I love teaching. I really do. I came to my career as an educator after a decade and half of a dual career in sales/business management and the ministry. My first day in the classroom I knew my mid-career switch was the right decision. I had found my home. Four years later that truth has even grown deeper. I could not imagine doing anything else. During this time, I have grown, I have been willing to try things innovatively, and I have been recognized as having some success in this realm. There are multiple times I wish I had made education my initial career; however, I realize I do bring some unique strengths because of my time in previous job fields.
I am glad I am a teacher. Being a teacher is not easy though. There are quite tough times. Investing in the lives of students takes a huge emotional investment and this leads to routine times of feeling completely spent. When these experiences start to stack up with no release or end in sight then burnout becomes a real possibility.
I faced that point this previous December. I hit a wall and I was beyond spent. I had nothing to give emotionally, physically, or mentally. I came home one Thursday evening and after quickly making dinner for my children, bathing them, and putting them to bed; I laid down and got up on Saturday. I thankfully remembered to put in for a day off work for the next day but that is about all I did. I did not sleep much, I did not eat, I did not read, I did not listen to podcasts, I did not even binge watch anything on Netflix or Hulu. I laid there trying to figure out why I was losing some classes, why some students were turning on me after three semesters of growing closer. Towards the end of the weekend, I started to get up and around, still was not eating or sleeping much but I did start listening to podcasts again and started looking at how to recover from this funk.
Winter break was a couple of weeks later and I started my journey back to sanity in earnest there. I did absolutely no school-related work over the break. I watched a lot of college football, played with the kitten we had bought our kids for Christmas, and read. I am a voracious reader and there was a period between Thanksgiving and Christmas break where I had probably not read even 2 or 3 sentences in a book.
As the second semester began I vowed to win back my students (I can say with 9 days left in this school year I am closer to my current students than ever), and I promised myself I would never get to that point of despair again. During this time frame, some others and I started going through a study at our place of worship over what makes someone truly happy. To say it was perfectly timed would be an understatement. Through that study, I realized I was not investing back in myself enough. I was spending so much of my time giving of myself that I was quickly draining all that makes me a good educator. I had to find my happy again; I had to find my happy to find my peace. I learned that anything that undermines your peace ultimately undermines your happiness. I realized it is not selfish to seek happiness. In contrast, it is a necessity to be successful and to positively influence others.
As a result of this study, I made a list of the things that bring me happiness. The only limit I placed on this list was to not include things directly related to work. I wanted to solely focus on what brought me happiness and peace in my personal life. I have since committed to finding joy in at least one of those activities every day. Things have not been any less stressful this semester and I have made mistakes along the way. I have smiled more and I have been me more than I was my first three and a half years as an educator.