Monday, November 7, 2016

The thing about teaching


I clicked on this HuffPost article that one of my former coworkers shared, and FB immediately showed me two more, shown above.

There are tons, TONS, of articles about teacher stress and things that need to change so that we (as well as our students) can thrive, but what the heck is being done about it??? Are there higher-ups listening? Or are we just shouting into the void?

I'm not even teaching right now, but I am frequently having stress dreams about going back to teaching next year. And I actually love teaching - I love sharing my love of literature, I love forming connections with my students, and this may surprise many, but I actually really enjoy working with teenagers. (Yeah, it can be difficult, but they are an amazing, dynamic age group, and many of the teens I've known outshine many adults with their insight and their compassion.)

But I feel a little paralyzed whenever I think about the life I'll be going back to. As much as I feel like, in my heart, I AM a teacher (despite the things I've done wrongly or badly in the past), thinking about the workload makes me panic. And actually, it's not really the workload itself I'm afraid of, but the guilt from knowing that no matter what I or any other teacher does day in and day out, it will never be enough. It's the everyday feeling of guilt and inadequacy that breaks me.

There were moments where I felt "on," where I felt like I did something well. But there were certainly never entire days where I felt that way, and there will never be a point where I feel like I've "got it." I mean, certainly for any career path, there's no way to have really mastered everything there is to know, but is there a job out there where you don't spend most of your days feeling like you're just barely keeping your head above water? Because that's what I would like. I wish I could teach, and on any given day, my status would be "managing," instead of "OMG I'M SO BEHIND ON EVERYTHING."

Granted, I have a lot of personal reasons why it was hard for me to stay afloat, some of which are beyond my control, and some of which are of my own doing. I will admit that; I will own that. There are lots of things I should've done better, and if/when I go back to teaching, those are on my list of things to improve. But the proliferation of articles about teacher stress and burnout tells me that no matter how many things are my fault, there is still a baseline commonality between all teachers that tells me that it's not totally me either. That we're all exhausted, that we ALL need a change, but that we love what we do enough to put ourselves through it anyway.

So my question is, ARE things going to change? Is anyone paying attention to these articles aside from those of us who share them on social media? Or do we beat on, boats against the current, treading water amongst the riptides of our paperwork and our emotions, hoping that the waves don't overtake us?

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