Saturday, July 6, 2013

Avoid Burn-Out #30GoalsEdu Goal 2

This is another post in relation to 30 Goals in 2013.  I am separating them in order to be able to link up to exact goals when collaborating.  They are on goal 4 so only 1 more post today from me and one more post this week on goals :-).  I encourage you to join up!

Burn-out: To become apathetic or depressed, and cease to function effectively, due to the fatigue and frustration of prolonged stress and overwork; of people. ( 

Burnout is one thing that really impacts teaching.  You see teachers who have been doing the same thing over and over because they have given up on change or are just too tired to change.  You see teachers who are overwhelmed and burned out by outside pressures.  We are in a field that is constantly under the eye of the public.  In the last few years it has seemed that teachers are societies' favorite scapegoats for just about anything. The stories about the those that are in the field but not "teachers" because teachers would not do the things they do, last longer in the news than those of real teachers.  We heard just briefly about the teachers who gave their lives or risked their lives for students at Sandy Hook and in Moore, OK.  More and more seems to be asked of teachers.  It is not uncommon for teachers to be asked to teach, counsel, feed, supply, or more for students.

The National Education Association (NEA) published this article listing the reasons for teachers to leave the field: Why They Leave

It lists the following reasons:
1. No Child Left Behind Mandates (which hopefully we will see some reassuring changes in during its renewal in the coming weeks)
2. Too Little Support
3. Student Discipline
4. Underfunded and Underpaid
5. Lack of Influence and Respect

If you don't love teaching it is a field that is hard to stay in and even when you love it, it can get the best of you.

I am lucky to work in a school district where there is lots of support, you just need to ask.  We also have a supportive community which cuts down on student discipline problems.  The money will always be an issue, but I am lucky to be in a district where if something is really needed we will find a way to make it happen.  I am blessed that the district has invested funds in technology and innovation.  We are seeing the payoffs almost immediately.  The community also respects teachers and the school district.  We are known around the area for providing quality education in a safe/positive environment.  Even with most of those things not being a concern in my school district, the end of the year can still leave me "exhausted" or "burned out".

I am a special education teacher and am getting ready to start my eleventh year in the field.  I was well invested , though prior to formally become a teacher as a was a camp counselor and tutor for students with disabilities.  I went willingly into a field that has startling statistics.  In studies done recently comparing things things to15 years ago it is still seen that special education staff's biggest concern is paperwork and all of the meetings, coordination, and management that goes into it.  It was hoped that with technology that things would change for the better, but it has allowed more paperwork to be created more easily and added at whim sometimes it seems.  We are in a field that is bound by due process and the legalities of it is over our heads at all times.  It was reassuring though to see these same studies say that teachers go into this field because this is what they want to do over half of the time and that the benefit of being a special education teacher is to see students grow and learn.  I know that I can connect with all of that.  I am probably one of the only kids ever in 8th to already be saying when I grow up, I am going to be a Special Education Teacher.  I went into the field with a love for these students and the desire to change the world for them.

Photos taken from: © Lonni | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

All that being said even with an immense love for my job and a passion for teaching it is hard not to feel burned out by the end of the school year.  This spring I ended my year with multiple evaluations and IEPs going on until the last second it seemed.  The evaluation requirements are constantly changing and we are working to get a complete picture of students, which is needed, but also takes more time.  I get an hour a day for prep and paperwork. I would say the average evaluation takes 20 total hours and the average IEP 6-8 if they are done well and with fidelity.  I also teach for 5-6 hours out of my day and need to plan for that.  I also coordinate accommodations/modifications for students so it is necessary to follow up on this and connect with teachers.  I also have wonderful relationships built with my parents, which requires time and communication.  There are never enough hours in the day and I went into the field knowing that, but at the end of the year the slope gets slippery.  I end up overly tired as I work long hours after school. I miss out on the things I enjoy outside the walls of the school.  This spring I gave up the working out which is good for me and necessary to maintain good mental/emotional health.  I felt at times I was as tired and "done" as the kids.  I did my best to hold it together and not get sick from it all.  I made notes for myself of what to do to make the next year better.

OOF Sparkles

I love teaching, especially being a special education teacher.  I know though that there are things I need to do in order to stay healthy and passionate about my job.  I do not want to become someone just going through the motions, that has an incredibly negative impact on the students I work with.  So, in my goals for the year I am going to set long term and short term goals to meet in order to reduce the feeling of burn out by the time the year ends.

Short Term:
1.  Setup File Management System
2. Connect with parents early on regarding preferred means of contact and meeting availability
3. Leave work on time on Fridays, I would like it to be by 3:15 which is 15 minutes after contract hours
4. Get into school earlier to take care of things so I have more time in my evenings to relax, workout, and spend time with my husband.
5. Set up systems so students are working harder than I am, thus increasing their independence and setting higher expectations for themselves.

Long Term:
1. Spread out IEP and Eval meetings so they don't clump up in the spring
2. Meet with general education teachers on a more consistent basis to share student progress and connect with classroom activities/tasks.
3.  Start Passion Projects/Genius Hour with replaced curriculum students.  This will allow students to connect to an interest and develop skills.  I hope to do at least one project aside them this year myself.  This will allow all of us to share a passion we have for something and be excited about being in the school environment.  I also hope this empowers and inspires my students.
4.  Use technology to work smarter not harder.  I need to use some of the tools available to me.
5. Keep ongoing data sheets and reminders of students progress to keep motivated to press on doing my best to help students grow and achieve.
6.  Keep positive affirmations up in my classroom for students and myself to remember and try to invoke

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