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  • Writer's pictureauthorcjones


Understanding the reality of the challenges associated with today's classroom do you have a plan to help you thrive and triumph and not just survive?

During this my 26th year serving as an educator in Prince George's County Public Schools I understand personally what is causing so many educators to walk away from the profession. Returning to the classroom in 2010 I was met face to face with the increased rise of student misconduct and classroom disruption that made me celebrate when I was able to teach for 10 minutes! I returned to the classroom to a school community labeled a 'turnaround school' with a staff of 90% new to teaching or first year teachers, a new administrative team and with that the level of strife, contention, and stress occurring on a daily or weekly basis was what I would encounter in one year previously. We were labeled turnaround, but there were no additional resources or staff to aid us in becoming successful. We were just expected to turn things around because we were labeled 'turnaround.' I literally felt like Rip Van Winkle arising from a 10 year slumber not recognizing the classroom environment I left in 2001.

I am in my 3rd school community since returning to the classroom in 2010 and this is my 6th year in my current school community. During the first 18 years of my career I can probably count on two hands how many days of leave I took off. I enjoyed coming to work, to teach, to serve in my role as an educator. Since 2012 I make it a priority to use my leave at least twice a month to make sure I have time to replenish and ensure I maintain a healthy well-being. I label these periodic breaks mental health days. I still love teaching, working with children, but I cannot do it at the expense of myself. I was ALL-IN about that life as educator my first 18 years, but now I have two children, a personal business, I am a CEO of a nonprofit, I work for a nonprofit, and I am older now then I was then. Even without all the other things I do, I am learning the first priority of the educator today, if their desire is to thrive, prolong there stay in their profession as an educator, they must maintain balance and prioritize self-care as the priority to longevity, prosperity, and success as a classroom teacher.

Prior to this school year I encountered for the first time in my professional career what is classified as 'teacher burnout.' It was unfamiliar to me, but as I researched content for my book I began to realize, along with talking with other colleagues about the subject, I was experiencing what it is described as. When you begin to have this gnawing, annoying frustration that does not go away, your concerns become overwhelmed by things out of your control, and you begin to dread what you do, along with feeling helpless and powerless to do anything about it, that's what 'teacher burnout' feels like. It may or may not have anything to do with the students, it may even be something you feel is personally happening to you in the workplace, or maybe it's just a perception you feel without being able to put a finger on it, but the feelings are undeniable. Whatever the cause, reason, circumstance, the reality is without effective self-care you will not be able to last and will eventually leave the profession. I ended a school year frustrated and began a new school year the same way. It was the first time in my career and for the first time I could understand better why others feel the way they do going to a job feeling unfulfilled, dissatisfied, humiliated, disregarded, or undervalued. Since 2010 I have felt all these emotions.

Entering 2018 I made a deliberate decision to rise above, or what I call transcend, what is in the past, out of my control, or undeserving of my mental/emotional energy to better combat the effects of burnout and thrive in my role and responsibility as a classroom teacher.

Along with prayer, journaling, and a deliberate mindset, I did some consistent self-reflection and inquired within what my mindset was like when I first started teaching, because the emotion I was feeling was unfamiliar to how I felt early in my career.

What was also different was the level of demand, pressure, and push back encountered that threatened my personal/professional well-being, but I resolved during my self-reflection that I had an intense focus on only what was going on in my classroom and nothing else. Spending 10 years outside of the classroom allows you to have a greater perspective of things that affect staff and students within the classroom. Returning to the classroom I had to reel my mind back to focus only what my role and responsibility is as the classroom teacher to limit the amount of stress and duress my mind takes on that affects me.

Strategic Planning is not just an effective tool for entrepreneurs in improving their annual income. Strategic planning on maintaining balance in a high stress job is an important skill to cultivate and develop. Transitioning into 2019 strategically plan how you are going to position yourself to thrive as an educator and not just survive. I no longer struggle with returning to the classroom and have made it my mission to eradicate feelings of dread associated with students and classes I teach. This requires a consistent professional practice of the following helpful tips and habits:

> I prioritize targeting days in advance a day during each month for mental health days

> I pray and journal about my concerns that I do not have control over

> I am intentional about not talking about the past and things out of my control

> I am intentional to talk with colleagues discussing areas of challenge and need for growth

> I established a support group for my colleagues to encourage each other and promote growth

> I leave work at work when I leave work

> Even if I am doing nothing but relaxing I do something that I enjoy

> I engage in exercise to relieve stress

> I ask for help at work and pray for help without worrying about where the help will come from

> I am intentional about succeeding against the challenges I face within my school community

I am an educator. I came into this profession with the vision and mission of making a difference in the life of a child. I resolve not to allow anything or anyone run me out of what I believe I was called to do. When I walk away it will be with the understanding, 'after having done all you could do to stand, stand firm then.' There is a Proverb that states, 'When the storm has swept by the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever,' and another that says, 'In a rebellious country there are many rulers, but a man of knowledge and understanding maintains order.' My plan is to remain standing and maintain order of self no matter how strong the storm winds blow or difficult the moment gets, because, truly, the only thing I have control over is me. My desire is to thrive as an educator.

Let's connect if you have an interest in joining a google doc group sharing ideas, tips, strategies, and words of encouragement to help you thrive and triumph within the classroom in 2019.

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