old-shoe-womanMaintaining Your Sanity In The Pressure Game Of Teaching

by Kay Bisaillon 

Editor’s Note: You may have noticed we’ve taken a slightly different approach to connected educator’s month. In addition to our connected educator coverage recently–Becoming A Connected Educator and Connected Professional Development Is Now An Imperative–we’ve also been addressing the idea of sustainable teaching as an important tangent (connected teachers being happier teachers). The post below furthers that theme.

One year ago, I wrote the article, Why Good Teachers Quit.

It was hard to write and I struggled with sharing my friend’s frustration and exhaustion. Yes, it was actually about a friend and not me. Today, I am happy to report my friend is still teaching. I am also sad to report her situation is no better. In fact, I might even say it has gotten a little bit worse. She still works long, hard, physically and mentally exhausting days. She is still overwhelmed by data and binders and often superhuman-like expectations. She still does it everyday because she knows she makes a difference to her students, to their lives, and their learning.

The article I shared created a conversation I was humbled to read. Every few weeks, I would check the link and see a few new comments posted. Recently, I had another friend tell me that an educator she connects with from across the country via Facebook posted it. It thrills me that others enjoyed the article and it continues to live on a year after I shared it with TeachThought.

It also scares me in so many ways. It frightens me that there are so many good educators who feel the same way. It scares me that there are so many educators who feel helpless in their fight to achieve more for themselves and for their students. It saddens me that the conversation has turned to unions and stress-related health sabbaticals for many teachers.

What Can Educators Do?

1. Keep talking

I know that seems very basic. But, after a year of reflection and weeks of thinking about a follow-up article, I humbly think this is a very important piece of the solution.

Find your voice. Use your voice. Use it positively, respectfully and intelligently, but use it.

Create a conversation with your co-workers, write blogs, attend conferences and EdCamps, and continue the dialogue.

Research your school board members and vote for those who you believe will bring change to your area. It is important to find your voice and use it.

2. Champion student learning

Use the question, “What does this do for student learning?” often. New standardized testing…What does this do for student learning? New lunch program…What does this do for student learning? A fabulous new lesson plan template…What does this do for student learning? I do not mean to be disrespectful in any way. Perhaps, this is just a question you ask yourself, but ask it.

3. Keep listening

If there are others around you who are struggling with this frustration and exhaustion, listen to them. Give them a shoulder to lean on and a helping hand. Allow them the opportunity to safely and positively vent. Then, help them to move on and see the positive. Do not allow constant negative dwelling. It is not good for anyone to only see the negative in a situation.

4. Keep trying

It may seem as if all of those Genius Hour lessons, EdCamp sessions, Twitter Chats, blog posts, supportive conversations, and after school study clubs are not making a difference but they are. You are making a difference in the lives of your students.

5. Be brave

Step up and say something out loud. It will be scary. It will be hard. It will feel uncomfortable for you. It may not even be met with the response you want. If you feel it needs to be said, so does someone else. Host an EdCamp and invite others to join you in the conversation. Step out of your comfort zone and be brave.

Thank you for the reflection, conversation, and thoughts you have shared from this one post I felt I had to write last year. I am humbled by the reaction it received.

Maintaining Your Sanity In The Pressure Game Of Teaching; adapted image attribution flickr user oldshoewoman