CF teachers react to national trend of teacher burn out

As the Washington Post recently reported, teachers nationally are leaving the classroom due to burn out and feeling under appreciated by the community. 

Though the last few years have been challenging, English teacher Brenna Griffin said she feels support from the community at Cedar Falls. “I think the biggest issue in the last couple years was the constant need for flexibility in scheduling and format in being able to meet the needs of students in person and online and in quarantine at the same time as everyone’s families lives were a little strained from the uncertainty of the pandemic, so it was a time I really wanted to be able to provide flexibility and grace to students and families but it was hard. I would say I do feel appreciated in our local community, but some of the language coming out of the state legislature and national level makes me feel less appreciated and trusted.” 

During the 2022 legislative season a number of bills were proposed on education on things such as books and cameras in classrooms. 

Regarding these bills, social studies teacher Chad Van Cleve said, “I don’t think it’s warranted, but I do think parents and officials do have a right to oversee the educational process in their communities. I think context and lack of context along with the desire to use things like CRT (critical race theory) and terms like indoctrination to win political points has helped to create the issues.”

Griffin had struggled with thinking about quitting before. “The year after I had my first daughter when she was one, I had been teaching for about six or seven years at the time, you know there are a lot of demands on English teachers for out-of-class response time, and when I had a child at home and I wanted to be with them, I didn’t want to put in hours and hours of work that was not compensated. I coped and found my way through by really digging in and learning how I could be an effective teacher without giving my life away. I ended up writing my master thesis on this topic because it was important to me to be a good teacher and also not burn out.”

Van Cleve said that he didn’t struggle much with emotional issues during the pandemic because of his support systems and coping skills, “I exercise. I go on bike rides with my family. We do family game nights. I have things with my family I look forward to doing. That keeps me from dwelling on negative events and things.”

Special education teacher Jeremy White is new to the high school this fall, so he has the challenge of adjusting to a new home and job. “Well a lot of times when you start a new job you get overwhelmed. I’ve felt overwhelmed and confused many times, but I’ve been able to get help, and the teachers in my special ed group have been awesome and helped me a lot.” 

Teachers give support to students daily, but White said teachers would benefit from support in return. “I feel like students could really work on showing their respect and gratitude to their teachers by being appreciative of what the teachers do every day and saying thank you. Like the T in Tiger, thank someone daily.”

As for the community, Griffin said anyone is welcome to tell teachers “when they see good things happen rather than just reaching out about problems and complaints and actually working to have an understanding of the hours most teachers work. People joke that we have summers off and that we are off at 3:30, but the reality is the quality of public schools as we know it is based on the assumption that teachers will work many unpaid hours.” 

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