Finding YOU amidst Teacher Overwhelm and Burnout
The solution will come from YOU: Your Own Understanding
There was a time when I almost gave up on teaching. I felt helpless and overwhelmed. I did not know that the solution will come from within me. Here is what happened and how you can do it too.
Overwhelmed and Helpless
I was a brand new teacher, in a new city and away from my family for the first time. I was assigned to teach Middle School students with emotional disturbance. The principal just gave me a bunch of textbooks and told me to teach Science. Any type of Science. I tried teaching Physics and Biology. It did not work. It was beyond their current levels or interest.
I asked for help. Nothing worked. I was about to give up. So I stopped and gave myself permission to rest. I bought a mystery paperback, read and slept. The solution came when I woke up.
Solution Came from Within Me
Fresh from sleep, my mind went to work. I was limiting myself to the textbooks given to me. I gave myself boundaries. What do the school administrators want? Student engagement and learning. What do the students need? Something that will interest them to think scientifically. Then I asked myself, what am I good at that students need to learn? It was early 2000s and students are just being exposed to google. It was something I know plus a bit of HTML coding. I decided to teach them about the Internet and call it Computer Science. It worked!
Find the Solution from YOU — Your Own Understanding
From then on, I learned to stop and rest whenever I am overwhelmed and nearing burnout. Then I looked within and asked: what expertise do I have that can solve this problem? What about you? Go to yourself. Find your own perspective. Your own understanding. See if the admin will allow it. Then go with it. If it is not allowed, are you willing to ignore it? If not, decide how long you will stay in that situation. Even a simple internal decision to have an exit plan will give you peace of mind.