Burned-INterview #3: DON'T QUIT TEACHING! This Burned-Out Teacher is Going Back Into the Classroom
This BiT Isn't Giving Up On Her Teaching Dream:
She Encourages Others To Do The Same
BiT Interviews are completely anonymous and are conducted to get to know what burned-out teachers or current teachers are feeling and going through before they have either left or leave the education profession.
AH: (Me!) Amber HarperBiT: Interviewee
AH: How many school systems have you taught in?
AH: How many years did you teach?
BiT: I taught in two different districts. One each year.
AH: Did you always want to be a teacher? What made you want to be a teacher?
BiT: Yes! I always had really good experiences with teachers growing up. I had one specific one who always stood out to me and helped me when I needed it. I didn't struggle in school, but when I needed it, she was always there for me. Her helping me so much made me decide that that's what I wanted to do, so I never questioned it.
AH: Of all of the things that you found hard about teaching, what do you feel burned you out the most? Did you stop teaching because you were burned-out?
BiT: Definitely. I didn't feel like I had very much support from administration. When it came to me voicing my opinion. Not so much my first year, but for sure my second year. I felt that I was told, "No." all the time. It burned me out. I was just done.
AH: Could you give me an example?
BiT: It was a school that was really far behind compared to what I was used to. So, I was trying to incorporate technology and bring that into the school and show them what could be done with it. The principal, even though she was young, was very old school. She wasn't very open to anybody's ideas, unless they were her own. Since it was my idea and I was trying to push it, I did research on it and sent everyone articles on it. I tried hard to push for it and she completely shut down. She completely quit talking to me about it. I was super excited about it and I was like, "Oh my gosh! They don't know anything about technology!" I had everyone doing Facebook Pages at the end of the year, but after that, she didn't want to take the technology any further.
AH: Do you feel that was what burned you out the most? You felt like your opinion didn't matter and something that you felt would be helpful wasn't accepted?
AH: Where did you feel the most unsupported?
BiT: I had a serious behavior issue in my classroom. He came in the middle of the school year. When he was put in my classroom, it was a huge change for him. His mom warned me and after one day, shit hit the fan. It was horrible. It was three weeks of pulling him out of my classroom. He was endangering my other kids. He was throwing things and trying to hit people. I didn't feel like enough was happening to help me with that situation. My principal was expecting me to figure it out on my own. This was everyday for three weeks straight.
AH: What happened after that three weeks?
BiT: He eventually calmed down and got used to his surroundings. I learned that I had to be very stern with him. He knew he could grab my hand and we would go to the hallway. I would use my "mom" voice with him, and that's what got him out of it and back into the classroom to do what he needed to do. I feel like I shouldn't have had to figure all of that out on my own. I should have had more support.
He would scoot around on his chair and try to run into others. I once called the office and asked for someone to come down and get him, but no one came. I had to teach with my legs wrapped around his chair for 40 min until someone finally came.
AH: Besides them coming into your classroom for the safety of your kids, how often was administration in your classroom?
BiT: She would come in only for observations. I was observed four times and those were the only times my students would see her in the room.
My first year of teaching, I felt like my principal (who was doing my observations) had a good grip of what I was doing because he was doing walkthroughs in my classroom periodically, throughout the school year, at different times. So I felt like he understood what I was doing.
But, with her (my second principal), it was different, because it was hard for her to come into my classroom for 45 minutes and critique me on so many different things when those were the only times that she was in there. Those were the only times of the year. That's four times out of 180 school days! That's kind of creepy to me!
AH: What do you feel is the best way to support a teacher who is clearly burning out? What do you wish you would have had?
BiT: I feel like, for me, I was really interested in learning more about technology. That's what I get excited about. Even a principal sitting down and asking, "What are you interested in? What are some conferences that you would like to attend?" That would have been really nice. Some administrators are like, "Well, we're going to send you to this conference, so..." And we're like, "We don't need that. That's not what we're interested in. I already do that in my classroom."
AH: So you are saying that you wish administrators would give teachers the autonomy and choice over where they spend their time learning and what they are learning about?
BiT: Yes. 100%.
AH: Did you feel like you had other teachers to confide about your feelings about teaching?
BiT: My first year, there were several new teachers. We were all about the same age, it was all of our first year of teaching. We supported each other and were able to vent in each other's classrooms, we were able to pull our heads together.
My second year of teaching, if I went to someone about feelings about administration, I felt that I knew it would get back to her. I didn't feel like I had built enough relationships to vent as much as I wanted to. I didn't know if I would be there or not the next year, so I didn't want to jeopardize my job.
AH: What caused you not to go back the next year?
BiT: We moved, but if I would have stayed there, I would have sought out a smaller school. I felt like the school was too big and it was run more like a business than a school.
AH: What do you wish was available to teachers who are feeling very overwhelmed and burned-out?
BiT: There were times where my class was so bad that I would just need to leave the room for 5-10 minutes. I would have my assistant take the class for 5 min. I wish there was a system set up within schools that, if you did need the time, you could step out of the classroom.
I wish teachers would talk about this more. I don't think it's wrong, I think we should talk about it! I feel that teachers think that it's wrong, and it's NOT! We should be knowledgeable enough in ourselves that we need that!
AH: That's one reason that I decided to do these interviews. There is a huge stigma within teachers who have felt the way that we have felt. You don't want to tell anyone, because you don't want others to think that you are a bad person or teacher. I went through a serious period of burn-out my fourth year of teaching. I was crying in my car all the way to school, cried in my car while I sat in the parking lot before walking into the building. I was certain that I was not coming back the following year. I went through this again my eighth year teaching and then I still feel it sometimes now.
I wanted to know that I wasn't crazy! I kept feeling like, "I can't be the only one who feels this way." And, I'm NOT.
BiT: You're not! My first year teaching, I didn't have any problem talking to the other girls about how I was feeling, but, at my second school my principal was constantly comparing me to other people. She always talked about how empathetic she was, but she was so negative!
AH: If you could go back, is there anything that you feel you would have done differently?
BiT: Yes, I would have. I would have voiced my opinion more about how I felt about things. When you haven't been teaching for 10 years, I think it's really hard to go up to your administrator and say what you think, but sometimes I think that's what needs to happen. Sometimes, they think they are above you, when I feel like they should be on the same level as you.
AH: You are approached by a graduating, preservice teacher. They ask you for some advice. What do you say to them?
BiT: It's not going to be easy. I had a great experience going into my first year of teaching. You are going to have days where you are crying in your car or classroom. You will have to remember WHY you went into education. Look back and ask yourself why you even started. Talk to the people around you because they are going to the most supportive and find someone you can rely on and be honest with. Find one person who you feel that you can confide in and vent with.
AH: Were you regretful when you left? Would you ever suggest to someone who is burned-out to just quit teaching?
BiT:Yes, I was regretful. I would never tell anyone to quit. If there were a young teacher who approached me and told me they were going to quit, I would be like, "We're going to figure this out and get you though this." It is difficult to switch job and careers. I just can't think of anything else that I want to do! This is my life! This is what I always wanted to do!
This interview proves it. Once a teacher, always a teacher. We put up with a lot. This teacher, and the couple interviewees before her, have said what needs to be said in reference to all of the stuff that we do and are faced with daily in our professional lives.
We don't want to be pitied. We don't want to be coddled. We just want to be listened to, valued, and looked at as professionals. We need to grow, and help others to grow. That's what we do! It doesn't seem natural to ask a teacher not to want to grow, themselves, when we are in the business of growth.
Administrators, if you are reading this, I beg of you to listen to your teachers and value what you hear. When we question or suggest, we are not undermining you. We are not challenging your authority. We just want to help! We are a smart, problem-solving, passionate, and evolving group of professionals. We want to have control over our own learning, just like we want for our students.
This teacher also proves that not all building/administrators are created equal. She had a great experience at her first school corporation. She had others to lean on and a principal who seemed to be genuinely interested in what was happening in her classroom on a day-to-day basis. I venture to say that she would have stayed there, had she not moved.
This teacher had other teachers to lean on and trust when things got rough in her first school. She found that something, technology, in her second school to help her to inspire others. It's too bad she didn't have them both at the same time!
We are in the business of inspiring others. We should pick SOMETHING and SOMEONE to inspire US as well. Find that person. Find that 'thing'. Let them inspire you to keep going. If you can't keep going where you are, find SOMEPLACE where you can. Your happiness and self-worth are worth it.