As I prepare for discussions regarding preventing teacher burnout for districts around the city, I find myself knee deep in statistics. Did you know that it’s far easier to find articles and studies conducted regarding teacher dropout rates or teaching crisis? A student conducted by Richard M. Ingersoll of Phi Delta Kappan International, a professional association for educators, reports that 40-50% of teachers leave the profession within their first 5 years…this includes the 9% of teachers that call it quits BEFORE their first year is complete. I’m aware that all career paths have some level of turnover, but half sounds like a very high percentage to me.
If there was any remaining question in my mind regarding teacher burnout, (why are the numbers so high?) last week’s press conference by DPS Emergency Manager Darnell Earley made it crystal clear. Decisions are made for teachers by people who have never set foot in a classroom on a consistent basis. Where else is this present in our society? This thought came to me while eating dinner Saturday night….I would never walk into Olive Garden’s kitchen and tell the chef how to prepare spaghetti and meat balls. I wouldn’t dream of explaining to my dentist the most idea way for her to drill my cavity based on a YouTube video I watched. I’m truly confused as to why non-educators believe they should make decisions for our classrooms? Let met set this clear, I am always in favor of everyone sharing an opinion/suggestion. But shouldn’t teachers be in charge of decisions made regarding education; what their students needed, what programs are effective, what learning tools they utilize? This doesn’t appear to be the case, and it’s so frustrating!
How can I help? This is an honest question. As a counselor, my mind zeroes in on (of course) mental health. Can helping educators strengthen their ability to take care of themselves reduce the chances of burn out? I strongly believe that educators who practice self-compassion, a concept pioneered by Dr. Kristin Neff, have a better chance of preserving through circumstantial road blocks. My goal for 2016 is to share with as many teachers as I can, tools to help build on their already innate resilient nature.
Tune in here Thursday for the first volume of Tools for Teachers; Preventing Burnout, where I will discuss the concept of mindfulness and how it may help reduce stress in the classroom and beyond.