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General Science and Teaching

Combatting Burnout?

Author Post
Chris Leverington Chris Leverington 4035 Points

I'm just wondering how you all combat burnout. I'm in my 7th year of teaching in Arizona and am having trouble staying positive and wanting to do my job. I think its a combination of a few things. 1st, I live in Arizona a state that cares so little about education that it would rather spend a billion dollars fighting a court case where a judge ordered that the state was required to pay schools about 400 million that they didn't pay us to match increasing inflation costs, which a voter initiative requires the state to do. Our Superintendent of Public Instruction recorded an autodial call that called voters all over the state encouraging them to take advantage of the Voucher program that provides funds for students to attend private schools...and I'm sure you've heard about the censuring of biology textbooks thats made national news. The 2nd thing is the fact that our district and principals keep expecting more and more from us with out an increase in pay. This year they added that we have to have 4 hours of "office hours" a week, either before or after school. Our contract day is 20 mins before first bell to 20 mins after 1st bell...which is requiring us to work beyond our contract. We haven't gotten a raise in 4 years. There's so much more. The 3rd thing is that I just don't see any desire to learn from my students. They are a product of the AZ school system and even though I have high standards and high hopes they just don't care. They don't want to do anything, they don't want to learn anything . There's also the problem of the fact that we have a really good football team, and we bend over backwards for the football players and cater to their every need...and you get pressured if they aren't doing well. On top of that, there are so many teachers that just don't care and don't do anything. I find myself asking myself all the time...why do I work so hard, when everyone else is doing the bare minimum. I don't know...I'm having a rough time right now and just trying to find something to lift my spirits.

Betty Paulsell Betty Paulsell 48560 Points

I taught in the classroom for 30 years and faced the same things as you and felt the same at times. I found that having a new theme in science to teach around each year gave me something new to look forward to and was challenged to find science activities that met the curriculum and the theme. It gave me a new challenge each year and it worked. We turned the room into a rain forest one year and then my students gave tours for the younger students. I had the freedom to teach with whatever materials I wanted to use as long as I covered the curriculum, so the textbook was used as a resource, not the guiding source.

Cris DeWolf Cris DeWolf 11965 Points

Well, one thing I do to combat burnout is interact with all of you on this forum. Between substitute teaching at the start of my career, 6 years working in a small Catholic high school, and a total of 22 years in two different public school systems, I feel that I am doing pretty well at fighting the burnout. Of course, when our principal tells us we need to start documenting how we differentiate instruction for each student in the comments sections of assignments in our grade book program - and others start to suggest that maybe we do not need a paid prep period - I start to see retirement as an increasingly attractive option. I still enjoy working with my students in general. There will always be days when someone will totally frustrate me. Then there will be days when that same student is perfect - asking questions, interacting with his peers in positive ways during group discussion. We are fortunate as well that our district has found ways to provide for pay raises (tiny! - but still an increase) and hold down insurance costs. And I am fortunate that they still allow me to go out and share with other teachers at conferences - although I haven't told my principal yet that I just found that the session I am a co-presenter in at the Chicago conference is on Thursday so I will need 2 days off rather than one…..

Linda Ngo Linda Ngo 2775 Points

I know how you felt. I live in Houston and I am currently a student teaching. I have heard about many situation that happens, but there's should be the reason to be a teacher. I have known many teachers likes their job for the love of their kids, even though that have a decent salary. I also know that it requires patience, especially when helping students who are struggling in school.

Robin Cox Robin Cox 3390 Points

Chris, I appreciate your honesty and reaching out for support. I am about to turn 39 and am a college senior. Education will be my third career, and the lowest paying one. However, I was born to teach. I chose to return to school two years ago when I was dealing with politics and injustices in education with my own children. I feel when the system is broken you have two choices; be a part of the problem, or the solution. Every doctor, lawyer, politician, athlete, teacher, etc. began in a classroom, with a teacher. There is no career as vital to our society as teachers; yet they are often overlooked and unappreciated. So why would I want to teach? Children need us, they need good teachers and role models. They need to be inspired and valued. Trust me, you think AZ does not value education, come to TX. Despite this, you must rise above the bureaucratic red tape and get to the heart of why you chose to teach in the first place; the kids. Trust me, I've been in other industries and have made far more money then I will as a teacher; however, there is good and bad in everything. I challenge you to embrace the good in teaching and keep a positive attitude. The world needs good teachers, the kids need you. Good Luck and Godspeed! Robin Cox

Sandy Gady Sandy Gady 43175 Points

Wow Chris, as I read your post, I found myself saying, “Gee, how did he get into my head a read my thoughts so accurately?” This is my 22nd year of teaching and I used to love to go to work and do what I do. I think deep down inside, I still do love to teach, it’s the other stuff I don’t care so much for. The new evaluation system, new standards, kids not having to be responsible or accountable for their own learning, yet someone in government wanting to attach my salary to their learning and the fact that I can’t teach to an empty chair. We are being asked to do things online which in and of themselves is not that big of a deal, but when the grade program is cumbersome and doesn’t work real well, maintaining a district sponsored website, PCT’/PLC’s where we are analyzing student work, when we never have time to plan the lesson so we can have meaningful assessments to analyze the work from. The list just goes on and on. The unfortunate thing is from the top down, they always say, “It will only take you an extra five minutes.” What they don’t realize is all of those extra five minutes do add up. I honestly feel I am doing some outstanding work with my students this year and have achieved some high accolades and seen some definite learning culture shifts from within my own students, yet no one seems to notice. My principal never comes to my room any more, never says. “Wow” or even "Thank you." It is difficult when we take on so much more and get paid so much less with inflation. We too have not had a raise for close to 14 years. The sad part is district offices know we will step up and do what we have to in order for our students to be successful. I don’t know about the rest of you, but it has been a long time since I put out only a couple of hundred dollars a year for supplies and materials for my room. It now runs into the thousands. Robin, I so agree with you when you say you are born to teach. I do believe the same. I am turning 58 in another month. I really hadn’t planned to retire, but am wondering if the time will come when I will be forced to just to maintain sanity. How many more years can I put in 12 plus hour days? It is not near as easy to do now as when I was younger. Sometimes we do have to vent in order to maintain our sanity. Sometimes it helps to know we are not alone. There is validity in that. What keeps me going is that little note a student leaves on your desk that says “Thank you.” The student that sticks up for you with their peers because they think you are mean and my student tells them all of the opportunities you provide to enhance their learning. I will keep spending the thousands on my students because I know if I don’t, they won’t have the same chance as others who have so much more. As time passes, many of my students are now parents and are giving back to the “broken system,” and finding ways to give back to the schools they are affiliated with and carrying on the work I began with them. In the end, I have to believe there really is a heaven and maybe somehow I am earning “God points” and be able in the end to see that truly, I did make a difference in the lives of the thousand plus students I was privileged to teach.

Chris Leverington Chris Leverington 4035 Points

One of the things that really irritates me and is the line my District office likes to throw at us, "Do it for the kids." Like they know that they can pile more and more on us, because we will "do it for the kids." At what point is "enough is enough" and do we say, I'm sorry but the kids aren't my first priority? I had been asked to take on Key Club this year and I did it because i felt I needed too...I've been having health problems and I decided about a month into the year that I just couldn't do it and couldn't provide what the kids needed...I was chastised for not doing it "for the kids." So the "kids" are more important than my health? It's just a really frustrating situation.'s a short rant this time!

Jennifer Rahn Jennifer Rahn 67955 Points

Chris, I feel your pain. Teaching is for me a third act as well. I came in from industry, from one of those STEM fields that we keep saying we need more teachers. Before that, I was on the faculty of a state university. I have never, in almost four decades of work, seen the lack of respect for any kind of workers, but especially teachers. Yet the demands continue to pile on, and the attitudes from administration, students, and parents. At this point in my career, I have to say that I don't mind saying "no" to absurd demands. We all have to set priorities, and they have to be in the interest of the children and our own health and well-being. No company can succeed in the long term by turning over professional staff like our schools do. Good companies recognize this, and hopefully good schools will as well. One of my management professors (I have an MBA as well as teaching certification, and a near PhD in information tech) gave us a piece of advice that I still take to heart today: "Six months salary. Then you have the ability to take the high road." Except that now I would probably say it should be more like twelve months salary. Good luck to you, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving! Take a break and revel in all that is important to you, all that we do have to be thankful for!

Sue Garcia Sue Garcia 42675 Points

To all of you above. I too have had the same problems that you have had, even more i some instances. I taught 32 years before retiring this past year. My retirement was not really my choice...rather the doctors advised me that the stress was becoming unacceptable for my health. I feel I was born to teach, put me in a room with a kid and my heart opens up! Since "retiring" my health has improved, but I still missed the kids. I have since joined a non-profit group that works with seriously ill children, started writing for a trade book group that is integrating science with other content areas, and am rewriting/modifying activities that I have had tremendous success in my past teaching years, using more of the NGSS standards. I know this is not what you are talking about, but today in my email was another student that remembered me teaching her in a 6th grade science class 6 years ago. She thanked me for being her teacher because she said I sparked something in her. She is now applying to several Universities and wanted my recommendation to help with her application. I have received 200+ correspondences over the years from former students thanking me. This is what teaching is about. Teachers do make a difference!!!! Don't give up because even under the most dismal of circumstances, you are still (even if you don't know it) making a difference in the world.

Melodee Knopp Melodee Knopp 1770 Points

Hang in there Chris! I wish I had some uplifting words and could tell you it WILL get better soon. Remember why you got into teaching, keep a folder of good notes and pull them out every once in a while, also remember to step away every once in a while and take some time off. Teaching can quickly become 24-7 if you let it. Once I have some time away (even just an evening of NOT taking anything home) I feel better. Also, try to surround yourself with positive people- it truly makes a difference on attitude! I am thinking we were at space camp together- so apply for MEMTA. Good luck and hope you are enjoying your break!

Susan O'Brien Susan O'Brien 1870 Points

I find that keeping myself fresh and try to be excited about what I do each day is the best medicine. I truly believe that whatever we do in life there will be people who will try to bring us down but if we walk away and think for the best part of each day........ we will all come out ahead. People ask me when I am going to retire. I just tell them...... "I am having too much fun!" and that seems to change the conversation into a positive. On the other hand......... you need to be sincere when you say it! Enjoy your work and your students and the rest will fall into place!

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