Bye-Bye Burnout, I’m Fanning Flames

Jumping in with both feet has been very overwhelming. Honestly, it’s not the teaching that takes up so much time for me, it’s the learning! When I was told that my position was getting moved (this past April) I decided to learn as much as I could to be able to teach this new-to-me program in a way that thrilled me. This journey began at the FLAVA Spring Mini-Conference, which was awesome and gave me a lot of places to start in my learning. I looked for any Facebook group that I thought would help, bought a few books and looked for in person PD opportunities. I was ready for a PD-filled summer of attending the only free training I could feasibly reach and had a stack of books to read (teaching books, and novels that I intended to give to my kids). I even created a Twitter account, that I kept for almost 20 minutes before realizing that I have no idea how it works, and no time to teach myself. Then I went off to teach 6 weeks of summer school. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made all my own choices, and I regret none of them. I like being busy, and generally I am more productive when I have more to do. When I only have one or two tasks, I always feel like I can push them off until later, but when I have seven things that need to be done today I can do it! I’m not sure if that makes me weird or normal.

Back to being overwhelmed… I failed to consider that I had acquired/signed up for essentially an intensive two-month crash course in teaching with CEI. That was not reasonable when considering that I had to teach all day every day. Plus, a few days into the summer I sprained my dominant wrist, so I had a full-time job, nearly 3,000 pages of book to read in two different languages, a day-long PD six hours away, two 10-hour online PD courses, six hours of physical therapy a week and a distinct inability to brush my own hair. Oh yeah, and I had to move all my things out of my two old schools and into my three new schools. Looking back on it now, it’s not all that surprising I’m a little tired. It’s so easy to do though! The way I see it, two types of jobs lead to burnout – first is when nothing changes, seriously nothing, the tests don’t change, the program doesn’t change, the expectations don’t change, the books don’t change. I taught Spanish 1 the exact same way for nearly ten years, the first two using the high school version of our textbook, then using the elementary version. I burned out, it was awful, but my burnout lead to the creation of CUE (pronounced COO-eh) which I will blog about some other time, that proved to my principals and supervisor that I needed help not a new career. That is when I went to Va Tech for a new degree and endorsement (yep, did my M.Ed. full time in a year while teaching full time, have you noticed a pattern?), but that’s also when they canned my program and had us rebuild everything from scratch. My poor team had to meet me at the University center for hours of curriculum building instead of at a coffee shop or someone’s house because I had to go to class after all of our meetings, and couldn’t waste time with driving. Our program had to be rebuilt over the summer every year for three years in a row. That much change can burn you out too. This is the first year (in five) where something I’m doing now looks like something I did last year… one of my four preps is at entirely different schools, but it’s still mostly similar. Next year, I might be able to bump that up to four preps are mostly similar, but more than likely, I’ll have six preps between two schools instead of four preps at three schools. This much change also can’t be good for anyone. How do you maintain good mental health while never being able to predict what comes next? My current answer? Freak December snow-mageddons. I honestly didn’t think it would snow… but this is our third day off… so, I’m willing to admit I was wrong. Really though, the only cure or prevention I can find to burnout is excitement.

I bring excitement to the programs I love with meticulously thought out precision. I know that when I am excited I can get others excited. I find that genuine excitement will inspire those around you to respond in kind (as long as you aren’t like crazy-overbearing excited, that’s a fine line for me…) even if they have to fake it. But, that’s okay! Because it is seriously magical when someone who has faked for a while realizes that they aren’t faking anything, and have no idea when they actually became as excited as I am. I’ve done this recently with Capibara con Botas. I even told the kids before we started how nervous I was but told EVERYONE how pumped I was that this was even something that I thought we might be able to do. Now, kids who were noticeably less excited than I was when we started Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) at the beginning of the year are seriously excited about our book and are talking about it using fully correct sentences! What?! How does this happen?! Truthfully, I know how it happened, I made it happen. In doing so, I made myself significantly less likely to burnout again, despite the multitude of changes that I’m sure I’ll face again next year. And in spite of the fact that I still have about 700 of those 3000 pages to read, and my next free online PD that starts in two days, and that my lesson plans are now garbage after three snow days two weeks before winter break… But first, I’m going to remember all the reasons I have to be excited, and all the things I am thankful for, because enthusiasm and gratitude are the best tools I have to keep me who I want to be as a teacher. Happy snow days!

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