There is so much going on today. You may have to take care of leaves in the yard. Make sure that you call your father. Take the kids to extracurricular activities. Get groceries. Plan dinner. Pay the bills. Work with your siblings to plan Thanksgiving dinner. Make promises that you will not argue with your sister even if she tries to tell you how to raise your kids. You get the idea right? On top of this stuff you have work. Yea. You have to plan this week's lessons, grade those million essays that have been piling up. Attend the faculty meeting this afternoon. Develop lessons. Be visited and observed by the admin team and or instructional coach (kind of like the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future.) Can't forget dealing with the many personalities of the kids you teach. Personalize learning and differentiate. Almost forgot, I have that parent meeting tomorrow. That should be fun. The day is never a dull moment. So much to do. So much to get done. And then you start thinking - Is there something else I should be doing? Is what I do daily how I want to spend the rest of my life?
Ok, so you are not the only one out there who has these thoughts. And it's not made any better by seeing people share on Instagram and such that their lives are just the best ever! You get bombarded with the creeping self-doubts that make you just want to binge watch an entire season of Yellowstone or Walking Dead or The Goldbergs. You hear on podcasts so many well-meaning messages about how the host was burned-out and now she is all better now or how he gave it up or how she is overcoming her burn-out demons by shutting down on Fridays. The more that you listen to these stories the more that you start wondering if you are burned out. After all you hear this term all of the time and you just start thinking that there must be a better way…like selling insurance to your friends and family or working at retail or fast food and being supervised by that 18 year old who you swear you had in your homeroom class last year.
Maybe what you really need is to remember your purpose. Take the time to think about why you are doing what you are doing. Did you have that voice that said to you - You should be a teacher. That you wanted to work with kids. That you wanted to figure out how to help kids create their future path? Well did you? Some of our colleagues didn't have that voice at first but it eventually came to them. It is this voice that you need to discover again. Now. If you are tired and exhausted and thinking of giving up take time to look inside and think about why you made this choice in the first place. Find that drive that pushed you forward to finishing and getting in your first school classroom.
When you take the time to rediscover your purpose you start to find that energy to get through the tough and overwhelming times. On my audio podcast - Teaching Learning Leading K12 - I ask most of my guests what they do to overcome that feeling that they may want to quit….and the top responses are 1. Take a big project and separate it into tiny achievable steps 2. Remember why I am doing the work and focus on that purpose 3. Think about what I like most about what I do and keep that front and center.
So have you thought about revisiting your purpose? Take the time. Use a paper or electronic journal and write your responses. Take the three top answers from my podcast and write out what you would have to do if you did what they said they did. 1. Take a big project that has you feeling overwhelmed and write out the smaller steps that you could divide it into. 2. Explain to yourself why you are teaching. Write out your original purpose and make it something that you tell yourself repeatedly. 3. Write down what it is that you like most about teaching and then keep that in your thoughts as things get difficult.
Here are some ideas about keeping the positive in front of you.
- Write, paint, draw your purpose and put it on a poster or wall hanging or stickie that you put in your room, home, computer, etc. Keep reminding yourself. When you are feeling down look at that purpose and remember.
- Write, paint, draw, create something with the 3 things that you like about what you do and post where you can see them throughout the day.
Hope that you will take the time to complete this activity, because teaching is an amazing profession that makes a difference in so many lives. Even though you might not know it now someday you will when the phone rings, someone tries to connect with you through social media or in the middle of a theme park someone walks up to you and says - Are you Mr or Ms ___? You were my favorite teacher. Thank you.
How many professions are there where people years down the road look to share their gratitude? Stick with it. You are needed and you make a difference.