A while back, I quit my teaching job. The teacher burnout was too much for me. In fact, I was starting to get burned out right around the time the pandemic hit the United States. Did I become a teacher for the paycheck? No. In fact, I always liked being in the classroom. I loved having routines. I loved getting to know the students. I loved presenting topics in an interesting way.
So why was I burned out? There are 6 reasons why.
The Unrealistic Expectations
For one, it was the unreachable high expectations. We were expected to squeeze in all the material within a 9 month period. In a perfect world, this may have worked. However, life happens. Mother Nature happens. The pandemic happened. It wasn’t going to happen.
Lack of Funding for Materials
As a science teacher, this was extremely difficult to have materials for 100+ students. Even grouping students to cut down on the material was also difficult because I was still struggling to have enough materials. Some school districts will do the best they can to get you the materials you need. However, there were times where the labs/projects I was doing were occurring within a couple of weeks. If the funding wasn’t there, it meant I would pay out of pocket. Mind you, this isn’t the district’s fault. However, if there is a project that would be meaningful to students, a personal financial sacrifice happens.
If you’re not in the education system, your first thoughts about teaching are, “you get summers off. Must be nice.” Actually, for me, it is not. In the beginning it was awesome because I could get whatever I needed to get done. However, as the years went on, not working during the summer wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine for me. As I continued to develop anxiety and depression. I didn’t like staying home while everyone worked. I needed a routine. A summer job wasn’t going to work due to my time off getting shorter and shorter each year. Being home during the summer was killing my mental health.
Science is all about exploring and understanding the natural world. Unfortunately, having structured content made it a little difficult in allowing students to explore. Having so many learning standards that I have to teach In so little time took more time away from connecting the content to the real world. Students really enjoyed the content once they understood how and why it affects them. It also made it difficult to make time to teach students the basic skills they need to be successful in labs such as measurements, proper use of tools, calculations, etc. I always felt rushed to teach these skills so I could jump into the learning standards.
The Lack of Appreciation
Before the pandemic, teachers were viewed as lazy and “just there for a paycheck.” Sometimes there were times where I would hear students and/or parents say that teachers don’t know how to teach. This may be true for some, but not all teachers are like that. Now that the pandemic is here, the lack of appreciation has hit tenfold. If something goes wrong in terms of academic and/or behavior, we are the ones to blame. It didn’t matter how much I tried to use effective teaching practices and follow school policies, it wasn’t enough for some.
Personal Use of Technology in the Classroom
In the beginning of my teaching career, I was attached to my phone. Unfortunately, I was on it whenever I wasn’t teaching. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was bringing personal issues to work. I wasn’t leaving home at home. Plus, how fair was it for me to be on my phone if students weren’t allowed to be? It was greatly affecting my way of teaching.
When I moved to my second school, students also weren’t allowed to have phones in the classroom. Our administration encouraged teachers to stay off the phones and teach. I didn’t want to self-sabotage myself again and took that encouragement. The phone was left on my desk and I was out on the floor. I was teaching, engaging, and getting to know my students as they are working. I didn’t realize how much students enjoyed it when I was teaching.
I got my first taste of students using their cell phones in the classroom at my third school. I was uncomfortable with it because I was new. Even if I told them to put the phone away or confiscate it, I was afraid there was another student out there who would take advantage of the situation and try to get me in trouble. Walking in a straight line puts a lot of anxiety and pressure on me. I knew I simply couldn’t deal with this for an entire school year.
Where Do I Go From Here?
It was difficult for me to walk away from something I always thought I would be doing up until retirement age. However, waking up in the middle of the night having anxiety attacks and crying my eyes out because I dread the next day wasn’t healthy for me. Something had to give. I knew I couldn’t continue doing something that I wasn’t truly happy with.
Will I ever return to the classroom? As of right now, no. In fact, I don’t miss it. Would I come back to the classroom if the education system was fixed? I would. I enjoy teaching and I know there are times where I miss the students and staff. I simply don’t miss the mental and emotional stress.
As I take a step back from the classroom, I look forward to exploring another career area. I look forward to trying new things and learning new skills. Who says a new career isn’t a new adventure?