Year: 1997-1998
Month: March
Leader: Group K

Situation/Case Study:

The teachers have just had a week’s break and already feel the stresses of too much to do. There are the second evaluation observations to be scheduled and endured, proxy tests, professional competence tests, action research, Assurance of Mastery evaluations due, portfolio’s due, summer school planning and meetings, staff and staffing meetings, meetings with parents, students, mentor-mentee conferences, curriculum meetings, special education meetings, P.T.O., school special events, and meetings regarding the transferring of students due to boundary changes. This last set of meetings has additional stresses because of the media pressure and the feeling that they are expected to “sell their school.” This boundary change has resulted in open informational meetings scheduled for parents with the expectation that teachers will be there. At this point it feels like there have been no conversations regarding how the changes should occur, what approach should be taken, and what should be done. The teachers see it as a district decision, and a district problem, with the expectation that the school and the teachers will handle meeting deadlines and quotas without knowing who is coming. In addition to these issues are the related timing issues surrounding special education assessment when there is a sudden increase in enrollment and what that does to the scheduling of on going cases. Then there is the scheduling of district and state tests which seem to hit some grades with greater frequency than others and involve multiple days of testing during which regular curriculum needs to take a back seat. It’s hard to meet all the demands of meetings and deadlines and still develop and teach with enthusiasm the appropriate curriculum they are hired to teach. Most teachers would love to just have time to spend on curriculum planning, teaching and working with their kids and have all the other demands disappear. There just doesn’t seem to be enough time and energy to do all that is required in a 24-hour day!

Teachers in this situation feel exhausted. The demands overwhelm the hours in a day. Teaching becomes a job that can haunt you 24 hours a day. It is hard to prioritize so many "important things"-meetings, conferences, meetings, in-services, meetings, testing, meetings, open houses, meetings, observations. Help! Teachers feel overwhelmed, frustrated and tired. It is difficult to balance all the meetings and planning and yet do a good job of teaching. Teachers may feel stressed because of all the parts of teaching pulling in all directions. You may also feel frustration because there don't seem to be enough hours in the day, days in the week, etc. You also feel overwhelmed wanting to do more but you can't find the time. Teachers in this situation might be concerned about burnout. What more can I do -or be asked to do? What's next? A teacher in this situation feels overwhelmed, stretched, and out of control. A teacher may feel inadequate, inflexible, inefficient, ineffective, pressured, frustrated, anxious, unprepared, frazzled, tired and hungry. A teacher in this situation may feel overwhelmed, but yet at the same time accept the challenge of each major project. A teacher feels overwhelmed by the different expectations and meetings placed on him/her. They might also feel that the students are missing out because of lack of prep time and lack of thoughtful creative lessons. Teachers in this situation feel that they are doing a poor job because they have no time to prepare good lessons. Students seem to suffer the most because teachers are S T R E T C H E D and short tempered. Teachers will feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and question why all of this is so important. A teacher needs to feel able to separate professional life from private and leave some of these “worries and concerns at school without feeling guilty. Teachers in this situation feel it’s time for a career change. Teachers in this situation feel controlled, powerless, ripped off, frustrated, wrung out, tired, down-trodden, insane, irrelevant, and angry!

Theories behind practice:
It is possible to apply Glasser's Control Theory - basic needs to this situation. As Glasser defines the five basic needs, they are Belonging (other people, your team, your family), Freedom (choice, control, What can I do? What can I let go of?) Power (accomplishment, self worth), Fun (humor, joy) and Survival (basic needs of health, food, safety, shelter). According to Reality Therapy it is important to keep these in balance. When looking at the above sense of being overwhelmed, powerless, and unable to feel like you are accomplishing anything, feeling as though you have no control over the circumstances, not to mention having time for yourself or fun, it is easy to see why teachers feel frustrated and fear burning out. It is wise to take into consideration meeting these needs in the workplace for teachers as well as for students.

Impact on others:

This suggestion, as well as those that follow, addresses these issues. Stop, take a deep breath. Play Mozart in the car, in the classroom. Dim the lights. Find the humor in the situation. Laugh about things with friends and colleagues. Exercise, walk the dog. Just say No..Decide what is most important and tackle that. Don't agree to take on anything new unless you give up something. Decide your priorities and let the rest go. More isn't better. Be well planned and organized. Don't be afraid to change the things that need changing that you have power to change. Don't be afraid to leave some things out, you don't have to put everything in. Communicate! Share. Ask for help.

The student discussed last time seems to be doing better. After the spring break, he came back prepared and responded well to compliment. He seems to be trying harder. Teachers felt good about being a part of this group even though it was another meeting. They commented on the shared wisdom and the sense that they were not alone and that the group managed to find humor and laugh at the same time that problems were being shared.