8.26.2015

Burnout

Okay. Let's be honest for a moment - the last handful of years have been tough for me in the teaching world. There have been lots of changes, and shifts in my professional realm that haven't all been easy to understand, accept, or adapt to.   During these changes, I tried to give the benefit of the doubt, I tried to be positive, I tried to express my thoughts and ideas.... But I kept feeling mad, disappointed, and the worst - frustrated. I felt like everything was a fight. I felt like giving up. 

I felt so burned out. 

I spent a lot of time trying to figure out
why I was so emotionally exhausted and fried.  Did I feel frustrated and burned out because of all the changes and shifts, or because every year my job has to survive the chopping block in April when the budget has to be balanced, or from constantly having to defend and advocate for the arts, or perhaps the "honeymoon" period was finally over after 8 years.  My conclusion - all of it. All of it was a contribution to my burnout. 

So, when the school year ended last spring and I packed up my classrooms, I decided to take the summer off - like off, off. No planning lessons in July, no planning the years units in August, no workshops, no school related books, no school email, no blog posts, no going in early (which I did break for a day). I decided to take a real break from it all to try and adjust my attitude - to let the burn out wash away.

Did it work?  I don't know. 

Teachers report back next week. I am anxious, as always, but also afraid that my burnout hasn't gone away. To be honest, I am terrified that I won't love my job like I use to. I use to be so sure that my vocation, or calling, was teaching art. I am afraid that I may have fallen into that young professional teaching statistic of burnout.  I hold onto the hope that I am just in a rut - that, like everything in life, there is a fluidity to it and if I hold on long enough, it will circle back.

My plan this year is to let go of everything I don't have control over, which I know is way easier said then done. I lost a lot of energy and a lot of momentum the last couple of years fighting and stressing over things I had absolutely no control over and I can't do it again.  It's not good for me, it's not good for my students and it's not good for my program. So, a new year, a new plan - it's all about my kids in my classroom, it's all about making art and thinking like artists - it's about celebrating mistakes and learning to preservere, it's about providing kids with a different way to think and succeed. I can't control if the district decides to tank the arts, or a slew of other things - so let's live in the moment we have and not worry about the future. I have this year to make a difference in the lives of my students - one day, one art class at a time. A friend of mine, who has provided lots of inspiration over the years, has coined the #everydaymatters and I think I will follow him in this journey. I need to reconnect, refocus, and be present with my kids this year, because everyday does matter. 

So, here is to a new school year. A new vision, a new attitude, and hopefully a renewing year. 

(I typed this post on my phone - please forgive any mistakes.)

8 comments:

HipWaldorf said...

I am having the same 8th year blues!

Ms Novak said...

Thank goodness I am not alone.

Katy Boelter-Dimock said...

I often skim through blog posts, but your third paragraph or so made me stop and read carefully. Thanks for your honesty. Been through my own version of this in 2014-15, and I'm struggling to keep it positive as this year starts. Every day matters, indeed--focus on our interests, inquiry, and the students. Thank you!

Hope Hunter Knight said...

Its like a roller coaster - seems like i'll be at the top of my game then come roaring down the next year and slowly work my way up to a high point again. After twenty years it is easy to look back and see the pattern. Sometimes it is due to external things beyond my control and other times it is more personal. Just try to remember that when you are riding out a low point.

Vicky Siegel said...

I am in my 24th year teaching elementary art but felt like you a few years ago when WI went away with teacher's unions and I then had 5 extra classes a week with 15 minutes to get to my second school! Since then, THE MAPEL (music, art, physical education, and library) teachers have all discussed the situation with administration, and now everything is way better! I do only go to a few teachers with issues, eat in my room, and try not to let other teachers get me down. Sometimes I just want to teach and have nothing to do with some of the negativity in the school. Anyway, what seriously helped me was taking 2 Art of Education classes. After that bad year I took The Element and Creativity in Crises. They really helped me connect to amazing art teachers. I know it will be hard to take them during the school year, but it is a thought for next summer if you are still burned out. Good luck!,

Kj said...

Read your post with a lot of empathy....having known and worked with you I know firsthand how good a teacher you are. There are definitely good and not so good years being an art teacher, but I hope I can encourage you not to give up, the bottom line is we do this for the kids, for the next generation with the message that art matters-- even more now when creativity is finally being recognized and supported within the din and dust of educational reforms and archaic systems. The honeymoon might be over, but there is still plenty of good stuff to go around! I was rejuvenated and inspired after taking a project based learning class this summer and am currently teaching on the specifics of what creativity means and it's been great! The end of my journey in the art room is approaching and we need good young art teachers who are not afraid to stand up for what they believe and for advocating for the kids-- for when it comes to art we really are the only ones who know and understand how hard our job is beyond the "fun". Learning to let go of what you can't control will free you up to find your passion again...in spite of where we do, what we do. Hang in there, YOU matter! A shout out from Prairie! KJ

Picassas Palette said...

I feel ya. I was about 6 years into my teaching career and I was using up my passion for art and teaching by trying to battle with things I could not control- class sizes, budget inconsistencies, extracurricular responsibilities, and more. I found that I didn't have that much more to give when it came time to teach in the classroom.

Ultimately, I was given a eerily clear sign that told me to "cut my losses", and at that point I decided that the situation was not a good fit for me. I rode out the rest of the year trying to "be present", just like you.

I love my past students and I love my coworkers from that job, but it just got to be too much! Thank goodness I was presented with another opportunity that financially paid way less, but intrinsically paid way more.

Stick with it until you can no longer. Until then, put your passion into what counts, like you said- being present with your students. That's where your fountain of strength to get through will be.

Reaching my arms through the computer to send a virtual hug of encouragement! You DO make a difference in the lives of your students... and they appreciate you and the possibilities you are making accessible to them!

-Stephanie

Ms Novak said...

Thanks everyone! It is nice to be met with such support.