Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Teachers - do what you love and do it often.

Burnout is a major problem in schools.  It shouldn’t surprise anyone - teaching is a demanding occupation.  As well as being educators teachers are part social worker, part nurse, part de-facto parent, part careers advisor, policeman, counsellor and even relationship advisors. Balancing the dictates of the curriculum and  the requirements of site administrators with the capabilities of the students is in itself no easy task. Add to that the emotional impact of dealing with students who often come to school with emotional baggage and stressful domestic issues well beyond their control - and often their comprehension.  While addressing these issues teachers also have to keep in mind the special needs of individual children - some of which can be literally life threatening if things go wrong. Into this recipe for stress throw in some seasonal variations such as the lack of hours in the day at peak times like report writing or parent teacher sessions and it is easy to see why burn out is all too common.   Teachers, after all, are only human.

Teachers are people, not robots.  Through observation of effective teachers over three decades I have noticed one important characteristic that effective long-term educators have in common. They all have interests outside of school.  Their careers are important to them, very important in fact, but they have other aspects to their lives.  They are not defined but their job - it is an important part of their lives but only one aspect.They have balance - and they cling to their interests despite the unrealistic pressures put on them by the job.  I think it is aptly summed up by the opening lines of the Holstee Manifesto;

“This is your life. Do what you love and do it often.”

Teachers need to follow their passion for life outside of school in exactly the same way that we encourage our students to do.  Sometimes we have to discover what it is that stops us from doing what we love - and make some changes.   This is probably the only antidote I know for burnout. Outside interests re-energise and re-invigorate people at the personal level. Doing what we love doing makes us healthier people - which in turn helps us to devote real energy to education when we focus on it - and there is plenty of scope and need for that. In the end, our students are the ones who really benefit.  
What greater advice can we give our students than to quote the opening of the Holstee Manifesto to them over and over again? This is your life. Do what you love and do it often.” If that attitude is the only thing our students pick up from us we may well have taught them one of life's most important lessons.

Enjoy this great interpretation of the Holstee Manifesto. 

Holstee manifesto image: Google images.
Video - via youtube.