teacher burnout

Finding Motivation Before Winter Break

It is 11:30 (p.m.) on a Saturday night, and I’m thinking about teaching. I’m thinking about how last week was more downs than ups, but the ups helped me rationalize that maybe I can survive (the next two days). I’m thinking about how Monday and Tuesday are going to be long and probably reincarnations of last week (I’m not sure what our district was thinking when they decided to end the semester on a Tuesday). I’m thinking about how achieving National Board certification could be less than a year away from me, and then what? I’m thinking about a conversation I had with my friend today who is in law school and is working for a clinic as a public defender intern. She inspired me that people are still fighting the good fight and that it’s possible to change things, if only one case at a time. I’m thinking about what teaching strategies I’m starting to get better at, and just wrapping my head around what works. I’m thinking about the goals I have for myself and my students and reflecting on how I lose sight of them under the weight of the usual suspects: exhaustion, pressure, annoyance, and time.

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The Road to National Board Certification Part 7: 11 Ways to Talk Yourself Out of the Dark Place

What is it about February that makes us deplore it? Is it the long-haul to spring break? The fact that Valentine’s Day somehow makes teenagers spontaneously reenact Days of Our Lives scenes at all hours of the school day? It may be the shortest month, but to teachers, it is definitely the longest. And it always makes me question my career: I call it, The Dark Place. 

I’ve written about this before and how to prepare for the storm. My February is no exception. I prepare for it like the best of them, but it still doesn’t matter. I will never love February. I am working on my NB Certification and my students and I cannot afford to check out. Therefore, in a quest to make this profession sustainable, I present to you:

11 Ways to Talk Yourself Out of The Dark Place

  1. Come up with the most menial list and feel proud of it 

My to-do list gets ridiculous. “Plan out the rest of the week” is ALWAYS at the top. I never get that far, honestly. I just don’t. Something more urgent always comes up. So, I make a menial list. “Empty the small trash by my desk into the big trash can” is perfect. Really. Get something done and feel good about it.

2. Fight the urge to sit

I have an adjustable desk, so I raised it to a standing desk this week. If I sit down while kids are working I get into a rut of sitting. Being sedentary does no one any good, and it really diminishes the interactions I have with my kids. If you don’t have an adjustable desk, then remove your chair from your desk. (But not like this).

3. Don’t play into people’s negative B.S. 

Negativity is catchy. I am great at catching negativity because of my charming yet cynical personality (so my husband says). One word: EMAILS. Delete those passive aggressive missives like they have the plague.

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Damage Control

They say that the earlier you identify a problem, the more likely you are to prevent damage.

I guess what I’m about to say is kind of like that.

I’m not going to play up my teaching experience as a wonderful, squishy nice, fun fest in which every day I awoke with energy brimming, ready to embrace my disadvantaged, minority, inner-city students.

Not every day have I felt like that. Definitely some days, more than not I’d say, but not every day.

I highly doubt anybody feels like that. Not even those peppy Teach For America over-achievers. (A TFA-er works at my school, in which we discuss often that this job doesn’t get easier, only more difficult). Not that difficult’s a bad thing, but I notice that I have asked myself at least once this year:

“What if I went to med school?”

“What if I went to law school?”

“Is it too late to transfer to the business sector?”

“How long ’till I retire?”

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