Devoted teachers, however, often have a difficult time turning off, saying no, avoiding extra work and responsibility. A dedicated, hardworking teacher, they figure, is a caring teacher, a gifted teacher.
And they’re right.
But what is the cost of an approach where our work could be endless if we let it?
In Crisis in Education: Stress and Burnout in the American Teacher (Jossey Bass 1991), author Barry Farber reports that only about half of all teachers last more than four years on the job. That’s a shame. And this was before The Standardized Testing Machine metastasized into the mindless Behemoth it’s become, where we’re expected to do more with our students, only with less time and less money. In this model, we see more duty, but less fulfillment.
Is it any wonder we’re seeing even more teachers crash and burn, ignore their callings, and search elsewhere for their livelihood?
To help you avoid that endgame, allow me to argue for a more balanced approach that will help you get your work done without breaking down or burning out.
I hope these reminders help you stay a teacher instead of merely becoming a statistic:
First of all, you deserve peace.
You’re entitled to be treated like a professional.
You’re allowed to speak up.
You’re entitled to decent working conditions, materials, equipment, and supplies.
You’re allowed to say I don’t agree.
You’re allowed to say I don’t think so.
You’re allowed to laugh or cry at the endless hypocrisies of The Education Machine.
You’re allowed to take a break.
You deserve to take care of yourself.
You’re allowed to assign less.
You’re allowed to make fewer marks.
You’re allowed to say I don’t know and I’m not sure.
You’re entitled to institute your own Personal Vision, regardless of The Almighty Standards.
You’re allowed to say no.
You’re allowed to think of teaching as An Art.
You’re entitled to what Anne Lamott calls Radical Self-Care.
You’re allowed to do less, and do it better.
You’re allowed to say I don’t care.
You’re entitled to take time for reflection without guilt.
You’re allowed to take time for rejuvenation without guilt.
You’re allowed to rest.
And remember, 24/7 teacher friend of mine, even God rested.
Putting these ideas into action will not make you a bad teacher or a bad person. In fact, in a bit of magic worthy of a student of Hogwarts, they will–lumos maxima!–increase your focus, deepen your sense of fulfillment, and increase the quality of the energy you will be able to provide your students, your family, and yourself.
Which is perfect, as it turns out, because we need you. TZT