My heart breaks for the burned-out teachers

This articulates many of the reasons I would never consider going into teaching.  
When I was applying for university in 2000 I looked carefully at doing a BEd degree and training to be a teacher.  I was put off by the way the government drive towards targets, overbearing amounts of paperwork, and stifling creativity in curriculum planning, means that teachers can often just end up as glorified paper shufflers, and so went on to study a Theology degree instead.  Several times since Head Teachers have tried to persuade me to move from youth work to teaching, but I could never do it.  A passion for education and developing children and young people is crushed by our system:

The atmosphere in the staff room will not be quite the same. There will be an empty space, for a little while, where she used to sit. Staff gatherings will not quite be the same. There will be a void, where her infectious giggling filled the room, at somebody’s silliness. The staff will bear the loss. But a loss it will be.

Thirty sets of parents and carers will feel different degrees of compassion towards the teacher, different degrees of disappointment. Some will, maybe, get their children to make a card and even write a comment in it themselves, to show love and support. But they will, all, feel anxious about what this means for their children. Some will feel disenchanted. The headteacher will have to divert some of her, already scare time and energy to meeting with them, to reassuring them. Life will carry on.

The headteacher will, in all likelihood, bear the added stress without breaking, because despite the enormous pressure she is under, she is resilient. But, added pressure it will be.

Thirty children have lost somebody really significant in their lives. Someone that accepted and valued them for being just as they are, someone that listened to them, someone that encouraged them, someone that empowered them. Some of the children have lost a role model, some an inspiration. Other teachers will valiantly and professionally step into the breach – probably from an agency – but they may only be able to stay for a few days, weeks, or months. Life will carry on.

The teacher’s coat will hang on the back of the classroom door for weeks, months, maybe even one, two, three, or more, years, as a reminder of the shell of the person left behind. The atmosphere in the class will not quite be the same. The relationships within the class will not quite be the same. The quality of learning will not quite be the same. The children will bear the loss because they are resilient. But, a loss it will be.

A family has lost a daughter, a sister, an auntie, a cousin. She won’t feel up to seeing anybody for a while. She will avoid family gatherings for months, or a year or more because it will be too much to see everyone in one place at one time. Life will carry on.

Children’s and youth work links

Here are some links from around the world of children’s and youth ministry:

Five Myths that Perpetuate Burnout Across Nonprofits: There is a pervasive fear in the nonprofit field that focusing inwardly—on our staff, our leadership, even our own salaries—will take away from achieving our organizational missions. That needs to change.

5 New Years resolutions for discipling young people: James writes on the buzz theme of discipleship and suggests five resolutions that would enable discipleship that might be authentic, life and world transforming.

We’ve all been the new kid: When we teach young people to value each person as God does, their perspective changes.  How much better would it be for our first time visitors if we took away some of the guesswork at a first session and ensured experienced young people helped them.

Creating student leaders in youth ministry: Nick Steinloski writes on the purpose of the Young Leaders and the annual rhythm for their group.

What does discipleship look like on a council estate?  Living a life of faith can look quite different outside the bastion of middle-class Christianity.

Books I have read: Leading on Empty

Leading on Empty

This week I’ve been reading Leading on Empty by Wayne Cordeiro.  I was recommended this book by one of my previous colleagues who had been really encouraged by Cordeiro’s honesty and attitude.  The book starts by reflecting on his experience of burnout and how he realised that his life was not sustainable and needed to change.

For me the most helpful aspect of the book was his honesty both as he reflected with what he needed to change – that it ran deep within himself; and the depth at which Cordeiro explained practically how he managed this – especially with the Personal Retreat Days – something I will certainly be taking on board as we move into 2014.

The concept of a dashboard which helps to measure vital systems essential for health and success was interesting, he used: Faith life; marriage life; family life; office life; computer life; ministry life; financial life; social life; attitudinal life; author’s life; speaker’s life and physical life.  I found Cordeiro’s thoughts on the different questions we ask ourselves in our 20s, our 30s, our 40s, our 50s, our 60s and our 70s helpful to realise that after ten years in ministry who I am, and the questions I ask of myself have changed during this period.

With recommendations such as “This is a must-read for all leaders” by Bill Hybels it certainly isn’t one to ignore, and whilst there is nothing that you probably haven’t heard before, it will certainly encourage you and challenge you to make your life more sustainable instead of constantly leading on empty.