82. Teacher Burn-Out, Part Two

Having been a teacher for so long, and not having experienced much burn-out, I’m not sure how teacher burn-out is different from banker burn-out or baker burn-out. But I have some hunches.
When we are hired by a school system to help young people learn, we have many bosses. Practically speaking, we are hired not only to help children learn; we must also say and do things that let all our bosses know that we are really teaching, and doing it well. That is a big part of the job. We may be or become very good at actually teaching, but our own competence, confidence, and commitment, though possibly impressing some of our bosses, do not suffice for all of them.
So teaching the children in our classes can be one of many jobs we take on when we choose to be teachers. We must write and say things to adults to prove our worth. We must teach children to flaunt their learning at the right times and in the right way. Parents say “What did you learn in school today?”, and if a child says, “Nothing,” some parents take that quite literally. Parents, some of whom are also teachers, and administrators, many of whom have been teachers, want to know why you aren’t teaching the way they do/did.
I thought it possible that I would retire and never teach again. In fact, for the first three weeks of September, 1994, I tried not teaching. But then I started volunteering in a school, and discovered something else I’d suspected – that I love teaching, and can’t not do it. I’ve escaped from the part I wanted to get away from. Since I don’t get paid, I don’t have to put up with the non-teaching parts of teaching. I work with children, and sometimes with teachers and parents, but I never have to prove that I’m not just there for the paycheck. I never have to prove that I deserve to be paid.
I’m sure there are teachers who would quit tomorrow – maybe today – if Queen Emily the Thoughtful (see last week’s article) made her legendary decree. But many, I think, would find what I’ve found – that teaching is exciting, important, rewarding, and one of the best ways to spend time. The burn-out may only last a moment.

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