It’s been over five years since I graduated from my Masters program at LMU. Five years doesn’t seem like a long time. Yet, aside from the notes I scribbled in my binder and the assignments I saved, I find it difficult to remember all the information that was shared with us over the two-year program. It comes to me in bits and pieces. And, even then, I can’t remember whether it was something I learned in my program or something I read on Twitter. Whether it was something I learned from being in the classroom for the past six years or something I picked up at a conference.
One thing I do remember – very vividly – about my program is a statistic that our professor shared with us during our very first semester.
The Attrition Rate
That sounds terrifying. But, being optimistic students in our early 20s, we were ready to tear that statistic down. We knew what we were getting into. We knew that our work days would be long, our lunches would be short, and yet we were STILL ready to take on the challenge.
First year came and went and, while I spent 90% of my free time planning and preparing materials for my students, I was thrilled to be a teacher. I thought this was all part of the hazing process. The sleepless nights, the Pinterest anchor charts, the lesson planning from scratch.
And then, each year afterward, I found that it didn’t get easier. It never got any easier like everyone had promised. There were a whole new batch of challenges, a whole new set of behaviors to deal with, and new co-workers to try to collaborate with. I was working with a child who had so many emotions and had difficulty processing them and that took a toll on my physical and mental health.
Being a Statistic
When we moved to Tennessee, I didn’t look for teaching opportunities right away. I felt burnt out. My body hurt. My mind felt broken. So, when we settled in, I thought I would take some time out of the classroom to evaluate whether I, too, would be a part of that statistic. Was this IT for me? Did I lose my youthful optimism and desire to change the world and help our students?
But being out of the classroom for several months now has proven to be the exact eye-opening experience I needed. I needed time away to realize that I need to jump back in. It’s like stepping out of the pool during an evening swim. You can do it for a while. You can walk around, sit on the edge of the pool while your friends are enjoying their time in the water. But, after enough time passes, you just start to feel cold and miserable. It’s like you need the warmth of the water to make you feel normal again.
There isn’t a simple solution to the whole work/life balance and teacher retention rate.
Numerous factors are linked to the high burn-out rate.
Or maybe just the fact that the system forces you to think of your students as paperwork and not human beings.
I know the statistic. And I know – from personal experience – why the average SpED teacher doesn’t stick around past five years. I absolutely get it. But, still, my 24-year old-self keeps seeping into my mind. She keeps whispering in my ear and reminds me to keep on trekking. To make sure I don’t fall prey to the statistic.We don't get burned out because of WHAT we do. We get burned out because we forget why we do it. Click To Tweet
Currently, my days are relaxing and far from stressful. We have deadlines at work but they’re all pretty easy to meet and I never bring my work home with me. When I am working on one task, I have the ability to focus on that one task without getting interrupted by a group of children or a bell schedule. Still, despite the comfort of my current job, I can’t imagine doing this forever. I miss the feeling of waking up and feeling a sense of urgency. I miss waking up knowing there are bright-eyed, beautiful children waiting for me to open the door. Teaching is stressful and messy and exhausting. But, when you remember your “why,” it seems like the most wonderful job in the world.
Questions of the Day:
- How do you remind yourself of the WHY?