The intent of my evolution post was to describe the challenges I face now, five years in, versus those I faced fresh from college. Others took this for, variously, prescription, condemnation, arrogance, political grandstanding, and, inevitably, a recipe for burnout, all of which missed the mark, though I enjoyed thinking that last one through.
The effort I expend doing what I can to raise student achievement gets out of control here at the end of term. Students camp outside my door with clear goals, looking for help, looking to prove they know what they didn’t use to know. I take a ten-minute lunch lately but the returns are so consistently fun that they overwhelmingly counterbalance any risk of burnout.
What does burn me out is the realization that I have resolved the largest challenges I faced as a new teacher. I am at a place, for example, where classroom management no longer challenges me. Not that every day is all smiles and hard work, just that I have identified the mix of engaging instruction, mutual respect, and tough love that eluded me for years.
Maybe that sounds great to you, and it was for me, for awhile. Can you see, though, how resolving one of the challenges which used to define my professional existence has created a vacuum? How, for a teacher who got into teaching more for the pragmatic challenge than the emotional calling, this has resulted in a kind of post-partum depression?
I enjoy the job more now than I did then. The job is easier, certainly, now. But ease and enjoyment rank lower on my list of Good Reasons To Invest Thirty Years Of My Life than a compelling challenge.
I’m trying to say that I need more failure. I have experienced too much success this year, not because I’m so amazing, but because I have failed to fill the challenge vacuum with meaningful, overarching goals, goals that I will fail to meet, say, three days out of ten for the next three years, that failure keeping me lean and hungry.