Burned Out, Teaching

How Does A Teacher Burn Out?

“You get a 3 month paid vacation.  Why are you complaining?”
This phrase.  A teacher’s nemesis.  The phrase we hear from strangers, politicians, or read online.  We hear it from those who have not stepped foot into a classroom since the day they threw their cap in the air proclaiming this phrase, not knowing the frustrations of a teacher.
So how can a teacher get burned out?
They get summers off.
Holiday breaks.
Spring Break.
Every major holiday.
Let’s not forget those snow days!
They only work 180 days out of the year! How can they possibly be burned out?
Let me break this down simply.  There are three major reason we get burned out and fast:
1) State mandates changing yearly (sometimes monthly)
2) Parents
3) Colleagues
Put these in a pot and stir it all together, you have hot mess of craziness for one school year.  Let me break it down for you non-teachers.
1) State Mandates
          They change ALL the time.  There’s little we can do.  Entering 2018, we live in a world that looks down on teachers.  According to most politicians, we are imbeciles that couldn’t make it in college so we chose teaching as our demeaning profession.  We are viewed as glorified babysitters, sitting behind our desk while the kids color and eat glue sticks.  The state can never make up its mind, and when it does make a mistake, it refuses to accept it.  Teachers make phone calls to their state representatives pleading for help and doing what’s best for children.  Instead money is stripped away and put toward something else.  We do the best we can with the cards we are dealt.
          Standards change.  State mandates change.  It’s part of the teaching life.  Is it annoying?  Yes.  Do other careers deal with the same inconsistency and changing mandates (only related to their field)? Yes.
          Some of us are blessed to have curriculum directors or coaches that give us guidance.  Some of us have to figure it out on our own time, which is usually after dinner time or when the kids are in bed.  It’s part of being an adult in the working world.
2) Parents
Ask any teacher what is the worst part of our job.  The reply is generally the same: Parents.
          Sure, some parents are wonderful.  They send us notes to tell us how their kid is getting home, bring cupcakes to the classroom party, show up at conferences, help with homework, and work with us to make sure their child succeeds.  If that’s you–we love you more than you realize.
          Then…we have the ones that abuse their children–physically, mentally, or emotionally.  We report issues to social services and wait for the system to do their job.  If we’re lucky, the kids are taken out of the home, but it’s a long and painful process.  I’ve watched a mother throw her ten year old out because the pedophile boyfriend preferred her daughter over her.  There’s a family struggling to even eat so the child sneaked food from the cafeteria into his backpack.  Parents pinning their child against one another to use in court.  Parents have screamed at an educator, because it was somehow the teacher’s fault their daughter forgot her homework on her own bedroom floor.  The list continues.  Unfortunately, parents can be the ones that make this job 100 times more difficult.
Our job is emotional.  We become attached to these kids, because they’re our kids.  We are fiercely protective of these children.
3) Colleagues
All teachers care for their children.  All teachers want to do what’s best for kids.  All teachers collaborate and work together to make a friendly and safe environment.
In the words of Jim Carrey’s  The Grinch–“Wrong-O”
It’s not all.  Most.  But not all.
          You will have met, worked with, or will work with a teacher that is lazy and ineffective.  He/she will sit at his/her desk,  refuse to modify or accommodate assignments for kids with IEPS or struggling learners, and blames all of his/her woes on other colleagues. “It’s never my fault” seems to be their personal slogan.  “It’s not my job” is often heard from this teacher’s mouth.  Some teachers are bad teachers.  Great people but bad teachers.  If you don’t know who this teacher may be immediately, it’s most likely you.  They show up late, they leave their classroom unattended, use the same worksheets year after year for thirty years, and refuse to collaborate with others.  Sound familiar?
          I have worked with colleagues from all backgrounds, age, and educational levels.  I have seen teachers call other teachers nasty names, make kids pick and choose between them or another teacher, scream at one another in front of students, and the list continues.  How is this allowed?  It’s not, but it happens.
          Do not be fooled.  These teachers exist.   Most teachers are loving, caring, and hard-working.  We stay up late worrying about our students.   We sneak food into their backpacks, because we know there is no food when they go home.  We buy them small Christmas gifts.  We love them as if they were our own.  We work until the late hours of the day.  We bring our work home.  We put our families and children as a second priority, because we know some of our students have greater needs to be met.  We cry when a child is mistreated, and we step up to be their voice and helper.  MOST teachers work hard and love their job.  Yet, we all have or know that one teacher that burns us out.
So how does a teacher become burned out?   Some years are faster than others.  We love our jobs.  We care for your child/children.  Just like you, we get tired at work.  We become emotionally attached to our job, which makes things even harder.  We bump heads with co-workers, adjust our curriculum over and over, and we fight to be the voice for those with none.  Summer break is simply our rehab time to shut down and reboot.

7 thoughts on “How Does A Teacher Burn Out?”

  1. Very good article ma’am, I am not a teacher but I have had kids who are now adults and have kids of their own. All of my kids went to public schools here in the U.S. and I have met with and spoken with many teachers through the years. There is no doubt that you folks have a tough job and the articles of complaint you speak of I would have to say I agree with you. I am going to reblog this article for you, good luck in your career ma’am.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have been an educator, for the better part of 41 years. Some years, as when my wife was slowly dying and I was her caretaker, I worked as a substitute teacher. 13 of my professional years were spent as a counselor. I saw great parents and broken horror shows. I saw Master Teachers and broken people, who played games of “Gotcha” with their colleagues and with the students. I saw workhorses and show horses. There was never a year that I didn’t put forth 100%, even when I was in over my head or was being played by political charlatans. The children always have come first, and they have always been able to tell.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I wish more careers had that reboot time — ours is the one full week a year I leave my work phone at home while traveling 🙂 — otherwise, end up checking in on email at least a couple times during a week when we take a week off here or there, as it’s less stressful than the digging out that occurs once I return to the office! I appreciate your balanced post — our boys were K-12 public schools and most of their teachers were wonderful … but there were others, not so much. I am still friends with several of the special teachers I got to know through time spent volunteering with PTA or classroom parties/trips, etc. over the years. And those that complained about the late evenings for conferences for a few days out of a couple weeks, while we have the same pile of work facing us at home that evening or weekend, without the week off for winter break, because we are saving that week off for summer … some were clueless (those I haven’t kept in touch with 😉 ). The latest news cycle really helps reveal some of the unique pressures placed on our teachers that create almost impossible learning environments. Keep hitting that refresh button – we need you!

    Liked by 1 person

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