Somerset, UK, September 2015
Dear Vicki Davis (aka The CoolCatTeacher)
I’ve only just found your blog If I’m such a great teacher, why do I want to quit? I’m sorry to be slow. It took a long time to cross the pond. I will now join the 100,000 followers. I heard your cry and I want to tell you – like lots of your followers: I’ve listened. You and they know you’re not alone. In fact, feeling as you were last April might even be normal.
Just because it’s normal, doesn’t mean it’s how it should be.
I don’t teach in a school. I work with teachers – and more often school leaders. Sometimes standing on the touch-line allows me to see more of the game. What I see is that schools are full of people who invest not just time and energy in teaching, they invest themselves, too. They may not be perfectionists (and if they are, they will certainly be heading for burnout) but they live in a world where nothing is ever enough. Scarcity breeds fear. Fear gets in the way of becoming our best selves. Helping someone else to realise their potential at the expense of your own is a poor choice, and when society demands that of us we need to say ‘no’.
I’ve just read your 12 Choices to help you step back from burnout. It’s great. Keep choosing to do the things that help you to stay healthy. But I want to say when we are exhausted, we lose the power to choose. When we’re exhausted, we have no energy. We need as much energy to stop doing something as we do to start. So if we have no energy, and no power to choose – no ability to be our own advocate – we’re likely to get stuck on automatic pilot when actually, maybe what we need to do is to land the plane and take a short vacation. Maybe you don’t need to quit. What would happen if you pulled into a layby and thought about yourself? What would happen if, instead of focusing so hard on helping others, you focused on helping yourself when you need it?
Then we get on to core beliefs … How does this sit with your core beliefs and values? How far do you value your own intrinsic worth – not your worth because you can be helpful to others, but the wonder that is you, body mind and spirit? How often do you say to yourself ‘Today, I am enough’?
The term has just started. You’re feeling resilient. You know things will look different by the time everyone gets to Christmas. Like runners in a marathon, you have to get through to the finish. Why not make a pact with someone now? When they see you hitting that wall which runners hit, get them to promise to ask you ‘are you sure you want to push through this? Maybe your body is trying to tell you something’. If your calling is to look after others, then put the oxygen mask on yourself before the plane spirals out of control.
Yours with great respect
PS Thanks for inspiring me to write this blog.