Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Importance of Teacher-Friends in Preventing Burnout

   I'm so enjoying this summer, and the easygoing productivity that comes with it.  I've painted the living room and hallway in my house, made some lesson plans, read several novels, and done lots of cooking.  It's nice to be able to accomplish things, but do so in a relaxed way.  One thing I love about summer is the freedom to spend my time as I choose-- and today, I'm choosing to spend some quality time with good friends.  Teacher friends, to be exact.  I had lunch with an old friend today, who recently became a colleague.  We spent our time talking, and a lot of it was, honestly, about school.  We compared techniques and ideas, and made plans to do some classroom thrift shopping together next week.  Tonight, I'm heading to a fun get-together with some of my favorite people ever-- most of whom are part of "the lunch crew" at school.  

Homecoming Week festivities with some of my faves

   Thinking about our time spent together reminds me of the importance of having a tight-knit group of friends at school.  We live in a time when teacher-stress is rampant: think standardized tests, complicated new evaluation systems, more and more security concerns, and the ridiculous habit some politicians have of blaming teachers for our nation's problems.  Many young teachers are sprinting out of the classroom before the ink even dries on their first year's grade book.  There is a lot of information out there about how to manage teacher stress and prevent burnout, but I can tell you firsthand that the best thing new teachers can do is to establish a close relationship with a group of colleagues.  

   My "lunch crew" is a group of fellow teachers from my school.  Obviously, we eat lunch together-- but we share a great deal more than that.  We've been through divorces, marriages, births, deaths, celebrations, and heartbreak.  We talk child-rearing and husbands and shopping . . . and you know what?  We even talk about teaching.  And our students.  Shocker!  We rally together to help one another in the classroom as well as out of it.  It's common for us to share lesson plans and classroom management ideas.  We discuss difficult classroom situations and learn from one another, and it just makes us all so much better.  

   I adore my job.  I honestly believe I teach in the best darn school on the planet, and a major reason for that belief is my colleagues.  I've been through some difficult situations in my career thus far-- angry parents, students in heartbreaking situations, and an often overwhelming workload.  Sometimes I understand why young teachers leave education behind for higher-paying (and easier) professions.  But I will absolutely not be one of them.  One reason for that is the relationships I've built with my colleagues.  Without a support system, anything will crumble.  So if you're new to teaching (and even if you're not), go find yourself some teacher-friends. But I bet they won't be as great as mine. 
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