For me, one of the hardest parts of being a school teacher was that I gave nearly all of my energy to my job, saved a little bit for my family, and was left with only a few drops for myself. Most evenings after tucking my own children into bed I would sit on the couch, often with an unhealthy snack, and either finished up something for school, answered all the emails that accumulated or continued designing a workshop that I was creating. This pace of work was becoming unsustainable, but I felt like my ‘ticket out of the classroom’ meant creating a new career before I called it quits.
It should have been easy for me to see, but I was developing a serious case of ‘teacher burn out’. I was burning the candle at both ends and it was becoming hard to manage. Last spring, I began feeling swallowed up by my teaching job and felt like I wasn’t able to do enough. In fact, the more that I gave to my job the more I felt was expected of me. The more I questioned things that were happening in my school, the more I felt that my school did not care about it.
As I have shared my personal ‘teacher burn out’ story with close friends nearly all nod in agreement. Regardless of their profession almost all can relate to my struggle and many applaud me for having the courage to leave.
Telling my story though feels vulnerable because I feel like if I had been a stronger person I could have weathered the storm better. Somehow I still feel selfish in deciding to walk away from a profession that I love, but deep inside I know that I could no longer stay. I feel like I gave up on the kids or my colleagues, but I also know that I wasn’t able to continue to give without completely depleting my personal well.
It’s easy to say that we know that we need to prioritize ourselves or take care of our colleagues but in my experience teachers are notorious for being such good care givers that we fail at being care receivers.
I realize that I need to find the courage to pursue a new a career path and to get comfortable even when there isn’t a paycheck being direct deposited into my account. I feel called to help others prevent teacher burn out, to offer wellness and meaningful stress management tools that all of us can use. I hope to create both online-communities for teachers who are reaching out for resources for personal wellness & creativity. I also feel called to going back to my first career, in creating in-person opportunities for holistic health, such as offering retreats, workshops, and community based wellness services. I feel the need to advocate for balance and wellness in our schools and community. I am also exploring how to offer teaching artist residencies that focus on creativity & wellness for both students and staff. All of these divergent ideas will converge into a rewarding career path…I am sure of it!
One of the books that I am currently reading is Brene Brown’s, “Dare to Lead”. Her approach to full-hearted leadership and being brave is just the message I need right now. Brene’s take on how vulnerability can be used as an asset seems to be the opposite of what we are taught makes a good business person. I am trudging through that vulnerable space and trying to figure out how being a full-hearted person can become one of my super powers instead of a liability.
Though my business plan is not all sorted out, and I don’t quite know where this adventure is leading me, I have a renewed confidence in myself. I know that this is not just a ‘hobby’ and that I will need to figure out how to make an livable income. However, I know I am moving in the right direction, have gratitude for all those who support me, and I am committed to keep showing up to figure it out!