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Always On The Go
You wake up in the morning and the first thing you do is check your phone. Who is emailing me? What is happening around the world or on social media? I am sure that anyone reading this will identify with the pattern. Technology is good, but at times it seems to rule our lives. We are connected all the time, especially via the various channels of communication we utilize for family and work matters. The plugin follows us much like a tail wherever we venture off to.
Work Will Always Be There
In working in the public school system for thirty-six years I found that work was always there. Being that I started teaching pre-internet I can actually remember when I wasn’t bombarded by the incessant e-mail and demands from the work environment. Even through the last days of my teaching I received emails from students at all hours wanting to know about missing assignments or needing assignments. Increasing student numbers to the point of having 250 students created an onslaught of work to be completed daily. Notifications from Canvas showed up on my phone 24/7 until I disabled them for the sake of my sanity. Once retired from teaching this past June, I still was involved with the pursuit of part-time employment and certifications. E-mails from various platforms and the need to stay abreast on the latest trends in education and technology dominated most of my time from 8:00 to 5:00 and sometimes beyond. This was after the longest school year of my professional career where spending 11 hours in preparation for the next day was not uncommon.
Educators Mental Health
Being that yesterday was World Mental Health day I could not help but think of those affected with diagnosed conditions, but also the increasing number of educators that reached their limit the past year and continue to struggle with the incessant demands of teaching. It was gut wrenching to see Twitter posts from dedicated educators who for whatever reason decided to walk away from a profession that is in great need. Many of these educators were quite frank about the reasons. “I had to do it for my well-being and for my family” or “I could no longer bring myself to the classroom knowing that I could not give my all to my students” were some of the comments that were posted. Teacher shortages abound nationwide and yet more and more teachers are finding that the profession they have dedicated their lives to is now demanding more than they can give. It is unfortunate that it has taken the pandemic to bring this in the forefront.
Perhaps a quick examination of what is taking place is in order. Educators are driven people and want the best for their students. The pressure to conform to the pervasive testing environment and cover everything for the sake of testing is problematic. The federal, state and local governments demand accountability and testing is the most convenient vehicle for this to take place. This demand is then pushed down to district and site administrators who then demand results from teachers who are dealing with a list of issues concerning their students that is ever increasing. Recent news headlines read, from Edutopia “Covid-19’s Impact on Students’ Academic and Mental Well-Being” and from EdWeek, Mental Health Problems Loom for the COVID Generation. Here’s What Schools Can Do. Yet only recently does one encounter news on teacher mental health. Below are some statistics from the May study from the CDC foundation regarding teachers.
27% of teachers self reported symptoms consistent with clinical depression and 37% self reported symptoms consistent with generalized anxiety
53% of teachers say they are thinking of leaving the profession more now than they were before the pandemic (February 2020)
19% of teachers started or increased alcohol use to deal with stress during the pandemic
Where to Now?
What does all of this say? Teachers’ well-being is as important as anyone else’s. We have to take care of ourselves. Taking a break from work and even a mental health day should not be frowned upon. In retrospect, I can say that as a teacher who did not take enough days off that I would have been better off if I did. There was always the rationale which was true, that if I take a day off I would have to spend hours in preparation creating sub plans. However, taking a day off would ultimately benefit me and those around me. This past year I saw a number of colleagues taking time off to care for their children and or just take a break. So just do it as the Nike commercial use to state. Make your well being a priority. I am even in semi-retirement as I will take a long-planned vacation later in the year and will unplug completely or so I say.