0023: Burnout or Crossroads? Where am I and where do I go?
I am concerned that I’ve become better at talking about teaching than being a teacher. I am plagued with constant doubt of my practice, and my motivation. I do not see myself as the same teacher I was when I started. When I started I taught in a districts “worst school”. The students were violent, the gang problem was out of control, and the kids were the greatest challenge to reach. I managed and thrived there. I felt like I was an amazing teacher and all I was doing was holding on for dear life. Those kids impacted my life greatly. They’ll be graduating this year.
I barely knew anything then. I wasn’t cynical, I was eager. I had a fight for the kids mentality. We were fighting an unfair system together. We engaged in amazing conversation about community and fear and hope. There were times was terrified. A kid brought a sawed-off shotgun in the first week. No one was harmed, but it scared me. Scared my wife too. Kids couldn’t read, they had been put in that school as a dumping ground. But, the teachers there were dedicated. The principal was die-hard. I was bound and determined to succeed.
The kids I teach now face the same problems the kids I taught then did. I just feel half as effective. Half as motivated. I sometimes feel I’m going through the motions. I know tons more about the theory behind teaching. I have more experience. I’m more educated. I’ve done consulting work and written quite a bit. I’ve had myriad opportunities to help other teachers, and blah blah blah. I’m only applying what I know half the time I think. I’m barely here the other half. I have moments when I’m an amazing teacher. I have amazing moments when I’m working with other teachers and the find themselves awakening to new thoughts and ideas in their own practice. I help them reach the genesis of new ideas. I enjoy that. I feel like the teacher I was when that happens. And those moments happen in my classroom, I’m just barely aware of them I think.
I understand that I’m evolving, but I don’t know how. Where do I go from here?
0012: First, do no harm— right?
I’m struggling as a teacher, and we all struggle, but I think I’m dealing with a dulled motivation. I don’t know if I’m approaching burnout, or if it’s time to make a move from the classroom. I am heavily critical of the schooling takes place, and for good reason. I’m concerned that being a part of a system that equates children with a number and not as human beings is somehow unethical. Equally, I know it’s important to be in the trenches and try to be a humanizing wrench in the cogs of this machine. The kids seem so dull sometime. They’re not boring people, they just lack the vivacity that has been apparent to me only in glimpses when we are able to connect beyond the curriculum. And, I’m in a new area with new kids. Some exhibit a hopelessness that has been crushed into them over their educational careers. Others are rightly obstinate and untrusting. Many have not been treated well by teachers. And, I understand, to an extent, why things are the way they are. My concern is that I have lost my spark. I am deeply committed to the cause of education. I like working with the teachers at my school to solve problems of curriculum and other things. I like providing examples of ways to teach things in a more effective and meaningful manner. I just don’t feel that way in my own classroom. And, this is the first time I’ve felt like this I think. I feel like it’s time, maybe, to change my role in education. I don’t know what to think or exactly what to do. I know I need to approach my work with enthusiasm. If I’m not, then I’m doing harm. I entered this field to help. I want to reach my goal. We must be reflective if we intend to help more than we hurt.