Burned Out Teachers (Part 2)

Dave aka Mr. Math Teacher:

“Teaching is energizing but also exhausting work. Each day teachers spend the rich intellectual, physical, and emotional capital that they have accumulated over the years on their students. Because of that loss in capital, teachers need to re-invest in themselves by doing what expert gardeners do with favorite potted plants.”

So true, sadly. I suspect the nature of the teaching profession will continue to demand more from many teachers than they are capable of supplying in a sustainable manner. At the outset of this, my fifth, year, I relinquished my desire to affect change on a grander scale to return to my classroom with renewed vigor. Here’s hoping the re-potting takes.

Originally posted on Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice:

There are three ways to reduce the kind of burnout that so many K-12 teachers, particularly in low-income minority schools such as Spanish teacher Alli Baugher at Ballou High School in Washington, D.C. experienced. Change the work conditions or change yourself (or both).

Change working conditions. The age-graded school was a mid-19th century innovation imported from Prussia and planted in the U.S. Within a half-century, the innovation slowly and irrevocably replaced the one-room schoolhouse throughout the nation. Erecting a “grammar school” housing eight grades with separate classrooms where teachers teach six year-olds in one room and ten year-olds in another reorganized the very nature of schooling in the U.S. The principal and teacher would determine whether each student had learned that portion of the curriculum allotted to that grade in one year’s time most often through tests. If the student passed the various tests he or she advanced to…

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My High & Low Moments as a Teacher, All in One Day

Yesterday capped off my fourth year as a second-career high school mathematics teacher.  Unfortunately, this past year served as my most difficult, heaping unbelievable amounts of stress upon me.  Perhaps ironically, my last day mirrored the highs and lows of the year.

In the short span of less than twelve hours, I experienced the following highs and lows.

  • Immense gratification for being recognized in a local newspaper article by one of my just graduated students as having a profound impact on her preparedness for college; this student received a full scholarship to an Ivy League university as a 2015 Gates Millenium Scholar.
  • Unbelievable pettiness and chastisement from my interim principal for not turning in my classroom key on time.

Sandwiched between these two moments, and the reason I kept my key, I met with a distraught student and parents to address their concerns over the student’s final grade.  Yet, for some reason, this interim principal decided it was more important that I turn in my key than meet with the family, as he ordered me to rush to the office from my classroom a few moments before they were scheduled to arrive.

As I hastened to the office, baffled as to the short-sightedness of the administrator, I realized I left my sign-off sheet in my backpack in my car.  Entering the office, I handed the key to the school secretary, mentioning what I just realized.  The admin, standing nearby, demanded that I bring in my form first thing Monday to which I replied I could not as I was on notice for jury duty starting that day.  His retort was for me to come on Tuesday, to which I wondered at his civic knowledge and replied exasperatedly that in my four years working at the school this is the first time I was required to turn in my key, of which the admin said he was honored.  Incredulous, and not wanting to meet with this individual next week, I hurried to my car and back to the office with the sign out sheet, all the while my classroom door was left open with my computer unattended for I could no longer open my locked classroom.

Adding insult to injury, just prior to my dialog with this admin, which set the above chain of events in motion, he left a message on my cellphone stating that he would dock my pay for the day since I had not turned in my key on-time, and hence, he assumed, had not reported to school, which was untrue.  This admin seems to relish the power he wields over teachers, especially in miniscule matters.  Sadly, he cannot see the forest for the trees and hides behind a facade of friendliness with his Cheshire cat smile.

Given my experience yesterday, this past school year, and my entire four years teaching, it is no wonder new teachers leave the profession in droves.  There are so many idiosyncrasies to teaching, that even the most dedicated, passionate, and committed souls falter under the pressure.  I still plan to teach next year, given the enormity of my student loan debt, some of which can be forgiven by teaching at my present school.  However, I do not know if I will see a decade in the classroom.

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Teacher Appreciation Week Notes

Last week, Teacher Appreciation Week, several teachers enlisted their classes to write and to distribute thank you notes from students to teachers.  I received several, some of which I share below.  These all made me smile.

  • (Just because I was forced to write this doesn’t mean it’s not specialThank you for pushing me to continue the class. It has helped me so much, and I appreciate that you believed in me.  You are a great teacher, and you rock the sock and sandals harder than anyone I know.  Keep doing you.
  • I just wanted to thank you for helping me with my math homework.  It helped when you helped me one-on-one.  You taught me so much.  I learned more than before.
  • Your sense of style is by far the best!  I love the socks and sandals.
  • I like pi.   Pie likes you, there 4, I like you.
  • Thanks for being like my dad. <3
  • Thank you so much for teaching me that learning requires persistence and failure.  I appreciate your strength and courage to challenge us.
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