I haven’t posted in quite some time. I, like everyone else, have been quite busy lately what with the term ending soon and all my many obligations. Last week in particular was a rather draining week for me. The grading is piling up, and I haven’t slept well in the past couple of weeks, and last week I had two committee meetings that I chair. All this is a way to say, I’ve been feeling stress recently.
On Thursday, I teach night school, and as usual I went up around 5:30 to the teacher’s room to heat up my lunch when I saw one of my coworkers still going strong. I always see him on Thursdays still working. He tells me that it is unusual that he goes home before 6 or so. Now he is young teacher with no kids in his first year. Seeing him made me think of just how stressful it is to be a good teacher and what schools do to try to mitigate teacher stress.
We all know burnout is a major problem among teachers. We also know teachers have many demands put on us. We’ve all known 12+ hour days and sometimes we heroically announce that the only time we see the sun is through our classroom window as if that is something to be proud of. We also know that this sort of work/life balance is unsustainable.
Schools try to offer various solutions to teacher stress and burn out. I’ve seen many schools offer various stress management workshops; some schools have yoga, meditation, or exercise clubs for their faculty all (at least partially) sold on the idea that they help reduce stress. I applaud these efforts, and I hope schools continue offering them, but I fear they are only short term solutions-solutions that look good, but don’t really solve the problem.
The reality is that we, as educators, have to be willing to walk away from work or just say no. While we have many pressures put on us, many of our obligations and stress are self inflicted and we need to give ourselves permission to let go of these. So many of us are perfectionists or over achievers by nature that we kill ourselves unnecessarily. Rarely does that test need to be graded and handed back the next day. For example we are a google school, so naturally many teachers use google classroom. We are required to post our assignments in our grade book so students have access to it. We are not required to use google classroom, but many people do, so they feel obligated to post their assignments there as well thus duplicating their work. This is a small example, but my point is that sometimes we build more work for ourselves.
We relax by watching netflix, but we feel guilty not grading at the same time. So what do we do? We grade while we relax, which is of course not very relaxing (and probably not very efficient grading either). We know this isn’t healthy. We know this isn’t sustainable. And yet we do it to ourselves all the time.
We need to give ourselves permission to de-stress and school leaders need to make it known that that is acceptable and should be encouraged.