Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!

Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!
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Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions. ~ Author Unknown

My goal is to reveal one teacher's humble journey of self-reflection, critical analysis, and endless questioning about my craft of teaching and learning alongside my middle school students.

"The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called 'truth'." ~ Dan Rather

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Stop Burning the Candle at Both Ends!

Stress. Long hours. Endless grading. Discipline problems. Pressures for students to make progress and achieve. The list of daily responsibilities and concerns for classroom teachers today never ends. The hats we wear as professionals on a daily basis run the gamut -- from instructor to mentor, coach, friend, colleague, motivator, mom, disciplinarian, innovator, artist, actor, and athlete. In the process, we often give so much of ourselves to our students and schools that we have VERY little left for US at the end of the day. 

The Christmas and holiday season is usually one of the first times in the school year where the stress of the year thus far is readily apparent on teachers' countenances in classrooms. They become sick (I have already been sicker this fall than I have been in years!), lose enthusiasm, focus on the negative, and get into survival mode until winter break. Our students, on the other hand, seem to become less cooperative, more challenging, and less able to focus on our lessons and instructional activities. A huge recipe for a disaster? Quite. Impossible to change for the better? I think not.

It is IMPERATIVE that every teacher takes time out of this busy, crazy, insane season for him or herself.  
Not just sometimes but every day. We need to indulge in what really gives us joy each day; for me, those things are teaching, singing, running, enjoying good health, taking care of myself, and spending quality time with my family and friends. If one of these things is not a part of my life, I find myself suffering, physically and mentally.

A recent article in the ASCD newsletter confirms these findings and beliefs in a big way. Read for yourself to see further why it is so crucial that we put ourselves first, rather than last, on our list of daily priorities:

Burning the Candle at Both Ends

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends
It gives a lovely light!
—Edna St. Vincent Millay
I believe all teachers will agree with the statement that teaching is one of the most stressful and demanding professions in the world. We are expected to play multiple roles in the school to become effective teachers—a leader, a sympathetic listener, a counselor, a parent, a manager, a coach, a technology specialist, a subject expert, a keen observer, a researcher, an administrator, a role model and above all a person who has all the answers to students' curious questions. Phew! The list is ever growing.
Research suggests that 50 percent of newly recruited teachers leave the profession during their first five years. But believe me; whether you are a novice or a veteran teacher, everyone is susceptible to burnout. Being burned out can mean feeling empty, uncaring, or devoid of motivation. Teachers experiencing burnout often don't see any hope of positive change in their situations.
Have you found yourself worrying about a low-achieving student or classroom management strategies, or brainstorming creative projects for your students over the weekends? Have you missed out on lunch because of an unscheduled meeting with your principal? Have you let your family or interests take a backseat because you are totally consumed by your passion for teaching? I think most teachers have made these sacrifices at one time or another. Teaching is a noble profession and we are expected to go beyond our school hours and embrace every little matter in its totality; however, everything in our lives doesn't have to be focused on teaching.
As teachers, we must learn to relax and have fun and not feel guilty for indulging in some other passions, such as listening to music, exercising, and traveling. Another skill we teachers must learn is how to say no. How many times have we given in to a student's request for a quick review of a lesson before the test, or a parent or administrator asking for an unscheduled meeting that interrupts our organized schedule? Laying down clear classroom policies and expectations for students, parents, and administrators at the beginning of the year—and sticking to them—saves a lot of energy as the year progresses.
Administrators are bestowed with the job of creating work environments in which teachers will flourish. Sometimes administrators heap one challenging task after another onto good teachers because they can handle the responsibility, but this practice will not help keep good teachers in the system for long. Administrators should set transparent policies; practice equitable treatment of all teachers, regardless of the grade or the subjects they teach; include teachers in decision making; formulate support groups; provide adequate resources and stability of tenure; and model positive behavior by achieving a good balance between personal and professional life.
As teachers, we must be prepared for delayed gratification. The seeds we sow in the classroom today may not bear fruit for years; therefore, don't be disappointed if results of your hard work are not seen instantaneously. Don't let it affect your self-esteem and morale. Last but not least; let's not forget why, of all the professions out there, we have decided to join this one: to make a difference. That's reason enough for us to continue and shine despite the hurdles and difficulties. 
Are you in danger of burning out? Try this self-test to gauge the warning signs:
Bijal Damani is an 11th and 12th grade commerce and business studies teacher in the Galaxy Education System in Rajkot, India, and has received numerous honors.

Copyright © 2010 by ASCD

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