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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Almost Here

holiday list

The countdown is on. How are you doing? Are all the gifts purchased and wrapped?All the baking done? Any parties to plan or attend?

I don’t have to tell you that the litany of holiday activities and “to-do’s” is seemingly endless. And the pressure! Ever arrived for an event and realized you didn’t remember a gift for Uncle Bob or Aunt Sally? Is that the worst feeling, or what?

I watched the show “Black-ish” recently and was struck by the story line regarding the pressure we put upon ourselves–and sometimes the pressure others put on us–to make every holiday better than the year before. It is a tall order for many of us, but we continue to try.

All of this activity can be stressful, needless to say. That is why I am offering a FREE webinar Tuesday, December 15th at 7:00 p.m. EST. Here are the benefits of my program:

  • You will learn what stress is. The fact is that “stress” means different things to different people. What stresses me out might not even register on your radar. What stresses you out might be something I deal with every day. Stress is different for each of us, but…
  • Stress has a definite effect upon each of us physically, mentally, and emotionally. I will help you understand what stress is and how it might be impacting you negatively and you aren’t even aware of it.
  • You will also learn how to recognize the stressors in your life, and
  • You will learn why it is important for you to understand stress to be…and stay…healthy and well.
  • Finally, you will learn 7 specific strategies that won’t cost you anything but might save your life. These 7 strategies are simple (if not always easy) and can impact your general sense of wellness and well-being.

So, what do you think? Is it going to be worth an hour of your time to check it out? If so, I hope you will register here.

I hope to see you there.

Until next time.

A Few Words of Wisdom for My School Administrator Friends

I know my teacher friends are still enjoying their summer vacations (unless they are working summer school or their summer job in order to make ends meet) and thoughts of school are at least temporarily on the back burner. Having said that, I think it is time to write a post that offers some advice for my administrator friends and colleagues who are gearing up getting ready for the return of their teachers in just a few weeks. I hope you will read and know that this advice is offered with good intentions and good will.

I offer a workshop on stress management for teachers, and when I am preparing to go into a specific area to offer this workshop, I do a little homework and contact some of the teachers from the area to see if there are any specific issues of which I need to be aware. While teachers everywhere are subject to high levels of stress these days while also dealing with historically low levels of morale, it is foolish to think that all teachers in all locations are dealing with the same stressors. So, I ask, and I learn. That might be one good piece of advice for administrators. Ask how things are going. You might learn some things that you hadn’t considered.

During my investigation this summer, I have talked to a number of teachers and inquired about what was going on in their school and their district. Three themes have emerged, and I thought it might be helpful to administrators to offer what I have learned in case you haven’t yet taken the time to ask these questions yourself.

In answer to what are the top two or three things that create the most stress for you, here are the things that emerged, and in this order:

1. Lack of time.

2. Too much paperwork.

3. Inconsistent administration of district policies from school to school.

I know that time is a problem for everyone. We never seem to have enough to do all of the things that need to be done. As a result, too many of us are depriving ourselves of sleep in an effort to get everything done, and in the end, we wind up exhausted and unable to do our best work because we are, well…seriously sleep deprived. This is truly a problem, and it is a growing problem that people need to stop and consider. I just wrote another article entitled, “Are You Sleep Deprived?” in which I point out that sleep is as essential to our health and wellness as food and water. Yet too many of us think that sleep can be delayed, put off, and minimized in our effort to accomplish all of the things on our to-do lists.

For teachers, time becomes an issue because, in addition to face-to-face time with their students, they need planning time. They need time to collaborate with their colleagues. They need time to sort through the mounds of data with which they are presented, and they need time to sort out how they are going to differentiate their instruction to meet the needs of the children who are coming to them every year with more needs and fewer resources with which to meet those needs.

As a Superintendent, you should consider how you can provide your teachers throughout the district with the time that they need in order to do the job they have been hired to do. This does not mean cramming in extra professional development programs that may or may not meet the needs of the teachers in your district. It also does not mean sending the message to your principals that they can impose meetings on their individual faculties that may wind up being a waste of the teachers’ time. Forget the idea that a cookie cutter approach to staff development works. It works no better for teachers than a cookie cutter approach to teaching students works for the students.

As a principal, you will be forever loved and appreciated if you can figure out a way to respect your teachers’ time and give them as much as you can for planning, for collaborating, and for keeping up with their mounds of paperwork. Indeed, the paperwork seems to increase exponentially every year because the people in charge “at the top” of the education pyramid have no idea what teaching in the classroom looks like anymore.

As for the complaint about too much paperwork, an effort to control that would be greatly appreciated, and it would help with the complaint about time. Teachers are feeling more and more overwhelmed with paperwork that feels like “busy work” rather than work that is truly helpful or meaningful either to them or to their students. Cut out some of the reports that no one ever checks. In fact, I heard from more than one teacher this summer while I was doing my background research that many teachers feel that they are being asked to keep up with reports that no one ever checks and the only rationale for the reports is that it helps justify a job of someone in the central office. If that is the case, it is time to take a serious look at the work that is being required by the central office administrators. Busy work isn’t recommended for students…it should not be required of teachers.

Finally, with regard to inconsistent administration of district policies from school to school, it is up to the Superintendent to provide training for school administrators so that this is minimized. It is not okay for some school principals to be sticklers for every letter of a policy while others let some policies slide. And when it comes to disciplinary policies for students, it is critically important that principals strive to be on the same page with other principals about how they handle certain incidents just as it is important for administrators within the same building to be consistent. Teachers, like students, are hyper-sensitive to anything that smacks of unfair, inconsistent, or arbitrary treatment. Be aware. Be consistent. Communicate with each other, so you know what you are all doing and be consistent.

In my general research about teacher burnout, I have read numerous articles that point to the fact that teachers who feel truly appreciated and who are recognized for their contributions are much happier in their jobs. Job satisfaction is key to those who want to avoid feeling the burnout that comes with feeling that no one cares about how hard they are working or the efforts that they are making. The current craze around testing and accountability has put the focus on arbitrary test scores instead of the authentic teaching and learning that is taking place in every classroom every day. Paying lip service to how much you appreciate everyone’s efforts to get the school’s test scores up is not what I mean when I talk about teacher appreciation. Giving awards is not what I am talking about either. A teacher knows when his/her administrator truly knows what they are doing and cares enough to check in to see how they are doing and what the administrator can do to help and support their efforts. A genuine “thank you” for everything you are doing and a “What can I do to help?” goes a long way toward ensuring the loyalty and appreciation that you as an administrator yearn to have.

These are definitely difficult times for educators everywhere regardless of whether they wear the hat of teacher or administrator. At the end of the day, however, regardless of which hat you wear, you are–or at least you should be–about making sure that children learn in a nurturing and safe environment. Period. That is what we are about. That is why we do this job.

Happy New School Year.

Practicing the “Art” of Self-Care

 

Self Care

Self Care

I have been talking about self-care a lot as I conduct my workshops on stress management. As far as I can see, stress management relies most heavily on our ability to practice self-care, so I ask you to consider:  How good are you at practicing self-care?

Women, I believe, are especially vulnerable to the notion that taking care of self first is “selfish,” but I don’t believe that women are the only ones who suffer from not taking care of themselves. We are taught as small children that we must always share and we must bite back the things we would like to say in an effort to be “polite” and to “get along” with one another. Men and women receive messages that seem to indicate that others always come first, and where does leave them?

As a result, I believe we have a lot of adults who have lost touch with themselves while they go about their days putting the needs and feelings of everyone around them first.

Now, I am not talking about moms of small children. In the early years, it is necessary, of course, for young mothers to be mindful of and responsive to the needs of their babies and toddlers. But as our children grow older, to continue to put their every need head and shoulders above your own is not only not healthy for you, it teaches your children wrong lessons about how they should conduct their own lives.

We have gotten too used to putting everyone else first, and I believe we are paying the price for it by being sick more than we should, feeling tired so much of the time, and suffering from a serious bout of “is this all there is-itis.”

The solution, of course, isn’t to declare that from this point forward, you are only taking care of your own needs and no one else’s. That won’t solve anything. But there does need to be a better balance, it seems to me, between taking care of others’ needs and taking care of your own.

Stress is caused by a sense of overwhelm that can be created by feeling that there isn’t enough time, there isn’t enough money, and you don’t have the energy to deal with all of the demands on you. You can take some active steps toward better managing and reducing your stress right away if you start to learn some important self-care strategies.

Arianna Huffington has recently written an entire book on the premise that we as a society have become exhausted and that we need to recognize that taking care of ourselves is not selfish, it is self-preserving.

One of the strategies that she is promoting is meditation. I did a workshop recently on stress management, and one of the participants asked me before I began if I was going to talk about meditation. I told her that given the amount of time we had, I wouldn’t be talking about it at length, but I would be mentioning it as one of the seven strategies that I recommend to those who are interested in reducing their stress levels. Meditation every day or a daily practice of prayer—or both—can go a long way toward helping you feel better about yourself and about life in general.

Meditation is recognized as an important practice on a wider and wider basis these days. It isn’t just some New Age “woo-woo” stuff. Indeed, meditation is becoming more and more mainstream, and Oprah Winfrey has teamed up with Deepak Chopra in an effort to take it to an even wider audience worldwide. Researchers are discovering that brain waves can be altered with meditation, and an individual’s sense of well being can be impacted by a daily meditation practice.

I am going to suggest that for this week, you try to incorporate meditation into your daily routine, even if it is only for five minutes a day. And if the idea of being still and doing nothing for five minutes makes you feel anxious, consider that you could take a walking meditation, or still your mind while you are doing the dishes or working in your garden. The point of meditation is to still your mind, to get rid of the chatter that is constantly telling you that you don’t have enough time, you don’t have enough money, and whatever else your mind frequently goes on about. Still your mind while you knit or crochet…but still your mind if only for a few moments in order to make space for the inner voice of wisdom that resides in each of you but is so often drowned out.

Self-care is not about being selfish—it is about nurturing yourself and your own soul so that you can be the person you were born to be. Consider for just a moment what you might do differently if you were acting in your own best interests for a change. What if self-care became a way of life for you starting today? It could change your life, couldn’t it? And, if it can change your life—and for the better—why not give it a try? What do you have to lose?

For more information, please feel free to contact me directly at kittyboitnott@boitnottcoaching.com.

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For information about the career coaching program offered by CareerHMO, click here.

 

What are the Serendipities in Your Life?

Serendipity Stones Writer and poet, Simon Van Booy has said, “Coincidences mean you are on the right path.” Albert Einstein once said that coincidences are “God’s way of remaining anonymous.” I should offer the disclaimer here that I don’t really like the word, “coincidences.” I prefer to think of “coincidences” as “serendipities.” To me, serendipity is a coincidence with the added element of surprise or delight. I find serendipities in my life all the time. Some people recognize them later, after they have happened; but I usually spot them in the moment. I suspect I see them more readily because I have trained myself to be on the look out for them. My question to you today is, are you on the look out for coincidences/serendipities that indicate that you are on your right path? Is God trying to nudge you in a particular direction, but because She is doing it anonymously, you are ignoring the messages that you are receiving? If that is the case, I urge you to slow down and start paying more attention to the various coincidences that I am sure are occurring in your life right now, even as I write this message. No one is immune to having those odd, “coincidental” events in their lives to which I am referring. So, what are the coincidences in your life, and what are they trying to tell you? Are you on the right path, or do you need a course correction? You know deep down where you need to be and what you need to be doing. “Listen to your own wisdom,” as Oprah would say. It will not lead you astray. Now, just in case you need an example, I have one that just this minute happened for me. This morning, I presented to a group of teachers around the topic of National Board Certification. It made me think about the last person I mentored, and I wondered for a moment how she was doing. Then I proceeded on with my talk. Guess from whom I just this minute received an email? You guessed it. That person about whom I thought just this morning has contacted me, wanting to check in “out of the blue.” I haven’t heard from her for months. Why would she decide to check in with me today? Because I thought of her this morning and on some cosmic level, we must have connected. Those are the events about which I am writing. When you think of someone and they call you the next day. “I was just thinking about you,” you will say. Or you discover that you need some extra cash for something that has come up unexpectedly and suddenly, as you are balancing your checkbook you discover an error that reveals that you have the amount you need. Admittedly, it doesn’t happen all the time, but it does happen on occasion. Be on the look out. Listen to the messages you are being sent. God is speaking to you through those coincidences that I like to think of serendipities. Again, as Oprah is famous for saying, it is “what I know for sure.”

Finding Balance: Reclaim Your Time and Live a More Fulfilling Life

Do you ever feel like you have too many things to accomplish in a single day?

Are you driven by demands at work all day only to come home to find more demands being made on your time and energy?

Do you feel worn out all the time, waking up just as tired in the morning as you were when you went to bed?

Is your life feeling less joyful and more like drudgery?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, I have something special to offer you.

I am launching my first FREE Webinar in just a few weeks.

Mark your calendars for June 24th and plan to tune in from 7:00-8:30 pm to learn more about finding balance in your life once and for all!

 Here is what you will learn:

  • What is Balance? Consider perspectives that will help you think about your own life and how you might create more balance in your day-to-day activities.
  • What is Work-Life Balance? Learn to create a dynamic relationship between achievement, fulfillment, and the factors that influence your choices and decisions in both your work life and your personal life.
  • What Does Work-Life Balance Mean to YOU? This program will demonstrate for you that your life is yours alone, and you don’t have to compare it to anyone else; nor should you be comparing yourself with others in order to create the lifeYOU want to be living. Work-life balance means different things to different people. Explore what YOUR definition of work-life balance is.
  • How Do You Rate Your Work-Life Balance? The activities included in this webinar will help you assess where you are right now on the work-life balance spectrum. You will learn that work-life balance is an ever-changing relationship that is constant need of attention if the balance is to be achieved and maintained.
  • What are the Consequences of Work-Life Imbalance…and What are the Benefits of Improving Work-Life Balance? There is no easy fix and creating work-life balance is a challenge for most of us, but this webinar will show you what the real world consequences of not getting your work-life in balance will be for you.
  • What Can You Do to Improve Your Work-Life Balance? In this webinar, you will learn the specific things you can start doing right away that will help to improve your own work-life balance.

Stay tuned for more information on how to sign up for this special event. I am excited about the prospect of bringing this important information to you, and I hope you will plan right now to do this for yourself.