George Lucas Educational Foundation

Teacher Loss of Heart

Teacher Loss of Heart

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Why do you think teachers lose that drive they had when they were a beginning teacher?

Is it the lack of respect they receive by politicians? How about the hours the put in per day to for pay that places them on the poverty ledge? What about a three or four hour test, which grades them for ten months worth of work?

Something has happened to these educators where they have lost their extra oomph that propels them to do, to want more from their students. Now the big question is how do we as leaders get it back? Any ideas?

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Dan Callahan's picture
Dan Callahan
Professional Learning Specialist, Edcamper, Graduate Professor

I think you've pretty much hit the nail on the head for the reasons why.

The thing that school leaders can do to help this is by building a great culture in their school.

Treat your teachers as actual human beings. Recognize that most of your teachers are wives/husbands and mothers/fathers first. That's going to warp the orbit of what they value and what they have time for compared to your younger teachers. If they seem to be drowning in the amount of work given to them, reevaluate what you're asking for, and help them find ways to balance out the work that needs to get done.

Buy them breakfast once in a while.

Treat them like professionals. If they have to go to a staff meeting, make that meeting COUNT. Don't go over anything they could learn from an email. Spend that valuable, valuable time together talking about what really matters in teaching and learning. Ask them to run it. Build a collaborative community where their voice is heard and their voice matters. Get your teachers time to work together and to visit each others' classrooms so they can give each other meaningful feedback and get fresh ideas for their classrooms.

Recognize their efforts in meaningful ways. A simple email saying you noticed that awesome thing they did can mean a lot. A quick note about how you're glad to see them trying something new was fantastic, and even if it didn't work out perfectly, you're sure they can improve on it, sends a clear message about what you value.

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program; Elementary Library Media Specialist

Dan nailed it, I think. I'd add that I think part of it is age. I know that after 20+ years in this profession (and I'm not even in the regular classroom anymore!), I find that I just don't have the stamina I once did. What can be perceived to be a loss of heart is, in reality, a loss of energy. We're all pulled in so many directions- family, aging parents, social and civic responsibilities- and there's only so many ways you can slice on pie.

I think recognizing that we're adults and treating us as such (taking down firewalls so teachers can access social media from work, allowing teachers to run out on planning periods if need be, providing comfortable spaces to work with real chairs sized for grown-ups) can help.

I know that one of the big things that keeps me in my current job is the one-two punch of a strong mission shared by everyone here AND the flexibility necessary to thrive in my work, my family, and my life.

kkgump's picture
Program Lead/K12 Educator

I have worked with K12 teachers and higher ed teachers and it always seems the same things cause them to lose heart

Lack of respect
Lack of resources
Lack of support
Lack of freedom

Teaching is a profession and, as such, teachers should be viewed as capable of getting their job done with the support they need.

I also see many teachers disheartened with some of their peers. After earning a degree (or two)...most teachers expect their colleagues to be well prepared, focused on students and dedicated. Sadly..this is not always the case.

Rafranz Davis's picture
Rafranz Davis
Executive Director of Professional and Digital Learning, Lufkin ISD

My first year as a high school teacher, I walked in to my classroom and was immediately handed 6 huge maroon binders of curriculum worksheets and told that I had to teach from the binders verbatim. I did it until I bored myself to near death and then I hid the binders and changed my lessons.

With that said, I didn't have "admin fear" but most of my peers did so they continued to teach, like robots, from the binders.

Last year, I taught at a school that was no different....except for the part where teachers were required to plan their "robotic lessons" together. It took all year and some major putting down of my foot...but I changed that. It was like teachers woke up to having permission to think.

So, the moral of this story is this...

The keys to disrupting the "educator loss of heart" ...

1. Do what Dan says
2. Stop it with the "Stepford Educator" expectation

Rory Donaldson's picture

The single greatest cause of teacher burnout is "failure." This is because teachers have not been taught how to teach kids to succeed with reading, math and study-skills - after all, where would teachers have gone to school to learn these skills? Certainly not our current crop of ed. schools. There is hope however - and you know where it is.

Rory Donaldson's picture

How are teachers going to get the job done when they've never been clearly told what the job is? From my perspective the job is simple, "flood all kids with reading, math and study-skill success."

Why in the world would I expect my peers to be well prepared? Where would they go to get his vague "preparation?" To our schools of ed? I don't think so. Of course teachers are discouraged, for the most part they have no curriculum and no skills - only kids, Kids, KIDS! A great place to begin is to give them the "answers first."

Freedom? What in the world are you talking about. Read Emerson.

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Samer Rabadi
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