4 Critical Mistakes that Hold Most Teachers Back From Finding a New Career Path

I have thought a lot about what teachers who want to make a career change should do to successfully change careers. The longer you have taught, the more difficult the transition may be. You need to understand the moving parts of the job search process if you want to be successful. You also need to appreciate how a future employer might see you as a potential candidate.
Success scheme on notepad

Success

Watch a video I recorded on this topic by clicking here.
 In a nutshell, here are the 4 mistakes teachers make:
1. Not spending enough time with the question, what do you want to do next? Few teachers–few job seekers in general, actually–spend as much time on this question as it deserves. Changing course mid-career can feel daunting. It takes time. You need to take the time to consider your purpose and your passion. Consider what you feel is your mission in life is. Take time to complete some aptitude assessments. Find free and inexpensive aptitude tests online. Check your Myers-Briggs profile. Revisit it if you haven’t thought about your natural dispositions lately. Shouldn’t your career be in alignment with what you enjoy doing? And shouldn’t your work duties be things that come to you naturally? Why do so many people work in jobs where they feel like they are “swimming upstream” much of the time? Also, consider your core values. Your next career should also be in alignment with your deeply held beliefs.
2.  Rushing into writing a resume or worse, paying someone else to do it for you. You can’t write a resume until you have gained clarity around the question of what is next for you. People think that their resume is a chronicle of their complete work history. Many teacher resumes include lists of duties and responsibilities. They should focus on achievements and successes instead. I also see many resumes that fail to make the connection to the job description at hand. Your resume should be a good match with the job description if you are going to apply. I heard one recruiter say that the resume must be at least a 60% to 70% match.

Unemployment.

3. Applying for anything and everything that you think you might like to do or CAN do. Too many teachers either undervalue or overvalue their transferrable skills. For example, teachers often tell me that they are considering corporate training. That seems to be a good segue from teaching. The trouble is that there is a big difference between teaching 2nd-graders and adults. There is even a big difference between teaching high school kids and adults! Most hiring managers will be leery of hiring anyone without direct training experience. If you would like to be a trainer, make sure to offer some training as a volunteer if you need to. Gain some real-world experience to include on the resume. Taking that initiative signals that you have already branched out into that area. Your success there might predict your future success in a training job. The best approach to changing careers is a strategic one. Think through what it is you want in the future and work your way backward to where you are now. What logical steps should you take to get you to where you want to be? Think of it as a chess game. You need to understand the rules of the game to win.

4. Not understanding how important LinkedIn is to your job search. LinkedIn is currently growing at the rate of 2 new members per second. Headhunters, recruiters, and hiring managers look for talent there. They prefer passive talent–those who are not searching for a job–to active job seekers. If you can build a rock star LinkedIn profile, you move a step closer to finding the job of your dreams. Frame your profile around what it is you want to do next (see #1). Keep the focus more future oriented than past oriented. Highlight your transferable skills rather than on duties and responsibilities. Make sure your photo is professional looking, and don’t forget to customize your URL. Build connections with colleagues as quickly as possible. Get to the 501 mark. Connect with alumni and friends from your personal circle. Look for people that you know who work for companies that you think you might like to work for in the future. You may wind up using LinkedIn connections to get your resume in front of the right people.

These are 4 of the critical mistakes I see teachers making when they want to change their career. Learn more about how to avoid costly mistakes that job seekers make. Register for my FREE webinar here: http://bit.ly/JumpstartYourJobSearchWebinar. You will learn 10 things you should know about job hunting or changing careers.
Top view of the working place with woman's hands. A laptop, notepad and a cup of coffee are on the table. A job search flowchart is drawn on the table.
Job Search
Join me May 2, 2017, at 7 pm Eastern. To register, click here: http://bit.ly/JumpstartYourJobSearchWebinar.
Until next time.

“What’s the #1 Thing Anyone Considering a Career Change Should Do First?

 

Are you stuck, bored, or burned out in a career that you no longer love? If so, the #1 thing you must do first is to decide what do you want to do next.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Just decide. Unfortunately, it isn’t easy at all. And the stakes couldn’t be higher! We’re talking about your life, after all.
When I faced my own career crossroads a few years ago, I was stumped. I had no idea what I wanted to do next. I had reached the highest point that I could go in my previous job. (I served as President of the Virginia Education Association from 2008-2012.) I had earned a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership in 2007, but I had never been an administrator..nor did I want to be.
I have two Masters’ degrees, but neither of them offered a prospective job possibility
I also had 33 years experience as an educator. But I was too tired to return to the classroom.
That meant a career change for me. But what to do? Where to go?
I certainly had not planned to retire so early. When you cry every time you consider a prospective idea, however, I think that is a clear sign that you need to think of something else. That’s where I was. Every time I thought about going back to the classroom, I teared up and experienced a profound sense of dread. I was just too tired.
I eventually decided to take early retirement and take some much needed time to rest up. I thought I would feel better if I could take some time for myself. And the rest was wonderful. But I didn’t help me make a decision around the future of my career.

 

I stayed stuck for months. I tried to write my own resume, but I didn’t know what I was doing. I hired a professional resume writer but was unhappy with the results and felt like I had wasted $400.
I finally found a career coach who offered online advice for a reasonable price. I took her online course which opened my eyes to all the mistakes I had made so far in my search.
Here is the thing about job searching. You don’t know what you don’t know, and what you don’t know, in this case, can hurt you. There is an old saying that “What you don’t know cannot hurt you.” In job hunting, what you don’t know will hurt you. In this case, ignorance is NOT bliss.

I made the same mistake that a lot of job seekers make when they start out to change their job or career. They write their resume first based on all the things they have ever done since they started to work. They include everything because they want to display all their experience whether it is relevant or not.
That approach might have worked in years past. Today, recruiters and hiring managers are not interested everything you have ever done. They want to see what can you do for them NOW. They care about your unique blend of skills, experience, education, talents, and aptitudes. They want to know how you can help them solve their current and future problems. How can you save them money or make them more money? They are much more interested in the bottom line. What can you bring to them? And how well will you fit in with their team?
You can’t write a resume that conveys your value until you decide what it is you bring to the prospective job. And you can’t decide that until you have decided what the heck you want to do with your career? You have to answer the question, “What do you want to do next?” You may be crystal clear on all that you don’t want to do, but the clarity needs to be around what you want in the next phase of your career.
Here was my list of wants:  I wanted a flexible schedule. I wanted to work for myself instead of someone else. I preferred to work from home. I wanted to work in a way that provided service to people. I also wanted to stay in touch with my teacher colleagues because I know teachers. I love teachers. I understand teachers because I have walked in their shoes.
What resulted from that list of wants was the idea of coaching, but I resisted that idea for months. I didn’t believe that coaching was a real “job.” I didn’t believe I could make any money coaching. I didn’t believe I could support myself as a coach. I was afraid that I would never convince anyone that I had anything of value to offer.
Yet, the idea would not go away, and at the end of the day, I had all those “wants” that fit the profile of coaching.
I talked to my coach about it after I heard a presentation on the topic of “Follow Your Passion…Find Your Next Job.” I decided to try on the idea of coaching, at least. So, I asked her what she thought. Her response was perfect. “If you feel called to coach teachers who are feeling the kind of burnout you have been feeling, you should go for it.” That was all the encouragement I needed.
I started to look into coaching programs. I learned that coaching is one of the fastest growing industries, and it has not leveled off yet. Many Boomers are turning to coaching. They want to help their younger colleagues with some of the challenges they face. After all, Boomers have a lot of experience and expertise to offer.
So, it turned out that coaching was next for ME.
The question is, what is next for YOU?

If you don’t know what you want to do next or what your next steps are, then I encourage you to find someone who can help you figure it out sooner rather than later. You will waste valuable time and money if you fail to answer the simple, yet not so easy question, “What do you want to do next?”
You can’t ignore the question. In fact, your life depends upon your being able to answer it.
Until next time.
Photos by Depositphotos.com.

 

 

Stress Management Tools for Teachers: 7 Tips for Surviving the Rest of This Year

Spring has sprung, April is upon us as we are already a week in. Easter is a week away, and for many teachers and students around the country, that means a much needed and well-deserved Spring Break.

Once Spring Break is over, everyone comes back to school with a single purpose in mind:  get through the last weeks of school as quickly as possible. I have written before about how some teachers and students begin a countdown until the end of the school year, checking off each day as one day closer to “freedom.”

counting the days

The hard fact is that teaching is an increasingly stressful occupation. I receive calls every day from teachers all over the country who confess with some chagrin and no small amount of regret that they are experiencing symptoms of burnout. They need to escape, and while I can help in that area, the more immediate concern is what to do about the stress until they can make their getaway?

Unchecked and uncontrolled stress will make you sick!

Because I want to help, I have developed a short course on how to keep your sanity and navigate these final weeks of school with some sense of peace and ease.

Want to know more?

Take a look at this video, and I will explain.

In this short course, I cover 7 specific strategies designed to help you manage your stress more effectively…not just during these final weeks of school, but all the time. The strategies are:

  1. Mindset (Attitude)
  2. Healthy habits (staying physically strong and well)
  3. Controlling your environment
  4. Managing your workload more effectively
  5. Using the 5-Second Rule (thank you Mel Robbins!)
  6. Setting better boundaries
  7. Asking for help when you need it

Each module in the short course includes information and instruction along with recommendations and suggested resources selected to help you implement the strategy for the week.

Each module is designed to help highlight areas where teachers, in particular, tend to fall into certain traps.

For example, get a group of teachers together and listen to their conversation. I can guarantee that in less than five minutes, the complaining will start. Not that the complaints aren’t legitimate because I would venture to guess that they probably are. The trouble is that complaining without doing something about the object of the complaint is not only not helpful, but it can also become counterproductive.

I hope you have new complaints

The trouble with complaining with a friend about things at work is that it validates your perception of reality, and if you feel aggrieved, it adds to your sense of righteous indignation. Venting can be healthy, but too often, complaints devolve into gossip which can be dangerous and even more counterproductive.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not above gossiping. (I am human, after all.)

I was especially guilty of it when I was teaching, however. The lounge invited gossip of all stripes. Gossip about students, their parents, the principal, and anyone who happened to be out of the room at the time.

Here’s the thing about gossip. While it can seem harmless enough, sometimes, it becomes harmful. Especially if it turns out to be wrong or untruthful, it can certainly hurt the person who is the object of the gossip.

Gossip seems to be built into our DNA. I don’t know anyone who is above engaging in it although my grandmother was pretty good about avoiding it. In fact, I never heard her say a single negative thing about anyone. She would listen silently to a conversation about someone in the community or at church, and invariably, if she did speak, it was to offer something positive about the person in question. But she was the rare exception.

In fact, if you think about it, we thrive on gossip, don’t we? Why is the National Enquirer so popular except that people love the juicy headlines on the cover each week. Even if you don’t buy it, you take a look at the cover as you wait in line at the grocery store, don’t you? Magazines like People and others thrive on gossip about celebrities, and we are eager to hear all the details.

Too often, teachers thrive on gossip about each other. And it is hurtful to the culture of the school in general.

Women gossiping.

I would like to suggest that one way to better manage your stress between now and the end of the year is to become mindful of your own habit as it relates to gossip…even gossip that seems harmless.

You see, it is not just an empty phrase that mindset is critical to your success or that attitude is everything.

Your attitude creates the frame through which you view your life. If you are constantly on the hunt for something that you can criticize or complain about, you will find plenty of things about which to complain and criticize and you will be extremely unhappy with your life.

During these last few weeks of school, strive to find positive things to say, and look for the positive in each situation that arises. It may feel hard at first. But it will become easier with practice. Changing the way you view things can make a huge difference in your attitude, and once your attitude changes, everything around you changes…like magic.

If you would like to know more about how to manage these final weeks of school with ease, click here and learn more about the program I am offering. It is a great deal as far as your investment of time and money, and it may make a huge difference in how you wind up this school year.

Happy Spring!

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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.”