This is a hard post to write for a couple reasons. First, I haven’t written a blog post in two years. TWO YEARS. I’m still trying to figure out what exactly happened. I could give a million reasons that I was busy, overworked, tired, etc, but that isn’t the real reason. I do think however, it’s important to be vulnerable and talk about the very real phenomenon that teachers feel at some point in their career…which is why I haven’t written.
Quite simply I began to experience burnout at the start of the 2019-2020 school year, and then the pandemic hit. I don’t really need to go into the specifics because I know that if you were a teacher you were hit hard by the very abrupt and shocking change to our learning environment and teaching as we knew it. It intensified my burnout to the point that I was wondering if teaching was still for me. It brings stingy tears to my eyes when I think about it.
So I’m not going to talk about the pandemic. I’m not going to talk about the impossible demands that it felt like teachers all over the world were under. We’re already familiar with that. I’m going to talk about my journey of how I’ve been healing from burnout and how I’m getting that fire BACK.
At the end of the 2020-2021 school year, I was counting down the days to summer. I had never before done this with this urgency like I did this year. Teachers aren’t allowed to say these things out loud. There’s tremendous guilt involved with thinking that way and there’s a hesitation we all have to say it. No one wants to be that teacher, the one who is tired or frazzled or overworked. On the last day of school I felt no relief. I drove home, still feeling heavy and tired. Usually after the end of the school year, I feel a little down with the change in routine, missing my colleagues and students for a few weeks. This year, I felt that let down for a solid month. I kept checking my school email, but it felt like it took everything I had to respond. My mind felt cluttered and foggy. It was like a slight depression that was taking over, and it was intensified by the needs of the 4 children in my house that were now in my face all day long.
Then July came around and I was sitting on a swim raft with my 12 year old daughter. She’s wise beyond her years and she started to talk about her career path. She shared that she wants to go into the field of psychology and mental health. We talked about the importance of self care and it hit me that I’ve not truly done this for a serious amount of time. We leaped off the swim raft into the cold water and the exhilaration of jumping in shook me to the core. I needed a hard reset, a hard reset that I’ve never taken before. I truly needed to cut myself off from thinking about my job.
So I took my school email off my phone.
I committed to only checking email once per week on the computer.
I put some things that I know I will enjoy on the calendar, and I did them. Visiting friends far way, hiking, swimming and riding bikes in fun places.
I went for solo long bike rides while listening to music.
I put my phone down and didn’t check it for hours. Sometimes 5+ hours.
I started to live more in the moment instead of worrying about the upcoming school year.
I took a BREAK from school.
I’m slowly coming out of it, and I’d love to tell you this magically fixed me…I’m feeling tons better, but I know I’m not all the way there yet. I’m lucky that I’ve experienced this mild depression and have been able to manage it. Not everyone is this lucky. If you’re reading this and you’re worried about your career, or your mental health…please talk to someone about it. I kept it inside for almost a year, thinking that it would work itself out, but nothing got better until I started to communicate with my loved ones about the very real issue which is teacher burnout. My heart goes out to you if you’ve ever experienced this soul crushing feeling.
So should I apologize for not blogging? I’m not sure. I’m hoping that this school year will give me a renewed sense of hope and ambition. I’m hoping that if the pandemic did this to you, that you’re taking good care of yourself this summer. I’m working on some new projects that feel exciting and fun. We’ve got a lot to look forward to this school year, and I’m getting really excited to cultivate energy and excitement with my school.