Update 2011

11 December 11 06:40 PM | McLaugh | 3 Comments   
I had a request for an update on life on the outside. I graduated with my MSW, passed the licensing exam, and found a job. It is a TOUGH economy out there, getting a job was a relief!!! Not all of my classmates have work yet. I work in a HIV adult day health clinic as a counselor. I run group therapy and do individual counseling sessions. The upcoming changes to Medicaid in my state in 2013 will probably obliterate my job. But after a year of paid experience, I hope to find another counseling job. STILL! With all the uncertainty, I am still glad I left education. I leave work at 5pm every day and my day at work is done. No emails to answer from students or parents. No marking to catch up on. No lesson planning. No dances to chaperon. No parent teacher conferences. I walk out the door at 5pm and I just do what I want or need to do for the evening.

Teaching is a great job. I still miss the kids. I miss some of the lessons that were always big hits with the kids. But I was just tired of education. I do not even think I am ready to go back to it as a school counselor. I just tired of the schedule, the demands...

One big difference I notice between social work and education is the expectation of self care in social work. My supervisor always reminds me to take care of myself, not to overwork. In education the implied message is to be a good teacher you must give your ALL to the kids. That exhausted me. Counseling, therapy, social work is all about setting boundaries and limits -- that is not stressed in education. I am relieved to be away from that constant implied expectation. Burn out is caused by unmet expectation. The expectation I put on myself wiped me out in education. (And it wasn't all just my own expectation but parents, admin, students....) Limits and boundaries need to be better articulated in education. If I ever went back -- that would be my mission. Boundaries for educators!!!

Life on the outside!

04 May 10 01:21 PM | McLaugh | 0 Comments   
Just completed my first year -- the first half of my MSW. Very happy with the changes I am making. Also I am excited to see that I will be able to use my teaching skills in my new career. Biggest observation -- as hard as I worked this year in classes and the internship -- was never as exhausted as I was after a day of teaching!! I never worked with more than 7 clients a day!! Quite a change from 100+ kids a day streaming through the room. 

There is life on the outside if you were afraid there is not!!


14 March 09 09:41 AM | McLaugh | 0 Comments   
Funny that it is in March when I receive a message from somebody who just read this blog and reminds me this blog exists. March...hmmm.... the historic time of year teachers are tired and grumpy, most likely open to reading about burnout. Just wanted to write to close up this blog. It is official. I am leaving the profession!! I start a MSW program in September!!! Career change on the way!! Good luck to all of you in education! Hang in there!! It is a great profession!!! Good luck struggling through Obama's hair-brained idea of merit pay. Love the idea in theory but in practicality -- oh baby, more layers of BS coming down on your heads!!! Hold on during this economy and all the education budget cutting! I hope our new president does come through on the additional funding! Hope it is the best of times for you and not the worst of times!! I have hope but not enough to stick around!!

Long time

08 March 08 11:06 PM | McLaugh | 3 Comments   
It has been nearly a year since I entered anything on this blog. I had totally forgotten about it except that an email came today from Teacher Lingo. Update. I am going to leave education. I swore never to be one of those teachers who bitterly hangs on until retirement. I am going to work one more year, save my income. The plan is to return to grad school and get my MSW. Still like working with people. Just tired of the crap of school. The joy is gone. Twenty plus years is enough in the classroom. Time to hone other skills now. Glad for the opportunity to teach. I feel like I did make an impact. I know students love my class. But it is time to follow another path. I am truly burnt out of education. Admire the people who stay 30+ years. Don't know how they do it. But 20 is nothing to sniff at! Good luck to the rest of you who still enjoy going into work every day. I look forward to enjoying going to work like I used to enjoy going to my first teaching days!!

Therapy to turn the last stone

10 March 07 02:34 PM | McLaugh | 1 Comments   
Almost halfway through March. This week marks the end of the third quarter. Almost three-fourths of the way through the year. I can almost smell coasting to summer vacation... Whew, what a year. First year back after a couple of years under doctor and therapist care. I have learned a lot. Mostly, time to find a new career. A couple more years of this to save some money and find something else. Working with the kids has been great. We are in the middle of our Environment unit having a blast with projects, discussions, ideas flowing... I enjoy this part immensely. Just cant take the stuff from admin anymore. The committee expectations, the paperwork... I am thinking I would like to work with kids but not in the educational system. I want out of the BS. I need a couple more years of income to save enough money to attend grad school. Make a career change and then off to do something I can work as a private contractor or something. No more organizations. Done with organizations!!!! Not that I am an independent rebel who cannot work with people. I work with people quite well. I just cant accept or dish out the BS any longer. That has defeated me. My career coach would like me to further explore my issues with a therapist a little more -- if ancient family/personality issues are tied to my resistance to employer authority. I agree. Want to explore every aspect, leave no stone unturned before I leave a career I am good at and have enjoyed for years. Perhaps there is a way for me to sneak by the paperwork and BS -- fly under the radar and stay in the classroom doing work I enjoy. Teaching kids who enjoy me as a teacher.

My personality caused the burnout

18 February 07 09:56 PM | McLaugh | 1 Comments   
The burnout and depression caused lots of introspection. As much as I want to blame the busy-ness of the job for the burnout, I have to look at what I consider some of the less noble things I get as strokes from my career. I am not really in teaching to "make a difference." I want summers off, I want adoration from kids, I want independence--being the "boss" of my own classroom. And if I get kids to think and help them learn how to do science --bonus. As education becomes more and more top-down I become less and less interested in the career and more and more interested in doing something more independent. I do not like people telling me what to do, how to do it, when to do it... I am really looking at this stubborn side of myself. I have always seen myself as easy-going and mellow but there is a very stubborn person inside I am trying to figure out. It is this internal conflict I have to figure out before I will heal from the burnout or move on to something else.

Professional Boundaries

11 February 07 06:54 PM | McLaugh | 0 Comments   
The difficulty with teaching is feeling like I have never done enough. I was thinking that might be the advantage of being a therapist or counselor over being a teacher...there are clear boundaries in therapy and there are not in teaching. When is enough, enough for a teacher to do? When do I not have to modify more for a student, stop chaperoning school functions, meet with psycho parents who feel perfectly justified berating and criticizing colleagues--does not happen to me but I have certainly witnessed it enough in team meetings to have my guard up. (Do not have the protection a therapist does of claiming projection... but maybe I need to learn it!) Expectations of administrators and parents to give of time and more time FOR THE CHILDREN beyond the classroom. After school clubs, sports, tutorials. Enough. We need clearer boundaries in this profession. If therapists get them, why not teachers?! No wonder the thought of working as a counselor -- one on one with another and strict rules to enforce the relationship boundaries -- sounds so appealing... Maybe it is time for teachers to unite and set up professional boundaries just like therapists, psychologists and other helping professionals have done.

More Burnout Research Links

08 February 07 10:49 PM | McLaugh | 0 Comments   
As I continue researching burnout it is interesting that more and more researchers are blaming the burnout on organizations and not on the individual. Most of the research explains burnout and advises recovering from burnout on the personal level. Learning to deal with stress, setting limits, boundaries... (This article gives some great ideas for individual help: burnout advice ) But Christina Maslach, the pioneer of burnout research, has adjusted some of her advice due to further research and holds the organization responsible for employee burnout. Check out the reviews on Amazon of her book: The Truth About Burnout: How Organizations Cause Personal Stress and What to Do About It The Truth About Burnout: How Organizations Cause Personal Stress and What to Do About It Personally, I think I am responsible for my burnout. I was not clued into my feelings at all. I just kept working like a little dog and did not recognize tumbling down the spiral until I could NOT go into work due to depression and anxiety. The school I worked at was dsyfunctional as all get out-- but I was still blind and that was my responsibility. Now I am in a very good situation. Just afraid I may be burnt beyond repair... First half of the year was fine but this second half...a grind. Life is short, I do not want grind anymore... Wonder if a midnight shift bookstore stock clerk career is in my future...sure sounds good in the daydream!!

True part-time teaching!

07 February 07 06:17 PM | McLaugh | 4 Comments   
It is February and I can feel that Feb/Mar energy drain. I really do enjoy teaching. I say that over and over. I really do not think I have the energy for it anymore though. I know it is as cyclical and temporary as a bird migration path. Or do I just not have the patience for enduring this energy drain anymore? My ideal would be to job share. I teach one semester of middle school science and another teacher take the second semester. Forget this part-time day stuff. Every part-time teacher I see spends almost as much time at school as the full-timers... I want to work 4-5 months and then take 7 off! Not 9-10 parttime months! No more Feb/Mar blues!!! If I can just find the administrator who would go for that!!!

Called to burnout

04 February 07 10:19 PM | McLaugh | 0 Comments   
When other teachers talk about their job as "a calling," I always feel a little guilty. I also feel a little angry. "A calling" sounds so service oriented. Parents and administrators play on that "service." I am sure it is unintentional--I hope it is and not purposefully manipulative. It plays quite a number on teachers' emotions who so many are already people-pleasing perfectionists (to quote my former psychiatrist) who want to work for others. We did not go into the field for the income. Years ago during my student teaching my master teacher told me he believed teachers were born, not made. You were an excellent teacher or you were not. One could learn techniques but the basic ability was gift. I can buy that. But I do not buy "the calling." Perhaps calling feels too religious a word for me. But my career is not a calling. I am a good teacher but I was not "called" to the profession. Leave that for the ministers, priests and nuns. I want a fair salary for my work and not be expected to "give" simply because I am in a "helping" profession. Call it that and I feel called to burnout.

Artist needed to draw lines

02 February 07 01:18 AM | McLaugh | 1 Comments   
It has been nearly 20 years of teaching... Much of the job I like. Wish I had a thicker skin or the ability to blow off the stuff I do not like. I want more freedom at work but it eats at me if I am not a team player, pulling my share of the load. I just wish we would quit adding so much to the load. I work with a great bunch of people. Could not ask for a better group of colleagues. Good kids. Good administrators. I am in an excellent situation yet still feel pressure. This is my issue, not the school's fault that I am burnt out. The sad thing is I am not burnout of the classroom. Just the meetings, the leadership positions that drain so much time from preparing, the stacks of paperwork, the comments that imply more participation in committess will be expected next year. Where is it fair to draw the line?

Values clash and burnout

30 January 07 11:28 PM | McLaugh | 1 Comments   
Spent the morning on the phone with the career coach. We are exploring the idea of me leaving education and taking up another line of work. I love working with the kids. I hate the paperwork that comes with teaching -- filling out my goals, curriculum initiatives, grading... I do not like the meetings, the duties outside of the classroom. I can hear myself sounding just like those old vets I used to work with, "Just let me teach the kids." I always promised myself I would leave education if I began to sound like those old curmudgeons. Was there wisdom in their grousing or were they just burnt out and needed to move along? In the research I have been doing about job burnout, most burnout occurs in jobs where values of the individual and the institution are in sharp contrast. I am in a good school. I cannot complain. But my values are not in line... Better here than anywhere but maybe it is too late. I just cannot muster the energy for filling in the paperwork for the Understanding by Design paperwork. Like the philosophy, just dont want to fill in the damn forms. So, I don't. But tomorrow is the goal meeting with the principal. I am not ready. I do not care. But that clashes with my own value of responsibility... Ah, shelving books at Barnes and Noble sounds good right now!!!

It is not always burn out

28 January 07 12:11 AM | McLaugh | 5 Comments   
Is there a difference between teacher burnout and simply leaving a career one is not suited for? The statistics one always reads about 50% of teachers leaving the field the first five years of their career seems to me to be more indication of people discovering teaching is not what they expected it to be. It does not seem like time enough to burn out. People think there is going to be more time off. The energy put into the work day is exhausting. Difficult parents, administrators, colleagues and students also drain and suck your blood. If not suited for teaching there is no way one can get through five years.

Burnout is what successful teachers go through after years of the constant drain. So, what is the percentage of teachers who leave teaching due to burnout beyond the five year drop that claims half of all teachers?
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Self-care goals

14 January 07 12:44 AM | McLaugh | 3 Comments   
My biggest downfall in the burnout was not recognizing the seriousness of it. I just kept tumbling further into the exhaustion, depression, suicidal images but refused to admit the severity of it. Just read that people in helping professions tend to refuse to acknowledge feelings of burnout more than any other people. I guess I am simply another statisitic to support that claim. My denial slowed my recovery. I see so many friends and colleagues headed down the path I treaded, I worry about the health of educators. The demands are only cranking up. It might be a good idea for educators to add a self-care goal to their annual goals. (Better yet, replace one of the education goals with a self-care goal!!) But would they recognize the importance of self-care anymore than I recognized my burnout?

Burnout Research

10 January 07 02:42 AM | McLaugh | 1 Comments   
I have been doing research on burnout, specifically teacher burnout. Yep, definitely had it. Think I still have a few embers and ashes around from the flame out. Teacher burnout is not a simple matter of easing by increasing pay, training or morale. The cause seems to be as individual as the teacher. If this is an interesting topic here are a couple of websites that "spoke" to me: Compilation of articles Overworked
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