I've recently heard from a number of teachers that are retiring. Some write sad emails stating their unhappiness with their past teaching experiences as they say goodbye to the profession. I've encountered very few who are going out happy and at the top of their game. A few, but not many.
My youngest daughter recently came to the teaching profession as part of Teach for America (same daughter that was fired years ago for Boat Rocking). She started in an inner city Memphis high school that had previously struggled to find teachers willing to take the job. She was part of an invading army of young people launched by Teach for America and they are attempting to set the world on fire through improved teaching methods and youthful enthusiasum. And from my vantage point, having visited her in Memphis, they are making a positive impact on the community and the children.
They have assembled an impressive group of young people focused on changing the world. It reminds me of the idealism of the 60's. I hope they don't end up like some of my older teacher friends as it would be sad to lose this well intentioned army of young people.
How do we go from enthusiasm to despair in a 30 year teaching career? If there is a subject that I am not qualified to write about from a personal standpoint, it is burnout. I've never been there. I love my current job and every job I've ever had since receiving my college degree.
However, I have experienced fellow workers with a form of burnout. They were most often extremely emotional, sometimes crying uncontollably, and in a state of extreme anxiety about events at work and oftentimes in combination with events at home that had taken over their lives.
In attempting to help them work through their problems, I discovered similarities. They were often my best people. They were hard working, conscientious, type A personalities who took on too much and were now overwhelmed.
I would ask them if they were still exercising on a regular basis as I knew they once had. And most often, through tears, the response would be nearly identical from each stressed out person I asked. "No, I've been too busy to exercise dealing with all of these problems."
I know it sounds simplistic, but it is nearly impossible to be emotionally stressed out when you've elevated your heart rate above 130 for 45 minutes.
Making time to exercise and relieve stress is recommendation number one for preventing burnout.