Better to burn out than fade away?


Frank studying hard

The author studying his latest text as part of his M.Ad.Ed. research

Last semester was undoubtedly my best semester yet as a teacher. I pushed, challenged, cheered, and inspired my students more than ever before. As always, I gave them everything I had for the four months I had them. This time, however, for the first time ever, I felt that my best was actually good. Not great. But almost great.

I figured after a three-week rest over the Christmas holidays that I’d go back at it just as hard, continuing to aspire to be SuperTeacher (working almost full-time on part-time pay) while running a part-time business, studying towards my Masters of Adult Education, and raising my baby daughter Abigail.

That’s what I thought I’d do. But five weeks between paycheques and a wife at home on maternity leave made this year’s holiday squeeze a little tighter. It meant that there were few days off over the holidays for that much-needed recharge and I returned to school on Monday exhausted and sick with the flu.

I’ve found that teaching is like training for a marathon: in order to do it well, I have to get lots of sleep, stay healthy, and prepare thoroughly for every class as I would for every training session in marathon training. One bad day in the classroom requires days, sometimes weeks, of recovery.

So when I returned to school sick with flu this week and stumbled feverishly through two classes, I wondered how I was going to get through another four months of working seven days a week.

On my way out the door on Tuesday, I stopped to chat with one of my full-time colleagues and told her how I was feeling. She empathized and admitted she had felt the same at times when she worked part-time. She advised me that I might have to let up on some homework assignments for a semester. Maybe cut myself some slack, she said.

So that’s what I did. I converted one mandatory essay into a bonus assignment, which means that it’s probable that most students won’t do it.

I felt guilty about it at first, that I wasn’t giving my students enough practice at the skills I’m teaching them. But you know what? I’m not going to teach them well if I’m not at my best.

Frank chillin' with daughter Abigail in the Gatineaus.

And you know what? I feel better already. Just that one little act made all the difference.

I can’t believe it was that easy to make the semester look a lot less stressful.

This makes me think that maybe we should all look for little ways to take off the pressure a lot more often.

Think about it. I know that I will.


About teachingteacher

Business communications instructor, journalist, corporate communications writer and media trainer ... and Masters Candidate M.Ad.Ed.
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