My emotions are getting the best of me. One minute I am elated to see my students and the next minute I am weeping because I feel so overwhelmed that I feel like a new teacher. I get angry because it is our students that lose when poor working conditions exist for educators. I am exhausted both physically and mentally. Yet I will wake up at 5am tomorrow and start another day of crazy. Why? Because I love my students and the opportunities to learn and grow together.
Next week will be my sixth week back to school but only my fourth week with students. My students have been great and I have even had several former students come back to visit, say hello, and tell me how life was at middle or high school. But I am exhausted. My schedule is far from ideal and it is making me feel like I am in the middle of a very bad dream.
Unfortunately, I am not the only one… my colleagues are just as exhausted, concerned, and frustrated with the new schedule and expectations in my county. Instead of decreasing our workload and providing more planning with the changes our county made to improve working conditions, we are feeling squeezed more than ever. The hope that we had for the new year has quickly faded… we face another year of struggles.
Or do we? Do we have to give up so much of ourselves and our time? Must we feel there is no hope in a very demanding year?
After much reflection and a conversation with a good friend and colleague, I am left considering… “Are we investing too much into the system and allowing ourselves to be distracted from the real meaning of teaching?” Or even worse… are we being taken advantage of because like most students, we do what we are told because: 1) We want to do or best! 2) We are hard workers, dedicated to learning 3) We are responsible!
It is easy to lose hope when you feel like no one understands. It is easy to lose hope when you feel you are not heard. However, when you speak up. When you advocate for yourself AND your students, you begin to feel hopeful again. You start to feel connected and understood and slowly you change a system that seems impossible to change!
It may be easier said than done, but here are some ideas for taking charge and finding a better balance between your school and home life.. First breathe and take time for yourself. Chase butterflies, sleep in, go for a run, spend time with family and friends,, whatever it takes for you to feel like you- do it and don’t feel guilty about it!
Next, reflect and try to pinpoint what is really standing in your way from having a successful year. Once you have identified the barrier, consider how you can change, modify, or work around the barrier. What would your ideal classroom, school, or even school system look like. Consider what needs to take place to make that a reality.
Advocate. Advocate. Advocate. Yes… the third thing is to stand up, speak up, and share your story with your colleagues, your admin, your school board member, your board of supervisor and even your state and national legislators. As soon as you start to tell your story from the trenches it makes the issues humanized. It is hard for people to turn away when an educator is candid about the real struggles and concerns for our students.
We know that an educator’s working conditions are a student’s learning environment. You and I… we have the power to change our profession. We have the power to change the learning environment for students. We can let go of some things that don’t matter to student learning and make space for time to advocate for ourselves and students. When we advocate and lead, there is no room for hopelessness. Students remember how we made them feel. They remember our passion for learning and the example we set for leading. We must stand up and make our voices heard so that we empower ourselves and each other in order for positive change to happen. Change isn’t a bad thing, unless you have had no voice in it. Are you ready to lead the change?