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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Can a teacher make a comeback?

Can a teacher make a comeback?

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Hello all - new girl here. :) I'll try to make this short and sweet. After five years of teaching high school English and two years of teaching part-time at a community college, I lost my job due to budget cuts. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I realized after the fact that I was so burned out and that my work was suffering because of it. Now, after being out of work for over six months, I am considering going back to the classroom. Yes, part of this is due to feeling like I have to; unfortunately, there are not a lot of people willing to hire an English major groomed solely for the classroom. However, I do genuinely want to return; before I burned out, I enjoyed teaching immensely and it was something I could see myself doing for the rest of my career. I can blame a million things for my burning out and blame plenty of people, including myself, but looking back, I have a pretty good idea of how I could avoid it in the future if I start working now - before I have a job. I have considered going back to school for a MS in counseling so I could become a guidance counselor, but unfortunately, I'm still paying off the student loans for the Masters in English that people kept assuring me would help my education career. I know I want to be in the education field. I know that I love working with high school kids. However, the bottom line is that in close to seven years of teaching, I still have a lot to learn. I was by no means a veteran, but I was still making a lot of newbie mistakes. So, tell me, can this teacher make a comeback? I appreciate the advice!

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Mr.Bee's picture
Mr.Bee
Third grade teacher from Michigan's Upper Peninsula

" I enjoyed teaching immensely and it was something I could see myself doing for the rest of my career." Yup you belong back in the trenches. I have no idea how to go about it but if you follow your head/heart you will find your way. You wonderful English teachers have always freaked me out. Writing is so hard. Peace. But i sure love good writers.

Kay Greenberg's picture

Kelly, As a 30 year veteran, I have burnt out and resurrected numerous times. Of course, it is possible. I believe my best teaching actually came after ten years. Go for it. Kay Greenberg

Gary Latman's picture
Gary Latman
English Teacher / Technology Coordinator / Instructional Technologist

Kelly, I think you should look at all the factors that contributed to your burnout, and if most still exist, you might be setting yourself up for a repeat. I taught English for 25 years, before I became the school's Technology Coordinator. I was beginning to feel worn out before I left the classroom (inner city high school English). I had been English Department Chair and taught all seniors and an occasional junior class. After 5 years of managing our network, repairing computers, leading workshops, providing programs and software for my colleagues, we had a political shakeup (new inexperienced principal assigned to our school by Arne Duncan) and I was put back in the classroom without my consent. I was given 5 freshmen English classes (our most unruly students), which caused me to burnout. I took 2 months of sick days, before I returned to complete the second semester. My point is that I was an excellent teacher, who chose to move on to something else needed by the school. When I was placed in a situation that I did not want, which was way beyond anything I could manage, I burned out. Please don't allow yourself to be put into an untenable situation. You know what you need to be successful. If you can help it, don't accept anything less. The best I could do was take two months of my accumulated sick days to preserve my health. Sidebar: I returned to the news that the entire faculty was going to be displaced (fired) at the end of the semester. They called our school a turnaround school.

Dr. Ernest's picture

I deal with teachers all the time who are under tremendous pressures to juggle the demands of the classroom with their personal lives. Some of them are able to get some relief by leaving the classroom and assume other roles in their schools, but this is not an option for most teachers. What seems to work best to deal with and prevent burnout is to: (1) make sure that you are fully engaged in and happy doing the work you "really" want to do, (2) take care of your health and psycho-emotional needs DAILY by finding what works best for you to relieve stress, and (3) surround yourself with a few teacher mentors who have successfully gone through circumstances similar to your own. It takes a tremendous effort for a teacher to find healthy ways to have a balanced life and you have to really search for what works best for you. Go for it and don't allow anything to block that super teacher inside of you from emerging.

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