With Thanksgiving approaching, many classroom teachers are covering the history of Thanksgiving and reading stories about Pilgrims and Indians. Students are coloring turkeys they made from tracing their hands and writing poems about what they are thankful for. Many schools organize food drives as competitions utilizing creativity and enthusiasm to help everyone have a holiday dinner. Despite these lessons and the thanks teachers deserve any time of the year, around this part of the school year, many teachers are most grateful for one thing: time off.
Each year I hear from family, friends and colleagues who can’t wait for Thanksgiving because they feel they need some time off. Teachers and school administrators admit that by this point in the school year they already feel burned out. Maybe great ideas that they had at the beginning of the school year didn’t really fly, or there’s still that one student that acts out and they can’t figure out a way to get them to focus, or parents aren’t satisfied with their child’s progress while other don’t even seem to notice that their child is failing. Many teachers are hoping the wishbone breaks in their favor so that their wish of having an always well behaved class comes true. The ambition from September has turned to frustration in November and it’s a good time for everyone to have a fall break.
I can’t help but wonder how many teachers helping their kids write what they are thankful for think to themselves, “Are these students thankful for their education?” As a child, I never thought of my education as something to be thankful for. I certainly didn’t understand what a luxury it was to go to school each day much less to have the resources to learn new skills and explore new ideas. Only later in life did I realize what a blessing it was to have such great teachers and parents that cared about my education. I never thanked the teachers that impacted my life and yet they continued to teach me every day. How many teachers wish their students would just say thank you once in a while? I imagine being a teacher is often a very thankless job.
So how can teachers beat the burn out and be thankful for their sometimes thankless role in society? I have some suggestions.
Try to remember that you are making a difference and there are plenty of people just like me who really appreciate what their teachers gave them.
Have a moment to celebrate the small victories of each day.
Assess your goals from August. Now that you know your students better that you did at the start of the year, set realistic goals for this group.
Never let the cloud of test scores hang over every achievement you accomplish.
Keep a journal to capture the successes of your students every time you see the light bulb go on above their heads.
Set up little rewards for yourself. This way, you can have a “Good job!” ready to give yourself even when your students forget.
Another perspective to keep in mind this Thanksgiving is that not everyone who wants to become a teacher can join this admirable profession. Let’s face it, in many cases, not all of us possess the skills and knowledge to do what teachers do. Not all of us have the classroom management skills to handle a class of 30 kids or the patience to be cognizant that students are trying to learning while balancing the changes during their adolescent development at the same time. Some people aren’t willing to accept a teacher’s salary or the personal attention teachers need to give to their students on an hourly basis throughout every school day while others simply can’t afford the education necessary to prepare them for the job.
Our Office of Continuing Education understands what a struggle it can be for some people to achieve or renew certification. We strive to give back to the educational community by creating courses that are relevant to teachers. One of the ways we do that is by hiring faculty members who are also current teachers and administrators in the field; they know what teachers need because they are in the trenches too. We do our best to offer quality, convenient courses for professional teachers while keeping the costs down too.
We work with teachers every day. It isn’t easy being a teacher, especially when they rarely receive the recognition they deserve. But rest assured, what teachers do every day does not go unnoticed. This Thanksgiving I am thankful for my teachers, past, present, and future and I know your students feel the same way, even if they won’t realize it for years to come. If you are a teacher, enjoy your time of this Thanksgiving because you have certainly earned it!