teacher on the picket line today who isn’t aware of that fact.

Having said that, taking the news of no paycheck this summer without taking some drastic action would only embolden legislators to take the risk that they won’t have to ante up to pay their teachers for work already performed.

Teachers can’t win because if they fight for themselves and their own families, they are criticized for being selfish. If they don’t fight and just keep working for nothing, however, they embolden other legislatures to do the same to their teachers.

They can’t win.

And it is ridiculous.

 

 

Are We Headed Toward a Teacher Shortage?

Bureaucrats at state levels of government have been warning of an impending teacher shortage for years. As they eye the bubble of teachers who belong to the Baby Boom generation, the numbers are self-evident. As Baby Boomers retire from teaching and take off to reinvent themselves for new endeavors (like I did), the number of new teachers in the proverbial pipeline doesn’t come close to matching the number who are leaving.

In this article posted in Huffington PostAFT President, Randi Weingarten,  argues the case for how a teacher shortage could become a national crisis.

I would suggest that the corporate reformers and members of the anti-union coalition around the country will cheer at the notion that their tactics are working. Legislators who have been offering anti-public school legislation based on ALEC‘s boilerplate templates won’t be sad to consider a teacher shortage, either. Instead of seeing a teacher shortage as a national crisis, they will see it as a win in their column and a way to further their agenda which is, I believe, to dismantle public education altogether. They will then be able to turn education over to charter schools (both public and private), private and parochial schools, and virtual schools that will assist the home-school movement.

Those in the media won’t be sad to see a teacher shortage either. Many in the mainstream media have deliberately and consistently contributed to the deterioration of the teaching profession as a profession for over 30 years, starting with their promotion of the negative narrative first presented in The Nation at Risk Report (1983).

I have been a public school advocate my entire adult life. I am a product of public school education and earned two masters degrees and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership. From 2008-2012, I was the President of the Virginia Education Association. I went to battle with the then Governor and then Republican-led legislature during those years, trying to explain why due process for teachers doesn’t translate to tenure (a job for life). Most of the laws that were passed during that time were counter to what was in the best interest of public education and the children who attend our public schools. Additionally, the attack on teachers was vicious and personal. It was all part of a larger agenda which is to discredit public school teachers so that public schools can be dismantled and turned over to corporate entities who want to cash in on the charter school movement.

I left that position worn out and weary from the battle. The idea of returning to the classroom to teach again made me want to weep from weariness. I knew I was too physically and emotionally exhausted to do justice to my prospective students. I decided that for me, returning to what I feared would be an environment centered on testing more than teaching was a bridge I could not cross. So I left. Since then I have been coaching and counseling teachers who are burnt out and ready to find something else to do with their lives.

Teaching has ceased to be a truly professional endeavor. Teaching has become more about following a script, keeping up with the pacing guide, and testing for the sake of testing. It is ridiculous, and everyone involved knows it, but the political will to fix the systemic problems and address the underlying social issues that contribute to the problems in education leave teachers feeling helpless.

Teachers feel beaten down by what has happened to them and their profession. Some are still fighting the good fight, and I cheer them on because I want them to win.

Many are leaving the profession in frustration, however. They leave because, in spite of the fact that they still love their students, they hate all the other trappings of teaching in today’s data-driven environment.

I admit that I feel guilty on occasion about offering assistance to those who want to leave. I detest the idea that their leaving might speed up the dismantling of public education. I know in my heart, however, that life is just too short to do anything you no longer enjoy. I also believe that children deserve to have teachers who want to be with them. As a result, I want to help those teachers who no longer want to teach to figure out a way to do something else. Do I believe there is an impending teacher shortage? Yes. Does that make me sad? Absolutely. Do I believe that we can fix the systemic problems that are causing teachers to leave? I am not sure.

In case you still care about public education as a public good, whether you are a teacher, a parent or just an interested citizen, if public education is to survive, more people need to be willing to speak up for and defend it. So far that hasn’t happened, but I haven’t given up hope completely. Just this past weekend, a group of dedicated teachers gathered for a conference of members of the Network for Public Education. I am also aware of a group on Facebook of which I am a proud member:  BATS for “Badass Teachers.”

Diane Ravitch, Linda Darling-Hammond, and Julian Vasquez Heilig are just a few high-profile individuals who continue to advocate for public education and public school teachers. They, along with leaders in each of the teachers’ unions, the NEA and theAFT, are working hard to try to carry the message that we should not give up on public education. I am so glad they are still fighting.

At the same time, however, I get calls from teachers who are asking for my help. “I still love my kids and if I could just teach, I would be happy to stay. I can’t stand all the other stuff that goes with it, though. The endless testing, the meaningless paperwork, and administrators who no longer support me have made it an untenable job. I can’t do it anymore.”

If there is an impending teacher shortage, it should not come as a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention.