My colleague shared with me this week that the only thing keeping him at the school is his paycheck. He's extremely unhappy. He feels like he puts so much into his classroom, but the kids just don't care. Some are openly insubordinate, while others are compliant and nice, but rarely are kids truly engaged and excited to learn. It's so draining on him that he wants out. And this is a guy who's taught for 20 years - and I've seen him teach, he's excellent!
I shared with him, one thing that helps me is to notice all the times when I make a difference. He said, "I just don't see it." This is a guy who does amazing work - really a stand-out teacher - and I'm SURE kids benefit all the time. But he's in a space where he's missing it. And it's draining his spirit!
So what to do?
It's not a cure-all, but using an activity called What Went Well regularly (and with others) can be transformative. Here are the basics, and a quick video:
The key is to do this with others. It's great to do alone, but once we start using it celebrate with colleagues and friends, we create a habit of acknowledging the difference we make each day. That way, when things are tough (and so often they are!) we won't get sucked dry.
Give it a shot, and let me know if you need any help!
Do you know about Parker Palmer's Courage to Teach workshops? You get together for a weekend with like-minded teachers, and explore the inner landscape of teaching and learning. They are so rewarding. And recently, the Center for Courage and Renewal released a series of videos, so you can experience the retreats first-hand. Well, not quite first hand...you should still sign up for an actual retreat some time! Click to check out the videos.
We can use this mandate to sustain our passion for teaching. It's an opportunity to celebrate the amazing things we already do in our classrooms, and a chance to shine a spotlight on the huge benefits kids get from being around us. Doing so, is how we avoid burnout and sustain ourselves.
For it to work, however, we need to tweek TPEP and make it for us, rather than just an annoying hoop to jump through.
Take a look at my short video, and I'll show you how it works. And then please let me know if it helps shift your perspective.
Good luck! -Ryan
Naturopathic doctors call it the "Square Breath", and I use it all the time at school (and in my life). It's super easy and fast.
All you do is breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, breathe out for 4, and hold for 4. Try that a couple times between classes, and I'll bet your stress will calm way down. It also helps you concentrate and get present with your kids after a moment of overwhelm or negativity.
Let me know if it helps!
It's incredibly stressful to come back to school after the Winter Break. We've gotten blissfully used to 2 weeks of freedom, fun and relative low stress, and then BAM all the frenzy of teaching slams us. But luckily we're in it together. I had the best talk with a couple other staff this morning. Our school nurse was really honest and said, "I feel a lot of anxiety. I'm out of my routine and it's tough to manage all the things coming at me!" We agreed that once we're back in our routine, we can handle whatever comes our way, but right after a vacation, wow, it's hard!
Getting real with my colleagues totally shifted my perspective. It's so easy to feel like we're the only ones struggling, but nothing could be further from the truth! Once the 3 of us talked this morning, I felt so much better. Like I was part of a team, and everyone was in it together.
Good luck this week! Ryan