Burnout at 23?

After reading your blog, I regain some semblance of sanity and my ego is partially restored knowing that I’m not the only one completely disillusioned by America’s appalling educational system. I honestly thought that there was something significantly wrong with me for not being emotionally and physically capable of assuming the role of an educator.
I was (am) at the point of a nervous breakdown at the tender age of 23. Being a teacher in America today is like asking someone to become a superhero who needs to consume a daily cocktail of amphetamines and xanax in order to simultaneously “teach” effectively and retain sanity. And, by “teach,” I mean assuming the role of mom and dad for 120+ kids, differentiating instruction so every student in the room, regardless of their learning capabilities and motivation (or lack thereof), will master the content all while you dodge flying objects being thrown in your direction, ignoring the incessant yelling and the “You suck at teaching’s” and remedying the outraged parents who don’t understand why you gave their child a “C.” Because, at the end of the day, you’re accountable for what your students learned (or didn’t learn) and if you ask for help or guidance (cue the “DON DON DON” music) you’ll be blackballed by the administration for “not being a good teacher.” The emotional baggage, alone, is already too much to bear.
Anyway, here’s my story. After graduating college, I thought teaching was my calling and I was very determined to, as the old adage says, “be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Ah yes, how naïve of me. So, I decided to get my secondary certification at the graduate level along with my MEd. By the way, my program is a joke. The university is like a vending machine: insert money, spit out diploma. Like the other post said, I just write my papers the hour I have in between school and grad class. I did more work and studied harder in high school than I do for grad school and I still have a 4.0 GPA. Now, what does that say about our educational system? School is becoming so watered down that degrees have no inherit value. The adjunct professors don’t give a shit. All they want is their paycheck and they’ve already checked out the door the first night of class. To make matters worse, most of the professors are administrators, program coordinators, etc. It’s an absolute disgrace.
Anyway, back to my story. During my field experience, I actually received a long term substitute position for the teacher that I was observing. I was beyond ecstatic because a. I didn’t even have my certification yet. b. I thought this was a great opportunity for me to showcase my teaching abilities, so I would get a job in that school district upon completion of my program. The opportunity just landed in my lap and I seriously thought it was god sent. Looking back, I’m questioning why they even gave me this position when I didn’t even have my certification. I know I did an excellent job with my field experience and my cooperating teacher told me that she wanted me to take over when she left because I was a strong individual who could handle these students and we had similar teaching strategies. But still, wouldn’t they hire someone with a legit certification and experience?
Well, I was literally thrown into this position without being prepared emotionally and literally without material and lesson plans. All I got was basically, “Here’s 4th marking period curriculum, good luck!” By the way, my only classroom experience prior was my field experience, which was being in the classroom for 1 day a week for a semester. No, I never had student teaching.
Every night, I come home bearing the emotional burdens of all my students and tears cannot stop from flooding down my face. I wish there was a switch where I could turn off the emotional weight of being a teacher. Every second I’m thinking about my students, teaching, the politics and what the other teachers and the administration think of me. How can I reach the students? What can I do better? Does the administration and other teachers know I’m a fraud? I feel entirely inadequate and a failure, which is killing me inside. The other night, I seriously thought I was having a heart attack. Little did I know, that I was suffering from a panic attack, which I’ve NEVER experienced in my life until now. These kids are our nation’s future…how can I not become overwhelmed? However, I will admit that I’m slowly becoming immune to the criticism I receive from the students, but the aftermath still stings. I sometimes find myself checking the attendance every morning in hopes that the troublesome student(s) will be absent.
I’m teaching the future of America and if these students are our nation’s future, I don’t want to be part of it… There’s no respect for adults, love of learning and any motivation. They feel entitled and privileged for just being themselves. Their parents are nonexistent and they live in a state of complacency and apathy. I think of them as amoebas: floating around with no shape or substance, not conscious of the world around them. It’s impossible to teach those who don’t want to be taught. Just by being their teacher, you’re already labeled the enemy. Our society doesn’t value educators and it’s apparent with the lack of respect students show for teachers.
I can’t even express my frustration because I’m not a “real” teacher at the school and I feel like if I vent, other teachers will use it against me. It’s so political; they all talk and badmouth one another. Not only am I teaching junior high students, but I feel like I’m back in junior high with my colleagues as well. I don’t know who I can trust and the environment is so unhealthy and counterproductive.
Teaching is like trying to swim against a current. Needless to say, I’m leaving the world of education. I’m going to finish out the year, complete all my all my graduate courses, get my certification and shut this chapter of my life. It’s a damn shame too. My heart was in education and I know that I could be an amazing teacher; however, I can’t bear the emotional weight of this job.
It’s a Saturday and I’m writing to a stranger about the plight of education. I can’t turn off the switch; it’s consuming my life and I want it back. I’m not a masochist…

7 responses to “Burnout at 23?

  1. Theresa rodgers

    You’re not alone! I have anxiety attacks from 12 to 3 pm from all the stress in the morning. The good news is that we were little shits once too and now look at us!

  2. Wait, you only had 120 kids? I want to go there. My class loads were usually 150. Glad I retired. Welcome to teaching!

  3. There’s nothing wrong with you. Everything you’re feeling is a normal, healthy reaction to too many pressures, many of them conflicting, all of them directing blame on you just because teachers are the easiest targets around.

    If you need to leave, leave. That would be the healthy thing to do because 1/it gets you away from the abuse 2/ it is the natural reaction of a healthy mind.

    If you stay, things won’t get better but you might begin feeling even worse. And no healthy person wants that.

  4. Go teach at a good suburban school. It sounds like you’re in a real shithole.

    I taught in a similarly bad place during my time with Teach For America, and if I go back to teaching it definitely will NOT be in a shitty urban school.

    There are many schools with good students, supportive parents, and administrators who care about their teachers. Find one.

  5. You’ve summed up exactly how I feel. I am a first year teacher and feel like I am drowning 97% of the time. The stress and worry of not being able to make it consumes my life. My students have no desire to grow, don’t want to learn, would rather play with their phones, have zero respect…they treat me as if I am an annoying fly bothering them. What is the future of America if this is our youth? We’re screwed! I am trying to finish up the year, yet it’s only half way over. How can I? Damn kids ruined my dreams of helping them.

  6. You were handed a curriculum? I am jealous…..LOL

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