Teachers – Reboot, Refuel, Reignite
By Chanelle R. McCloud, M. Ed.
I was a classroom teacher for 10 school years, and with all the countless hours of professional development I had during my tenure, not once did I learn how I could maintain my passion for the teaching and prevent burnout.
All us educators know the story. When we began our careers as teachers, all we wanted to do was impact the lives of children in hopes of improving communities and possibly the world; however, being a teacher was not that simple. Nothing we learned in teachers’ college or student teaching could prepare us for what happens when it is just you and 25 students with different needs, abilities, behaviors, and parents requiring your best day in and day out. We still love the students and have deep hopes and desires for them, but the mounting lesson plans, papers, reports, evaluations, communications, conferences, etc. can cause that flame of professional passion to go from a flame to a flicker.
It is pretty common knowledge among educators that being a teacher is a very challenging job and many teachers leave the profession altogether. About 15 percent of teachers leave the profession each year (Siedel, 2014) and more than 41 percent of teachers leave the profession within the first 5 years of starting (Ingersoll, Merrill, and Stuckey, 2014). Although these statistics are readily available and known by many, there are still very few schools and school districts that take a preventative measure to decrease teacher burnout and improve teacher morale.
Teachers give and are expected to give more each school year. With new strategic plans, curriculum, software, initiatives, tests, and evaluation systems, how can an educator ever replenish? Some may say, teachers have the summers off, and plenty of breaks to refuel; however, the breaks are the equivalent of draining your cell phone battery to zero percent and expecting it to be charged to 100 percent in 10 minutes. In addition, many teachers spend their breaks grading papers and planning lessons, and their summers planning for the next school year, developing curriculum and doing professional development.
Teachers need help learning how to effectively manage the stress of being an educator. School districts in this nation spend billions of dollars each year to replace teachers who have resigned. According to The Learning Policy Institute (2017), it costs an average of $20,000 to replace one teacher. Imagine if attrition was decreased even by 5% across the country how much money could be saved and used for resources, better facilities, and improved teacher pay.
So, if I am a former teacher why is this important to me you might ask. It is important to me because I know that some of the greatest people to walk the planet are teachers and we need them. I know what I needed as a teacher to keep going, but what I needed was not available, so I have dedicated chapter 2 of my career as an educator to inspiring teachers and to educate people about the importance of teacher morale. I can’t tell you how many days I felt depleted and underappreciated. Although I loved my students and educating them, I realized that teachers need so much more than the rewarding nature of the profession to prevent burnout. I wondered who will advocate for teachers? Teachers are people, not robots. Although we are professionals, our job is difficult and can be emotionally, mentally, and physically draining. Who will address this issue and create a curriculum to help teachers help themselves in a system that may take time to address the teacher burnout epidemic. I have created a workshop and online course called, Reboot, Refuel, Reignite that has the purpose of giving teachers tools and strategies to maintain or reignite their passion.
The world needs teachers, and the world needs teachers at their best. It is important that we do all that we can to learn how we may best keep our passion for educating the youth ignited no matter what dampening waters might come our way.