Link to survey: https://forms.gle/wYqnCNJ2uu7y26rn8
For the past two years, I’ve been branching out career-wise and reflecting on my experiences as a teacher. I felt I needed a break from the classroom. I thought I might be burning out, or maybe I just needed a change. I switched up the courses I was teaching, went part-time, volunteered with some organizations, interviewed for other jobs and even took a position outside of education altogether. However, it’s now November, and I will be returning to teaching, full-time math, in January. I could not be more excited!
I’m writing this post to explain why I’m asking you to share your teaching story. I have a survey I’m doing because I really want to know what other teachers are going through. I read a lot about the profession and am involved in professional development activities. I’m engaged in my profession. Yet, I still had this wonder – is this the right job for me? Why am I so tired all the time? How can I respond to all the needs of my students and the demands of my schedule? Is something wrong with me?
I learned that there’s nothing wrong with me. There are so many articles and studies about burn-out, the increased demands on schools, and increased scrutiny of teachers. So, I know that’s all real. However, to me, the individual experiences are not always explored in these articles. I’m particularly interested in California math teachers’ experiences but would be happy to hear from anyone who is willing to share.
So, let me share my story (briefly) so you can understand where I’m coming from:
I got into teaching as a second career. Prior to teaching, I earned my master’s degree in economics and worked in the credit industry and then as a statistician for UC San Francisco, studying the health care labor force. I have a background in research and labor studies – no wonder I’m interested in issues surrounding the teacher labor force.
I went into teaching after having kids, thinking I would reduce my commute and have more time with my children and family. That was true – sort of. I had the summer and holiday breaks, but the workweek was incredibly time-consuming. I had no time for socializing or hobbies or other fun stuff. But, it was okay – I really loved what I was doing.
I started teaching at a public middle school as a full-time paid intern and worked on my credential at night. So, I was able to forgo a few courses, since I was already working full-time in the classroom. After earning my credential, I kept going to earn my master’s in education. I felt I would eventually go into education research. (That still hasn’t happened, but this project is my starting point).
I went from middle school to high school, eventually landing at the school where I graduated and where my oldest daughter was attending. She wasn’t totally sold on me teaching at her school, but I reminded her she would have access to money and car keys and I promised to leave her alone, and she was more accepting of the idea.
I loved it at first. For a few years, I felt like everything was really great. By my sixth year there, though, I was coming home in a bad mood, exhausted, wanting to pursue other things. I thought, did I only go into teaching because of my kids, and now that they’ve graduated, do I not like it anymore? No, I was really just getting burnt out. I was neglecting my own needs and teaching in a high performing community where expectations frequently went a bit beyond what was reasonable.
For 2017-2018, I was able to move from teaching math full-time to teaching 2 sections of AP Economics. I loved teaching economics but was still feeling pretty worn out each day, trying to manage some unruly behavior in one of my classes and manage expectations around grades. For 2018-2019, I took a partial leave of absence, so I could have a bit of a break and pursue some other career avenues. I volunteered with NCTM and took on a fellowship with the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
These experiences were just what I needed. I was ready to go back to full-time teaching, and applied for a position at a different campus, thinking a change of scenery would be good. I had been working and living in the same community and thought maybe everything was a bit too close for comfort. However, on July 1st, I received an offer for a position with a large corporation, working as an associate economist. [Background: the summer before this, I had applied to positions outside of education and interviewed with this company and received an offer, but turned it down because it was a junior position and long commute and a pay cut and it was already September – I couldn’t really quit at that point.] But, in the summer of 2019, it was re-posted and re-offered to me, and despite the drawbacks, I took it thinking it would be worth checking out and would lead to bigger and better things.
It didn’t work out. I won’t go into detail, but suffice it to say, I didn’t feel challenged, I wasn’t doing anything that used my analytic skills, and I really did miss the interaction of the classroom and helping people. What I really learned from this experience is that I have a wealth of education experience and have a lot to offer to the field. I was able to go corporate and see if the grass was any greener, but it wasn’t. I learned that I need to manage the expectations that I put on myself to be perfect and instead, do my best to be a great teacher, within reason. Letting myself burn out is not okay.
Fortunately, with teaching, there are big chunks of time off where we get to pursue other interests, such as blogging about teacher labor market issues. Mostly, I’m focusing right now on the teacher experience. So, if you can take a bit of time and share your experience, I would really appreciate it. You may be in year one or year 30 of teaching. I’m not sure where this will lead, but I hope it leads somewhere.
I want to know where you teach, how long you’ve taught, how has your career evolved, have you ever thought of leaving? If so, why didn’t you or why did you and did you return? How do you feel about your decision?
Because I am just starting this project, I would love feedback on the survey questions and organization – I’m really just kind of throwing it out there as a Beta Version right now.
How will your responses be used?
Great question! I will try to aggregate the submissions in terms of state, region, courses, level (elementary, middle, high, college) to see if there are any trends. I may put up a chart of some responses, but I would remove all identifiers, and make sure there are at least 5 respondents included in any particular breakdown so that no one could be identified – this is standard practice in most government research projects.
There is a question at the end that asks your preferences about possibly being quoted, with no quote as an option. You can leave your email so that I can email you before printing anything. You can also email me if you want to discuss anything: firstname.lastname@example.org