By Stephanie Knight, EdD
Adjunct Faculty, College of Education
What other profession besides teaching chisels at the core of one’s being and causes one to feel so deeply, besides perhaps the clergy?
We give so much of ourselves. Burnout lurks ahead unless steps are taken to keep the heart wholly grounded.
There is an inner practice which must take place in the heart of a teacher, and if completed, no matter what endeavor he or she participates in, the ability to handle such demands shall be much more doable. Schools do a great job of professional development and techniques for classroom management, but what about reflective practices for teachers?
To renew the self, first, we must look at our outer being. This will not be discussed fully, although it is vital:
- Rest your body; find ways to take breaks and unplug.
- Check your diet; make a healthy diet a priority.
Now, with a healthier outside, one can then take a look inside.
- Meditate, pray or reconnect. Release feelings or frustrations.
Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” If we are to engage with other people as an educator, it is vital we continue to examine our hearts, which can govern our thoughts, reactions and motives. We need to be true to ourselves as we will always be encouraged to give more than we are able. Meditation, prayer or reflection will make one more aware.
However, it must be a daily deliberate habit practicing positive steps. Sometimes a private blog can be used as a dumping ground of ideas and feelings. These writings can also help us see issues with a different lens; we can step out of ourselves and have perspective.
This leads to the next point of looking outward:
- Seek wisdom.
One of the symptoms of burnout is isolation. It is so important not to wall the self up where receiving is not happening. Finding one person who we trust is essential after the previous things above occur. That person may be just around the corner, but one must keep open to the opportunity.
- Form a community.
Building community is critical in the school environment. When we can come together as a community of teachers, reflecting and sharing, those bright spots can be noticed. This may be what is needed if the person experiencing burnout cannot see anything bright at the moment. Iron can sharpen iron. The resources could be right under one’s nose yet one may be so exhausted, he or she cannot see them. Finding that confidant can be the genesis of community building.
This leads back to the original issue and that is the heart. The heart is what brings us into this crazy profession. We fell in love with the art and science of teaching. Therefore, it is time to refocus.
- Refocus on your purpose.
Refocus on the “who.” Who is the teacher who is teaching? How much of self has been given away? Did we give expecting instant results? Maybe we need to realize we cannot make a difference for every single student, every single day. We cannot please all people all of the time. It takes time for seeds take root, sprout and blossom.
Teaching is a marathon. It is fast-paced; it is exhausting; it is never “over” when the day is done. There are bumps, detours, side streets and obstacles, but if we can recover our heart by getting back to our root of our first love, taking care of who we are along the way, we can renew our spark as a teacher.
The College of Education at Grand Canyon University strives to create meaningful learning experiences for all educators to help them prepare to inspire minds and change lives. Learn more by visiting our website or requesting more information at the top of the page!
- Palmer, Parker J. “The Heart of the Teacher: Identity and Integrity in Teaching.” Center for Courage and Renewal. Retrieved from org/parker/writings/heart-of-a-teacher
More About Dr. Knight:
Stephanie Knight, EdD, is an experienced 7th and 8th grade English Language Arts educator. She inspires students to think critically and creatively. With that, she loves to see her students grow in their writing with expressive flair. She, herself, continues to work on her own writing process. Stephanie earned her Bachelor of Science in Business at the University of Colorado in Boulder, her certification in K-8, 7-12, English as a second language, English, Principal, and her doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Arizona State University. She taught in Title One schools for eight years helping them grow from underperforming to excelling, then in an independent school, and now is part of GCU’s adjunct faculty where she teaches graduate level education and reading courses. She continues to be committed to seeing the next generation of teachers be successful in educating our youth to a bright future.