>It happens to the best of us. Work, work, think, think, inject passion and knowledge and experience into daily tasks and long-range pieces. When the graph diverges with the effort line rising and the results line falling, falling despite the best knowledge, falling despite doing everything possible and more, then the danger grows. The danger of professional burnout.
When the teacher looks at a student and says to herself, “This kid has emotional problems beyond my training. I need to get him some help,” and the help just isn’t there? Burnout.
When the teacher reads research and thinks, “We need to intervene now so this child doesn’t grow up to be a scary statistic,” but there’s no one to talk to? Burnout.
When teachers can point out the bullies in their own school, but their efforts to stop them are rarely supported, what happens? Burnout.
My solutions? I do what I can. I do my best. Maybe my best stinks sometimes, but if that’s the only intervention available, at least it’s something.
I teach social skills to kids on both sides of the issues: the bullies and the victims. I teach the victims how to change their behavior when it draws negative attention to them. I teach the bullies that there is no tolerance for picking on another student. I catch as many misbehaviors as possible and stop them. I write up discipline referrals for those who go above and beyond the average everyday consequences.
Last time school was feeling inhospitable, I sat down at my computer and completed building plans for two kids. Working through the process reminded me that I know my students and know what they need. These plans will help them next year.
And then I go home. And I lay my head on the counter as the coffee reheats, doing my best to leave the day behind. Doing my best to remember that I’ve done my best, really.
And if I’m lucky, I’ll sleep. And I’ll wake up the next weekday to light my candle again, hope it won’t burn on both ends because I’m running out of strategies to put it out before it’s gone.
>I substitute on occasion, but I’ve never seen anything quite like what you just described. I once thought of getting my teacher certification, I’m undecided still.
>Oh, do I hear you on this one. Thank goodness summer vacation is just around the corner!
>I have family and dear friends who are teachers and they describe their working life with similar scenarios. It seems that to survive you have to pick your battles very, very selectively. And somehow pick yourself up and soldier on if you lose.
Having teachers who are bothered by the problems, even though they feel powerless and frustrated, is better than having teachers who simply don’t see the problems.
You may not be able to change the system, but teachers who understand their students have a huge impact, though they may feel as though they did very little.
Thank you for being a teacher. It’s a really tough gig.
>I think this applies to the entire profession–it’s incredible what teachers are expected to do these days.