This week’s post comes to you from Ashley Falkos. Ashley is a reading specialist at Geneva Middle School North! I am thrilled to share her post with you as I am sure it will resonate with many!
Be honest. Has the thought recently crossed your mind that you could leave teaching and get paid much more to do something entirely different, and perhaps even be appreciated a little more?
Teachers are vastly burnt out and losing motivation to continue the hard work we do every day (and most evenings). The burnout crisis has led to a teacher shortage, as professionals in our field are leaving in droves. In fact, according to Jennings, 25% of all teachers quit last year (Teacher Burnout Turnaround, 2021). Something must change in the education system to retain the dedicated professionals who impact students’ academic and emotional learning in such positive ways. It is time to address teacher stress and burnout.
But first, how did we get here? If you study the history of the education system in America, we are still operating with an old factory model, despite how much our world has changed. The reality is that our students are learning in a 21st century environment and often we are preparing them for jobs that don’t even exist quite yet. As teachers, we should feel empowered to feel that we have the knowledge and capacity to make major changes in an outdated educational system.
Furthermore, are we teaching our students mindfulness practices to deal with the stressors of the pandemic moving forward? Are we considering our own mental health as teachers working in what often seems like a pressure cooker? The stress educators are prone to with constant demands such as managing emotions, rising to curriculum standards, and making hundreds of decisions daily is insurmountable.
I recently saw a post circulating Facebook that itemized a very long list of what educators must think about every day. Quite frankly, I barely had the mental stamina to make it through reading the entire list. Most comments from educators read something along the lines of, “I stopped reading at number 7, it was too depressing.” From people who weren’t educators, the comments were usually like, “You couldn’t pay me enough to be a teacher in this day in age.” I suddenly realized that we are expected to do all of that in a single day. One day. We don’t even think twice about it- we “just do it,” as the Nike slogan would say. Not to mention, most of us have families to go home to or even second jobs to supplement our income.
All this has led me to question how we can build inner resilience. For starters, we can acknowledge the problems most teachers sarcastically joke about, and then try to find ways to cope with stress-relieving methods. Yoga, mindful breathing, and that pesky buzz word- self-care- can offer some refuge from the unbearable stress that leads to burnout. We can also refocus on our mindsets. Are we dwelling on the stress, telling ourselves scripts, or is it our reality? Encourage positive self-talk, practice gratitude, and set the tone in your classroom every day; our attitude greatly impacts our students. Try viewing setbacks as an opportunity for growth. You know that growth mindset we teach to students- are we practicing it ourselves? Believe it or not, all these methods will better our psychological and physical well-being.
While it may seem impractical, we do indeed have the power to make change as teacher leaders. Many teachers are in this county are contributing to children’s education making a positive impact every day. Educators are a workforce of over three million dedicated professionals! Let’s feel inspired and ready to take on the aftermath of last year. Let’s make a transformative change in the boundaries we set for ourselves. Let’s get motivated to prioritize the social-emotional needs of students- as well as be aware of our own needs as we continue to carry on.
We got this.
I want to again thank Ashley for sharing her knowledge and experience with us through her writing. If you would like to be a guest writer for “The Progress Report” please reach out to me (Katie) so we can arrange this. We all have something we can learn or take away from one another so please consider being a guest writer, such as Ashley has.
Katie Algrim – Director of Innovative Professional Learning