Monday, June 19, 2017

Burned-INterview #4: Burning Out? Make a Friend!

Burned-INterview #4: 

This BiT Couldn't Hack It Without Her Teaching Partners: 

Who do you go to when you need support?

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 Harper   BiT: Interviewee

AH: How long have you been teaching?
BiT: I have taught for more than 10 years.

AH: What do you love the most about teaching?
BiT: The ability to embark on my deep personal beliefs during our school day, outside of academics. The strong faith aspect of our school day.  Sharing my faith with my kids. At the end of the day I want my students to go out into the world as good, caring people.

AH: What is the hardest thing about being a teacher for you?
BiT: The toll that it takes on my family. I have given my students everything, emotionally, physically. My family gets the short end of the stick. That's what gives me to most guilt as a mom, because I am spent. Honesty, I really want to be the best, but my family SHOULD be the thing to come first and at the end of the day that’s not the case. My husband says things like, "How can you be so tired? How can you snap so easily?"

I feel like on of the biggest problems is that administration doesn't listen to their teachers. They pay thousands of dollars for experts and professionals, but they aren't listening to the teachers who work with these children daily. How many sticker charts am I going to do before I pull my hair out? I feel like if we were listened to and our voices mattered, we could save money and teacher sanity, because we know what is realistic to do with 30 kids. A lot of pressure is put on us, because we are a private school, to perform at the top. Like, in the top tier.It's frustrating when those people are making decisions for us and they are not in our classrooms for hours at a time, having to try to carry these things out with so many kids.  
I will do anything. I will do whatever is best for the kids, but I wish teachers had more power to say what needs to be said in front of administration. It's very hard to always be completely open and honest without fear of having others say that we don’t want what's best for the students.

I can say that at the end of the day, I have done everything that I can, but it still isn't enough. When I first started teaching, everything bothered me. I know things are the way that they are, and we can't change them, but I want to.

AH: How is your relationship with your admin?
BiT: I work in a huge school. Admin are kind and loving, and they lead with the best intentions. They are spread way too thin. I've only had one observation this year and only because I am up for renewal. Otherwise, I have gone years without being observed. Very visible in the building, but in our classrooms, very little.

AH: Do you like that?
BiT: I wish it was different, I don’t want to be micromanaged, but I wish the kids could form a good relationship with the principals. I think the principals want that, but it just isn’t possible.

AH: What advice would you give to administrators, if you had the chance? 
BiT: If you don’t have happy teachers, no one is happy. They are going to prevent their students from being happy and they are not going to be at their best for their students. I mean, I constantly wonder, "How long can I keep doing this?" I feel that teaching is at the expense of my family.

AH: Have you sought out anything to help you with balance?
BiT: I've tried setting "rules" for myself. Trying to get everything done at school and take NOTHING home. But then I'm at school until 8 or 9. I've also tried leaving early and taking stuff home and it doesn’t get done. It doesn't seem to matter what I do, I can never keep up.

AH: Have you sought out help?
BiT: I've read blogs on how to balance, nothing that I have found has been realistic for me. The dynamic at my school is different. The support staff is very limited. I feel like we are responsible for modifying all of their work, who have special needs. It’s a lot. I have to modify every piece of work for the kids.

AH: If you could wave a magic wand, what would help you the most?
BiT: More parent support. I have both extremes. Both ends of spectrum have extreme needs. I feel like school and home is a partnership and yet some parents think that dropping their kids off is their only job in educating their kids.

AH: Who do you feel that you have to support you?
BiT: I have someone to lean on, and she is fabulous, but she has her own job, so she is limited in how much she can help me. I also have two teaching partners who have worked together for eight years. We all plan together and just get each other through some things. I feel so lucky to have them, because I can’t imagine what it would be like to not getting along with who you work with or if it was just me.

AH: Is there anything else that is hard for you?
BiT: Technology. Tech is changing so much. I love it, but I’m not savvy. I feel like things move at such a fast pace, that I start learning one system and then it is changed. That’s really hard for me.

AH: It seems like you have had a lot going on. What are some of the things that are consuming your time the most?
BiT: We have switched to new administration. With that came a bunch of new committees. Now you have all of  this other stuff that you have to do. I think people don’t realize what we are for these kids every day. We are everything. Nurse, counselor, seamstress, mentor, and then you want me to go and be on countless committees and do all of this other work

I just feel like, "You are not going to get the best of me there."

And now we have to fill out collaboration forms. Paperwork to prove that we are doing what we should be doing. Plus, last year, I had 8 speech referrals, so I had to deal with all of that paperwork too.

AH: How do you decompress from this?
BiT: I like to run, but I feel like I don’t have time. My kids are involved in so much, I get to do it only once or twice a week.

AH: Say that I took away your two teaching partners, what would you do?
BiT: I couldn’t handle it. We share the workload. I plan math, another teacher plans the whole group reading lessons. I am Type A and I want to have everything perfect and done. I don’t sleep at night. I will just sit and replay everything that didn’t get done that day. I have to take Benadryl before bed so that I can sleep.

AH: Do you ever feel isolated?
BiT: Sometimes you don’t talk to another adult until the end of the school day. I get home and my husband doesn't understand why I am frustrated, and I'm like, “You had adult interactions all day, I’ve had 30 child conversations all day.” I think everyone should come into a classroom and see what it takes to do what we do.

Take-Aways and Tips

This teacher puts a lot of what we do into serious perspective. We give our all every day. As positive as we try to spin all of the hats that we wear during the day, every day, without support and encouragement from our administrators and other teachers, it can take a serious toll on our overall well-being. Having others to talk to about our stress levels is so important and without that, I can tell you from personal experience, life is hard and it can be next to impossible to leave that stress at school. 

1. Teachers have to stop being the landfill where everything that "has to be done" is dumped on them. If we are going to be at our best we can't be bogged down with filling out paperwork like collaboration proof forms and being forced into committee memberships. These things won't make us better teachers. Listening, supporting, and encouraging makes us better. With that being said, if you feel that things are being put onto your plate that don't belong there, it is your responsibility to say so. The only way this problem can be resolved is with your advocacy for yourself.

2. Having friends in the workplace is a non-negotiable. We crave companionship and support from our peers. We need someone to laugh and plan with, bounce ideas off of, and to give us honest and helpful feedback when things aren't going the way that we want them to. My first year teaching was a nightmare. I can't imagine staying in that environment for longer than I did. MAKE FRIENDS. BE A FRIEND. We are all in this together. 

Don't have someone at work to support you? Then check out these resources for getting you connected with others who are just as interested in building their PLN (Professional Learning Network) as you are:

I have sung Twitter's praises for over a year now. If you are looking for other positive influences that you can't find in your building, this is where you will find them. 

As you follow people, Twitter will recommend others to you. It is the most amazing connection tool ever! 

Check out YouTube for many great tutorials on how to use Twitter.

2. Google the term "Education Blogs" and you will be showered with opportunities to find inspiration. When you do, TWEET at me and share what you are reading. I want a piece of that too!

Burn on!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Tid BiT: Reflect to See How Far You've Come

Take Time to Give Yourself a Little Credit

Normally, while I walk the dog, I listen to Podcasts or books on OverDrive.  Yesterday, however,  I happened to remember all of the voice recordings that I have created and thought to myself, "I should listen to those." 

As I scrolled through the long list of them (I typically record thoughts that I'm having while I drive or am walking/running) I realized that I started recording back in April of 2016, right before I started I recorded all sorts of ideas. Some bad, some good. I listened to over a year's worth of voice recordings and was AMAZED!

What really struck me was how many of the ideas that I recorded, I actually followed through with! I have come a LONG way. While I've been sitting here, day after day, beating myself up about what I should have done or what I should have written or said, I was GROWING. I was CHANGING. I didn't even realize it until I took the time to reflect and give myself a little credit a whole year later.

Take time to reflect on where you were a year ago, five years ago, or even yesterday. How far have you really come? If you aren't proud of what you see, what are you going to do about it?  You have to be your own hero. YOU. No one else can change your life for you, but YOU. 

Burn on!