Everywhere we turn in the media are interviews and information about job stress. I have seen multiple articles, posts and studies lately about the teaching profession and how many young teachers we are losing due to job stress and other reasons. The statistics show that our young teachers are only staying in the profession for 4 or 5 years and then moving on to something else. This morning I came across an article about stress in the teaching profession and I was shocked by the negative and misguided comments written in response.
Teacher well-being is a timely topic for many of us. I have always considered myself to be a high energy and tackle anything coming my way, sort of person, but at the end of last year I was definitely suffering from some serious stress related health problems.
Over the summer I realized 2 things:
1. I can’t make everyone happy no matter how hard I try to no matter how many extra hours I put in.
2. I can’t solve everyone’s problems no matter how hard I try to and no matter how many extra hours I put in.
I think there might be a few different reasons that young teachers are moving on from our profession at what some might consider an alarming rate. I have noticed a change in the respect given to teachers over the course of my teaching career.
I didn’t always want to be a teacher, but once I decided that was the direction I was going, I was always proud to be able to say I am a teacher. It didn’t matter what school I was in or what position I had. Over the course of my career, I have taught every grade kindergarten through grade 12 in some capacity or another and have enjoyed them all.
Some of the lack of respect I notice seems to come from government, who do not always treat us like professionals in the manner we might like, some comes from the public perception that seems to be driven through media, and yes, I think we need to take responsibility for some of it as well.
I sometimes look back and wonder if I was starting all over again, if I would still choose to be a teacher. I look around me and see many other professionals which appear to have equal job satisfaction, making much more money than me with much less educational investment.
As you might have guessed by what I have said so far, I am pretty close to retirement, so I am not changing my focus from teaching at the moment. As a matter of fact, I am not even negative about my job and I enjoy what I do very much. If you ask any of my three children if they want to be a teacher, they will answer with a resounding “NO”. I am not sure if that is a reflection of what they have observed in me or if it is just their destiny to go in another direction.
I have learned over the years that I do not function well without a challenge. I can become bored with what I am doing and need to add some element of challenge, before I suffer discontent. It has happened a few times over the years, but I have been able to find enough opportunities within the teaching profession to branch out and try different things.
One piece of advice I would give to others is to keep learning and keep challenging yourself to be better at what you do. I think we do enjoy some autonomy within our profession that we do not always take advantage of. Yes, our curricular outcomes are mandated to us and many expectations are directed to us, but how we meet those outcomes and live up to the expectations is up to us, so why not have a little fun with it. I hope that I set this example for the teachers I work with and they know that thinking outside the box is always welcome and trying new things is what it should be all about.
I have also learned, maybe recently, as a result of my health problems, that I can step back and let others be leaders. I do not have to control everything that goes on around me. I know now that I cannot make everyone happy, so I need to step back and let others take control at times and not feel like I am personally responsible for everything that happens in our school. I am not very good at this, but getting better and I think that it is a benefit to our students every time I am able to do it.
Most of the teachers I know do not like to brag about the things they do in their classrooms, despite the fact that, in my perception, many of them are doing wonderful things. To them it is ordinary and not worth talking about. I think this may be part of the reason not every teacher wants to jump into using Twitter. They might judge the educators that share as bragging or feel like they do not have anything worth sharing.
I think the “bragging” is more like sharing, collaborating and branding. The one thing we all want more of is time and it seems to make sense to me to share the things we are doing so we are not all starting over from the beginning. The ideas, thoughtful information and support that I receive from my twitter involvement is incredible.
Another reason I think the sharing is so important is because we need to tell our positive story. If we allow others to tell our story it often comes from media sources that might not portray the positive things that are happening in our classrooms and schools. If we make an effort to tell our own stories more often maybe we can change the negative attitude that I was reading about this morning, by offering up a different perspective.
Maybe we can engage our parents and communities in what we are doing.
Maybe we can set a positive example for our students as they are portraying their own “brands” in the social media world, if they see us sharing positive and exciting things about our schools.
I agree that things can be discouraging and there are many stressful things that teachers deal with on a daily basis that I did not even touch on in this little rant, such as class size, data tracking, high level behavioral issues. The list can go on and on really, but I choose to concentrate on the things we can control and try to support the people around me in doing the same.
Thanks #saskedchat for helping me stay the course.