I am always 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.