It seems that my blog entries are not what I originally imagined I would be writing when I first started to think about sharing my learning back in June. I had visions of sharing my success stories of using technology with my students, of helping others start to think about what they are doing with assessment in their classrooms and hopefully inspiring others to make some changes. But as life is never something we can predict, nor can I know what is going to really cause me to want to write and share. I have leaned more towards sharing who I am as an educator and the struggles and successes I have faced with implementing my ideal model of learning.
Early in December I was hit with a nasty bug. I was off work for just over a week but even once I was up and around the bug did not disappear for over a month. Since that time I have thought a tremendous amount about why I was so run down and what it was about my world that needed to change. My doctor asked me that week if my high level of stress was something that I could control. Yes, was my answer. He shook his head and said quietly, “You need to make some changes.” I can honestly admit that I was burned out.
For many teachers burn out is no surprise. After 22 years of teaching I seem to be working more, and spending less time away from work. I have been reflecting on why this is and what changes I need to make so that I can continue to do what I am passionate about – moving our children forward, helping them achieve their potential. I have been wondering if other educators are feeling the same way. I have wondered if there are others, such as myself, who want to do the very best for their students but are struggling with juggling the learning.
This is what I have come to realize – even though technology has changed the face of my classroom, has changed how I look at learning and has definitely impacted the learning of my students in a very positive way, it has also been a major factor in this burn out I now feel.
I am not a digital native, I am an immigrant in every sense. I still prefer to take notes with pen and paper, I still love the feel of a good book in my hands when I read at night, I still like to edit on a hard copy. Yet, I have embraced much of what technology has to offer. I love the freedom of learning, I love the connections I have made with fellow educators around the world, I love giving my students choice in how they learn, what they learn, and how they wish to share their learning. But what has happened to me, personally, is that technology has occupied much of my learning to the extent that I am always feeling I do not have enough time to plan, or to properly assess the learning of the students.
Over the past year I have spent hours with my laptop, my ipad and my iphone around me and really do not accomplish much. I find myself jumping between work emails, student emails, twitter and reading and responding to approximately 10 of my students on-line journals. In the past, prior to this inundation of technology I would have been able to focus on a task and accomplish a goal such as get a plan in place, at least a rough outline of a unit I need to be teaching. This is what I battle on a daily basis. I have never spent as much time as I do now on my job. I regularly work 10 to 11 hours a day (this is at school) and still work most weekends as well. I get up each morning 1and a half hours before heading to work so that I can check in on student emails, parent communication, maybe check in on their websites, on their learning, their homework, read twitter and even look in occasionally at Facebook. All of this has contributed to the feeling of burn out. I have to wonder how many other teachers are doing exactly what I am doing and if they too feel that technology has added, rather than eased the work load.
In the Fall the internet at my school was shut down – actually almost all of Vancouver was shut down. It was a surreal feeling walking through the halls, walking into the office, and being in my classroom. The feel was one of calm. People were having conversations that were not rushed, people made eye contact instead of sideways looks as they typed out emails or sent texts, our principal had time to visit with students and staff alike without having to work at her computer, answer emails, fill in grants and applications or check on communication. The atmosphere in the school was one of calm, staff and students seemed more relaxed even for that one day.
So what does this tell us? How do we embrace 21st Century Learning yet keep the balance that is so very necessary if we wish to continue to be of value to our students and to this profession?
I started the New Year with the word “Balance” at the top of my priority list. I tried to keep this in mind as I headed back to work after the Christmas break but it did not take long before I was once again running on full speed. I have made a conscious effort to check twitter less often (but I honestly feel like I am left out of some great opportunities for my learning) and I am making a conscious effort not to surround myself at home during the evenings with work unless I absolutely have to. I am still loaded on weekends though, so I need to work on this! I love the growth I have experienced as I integrate technology into my teaching but I need to learn to set limits and stick with them.
I would love to hear from others. How have you balanced your learning, your work load in the age of technology? Is this an issue that is bigger and more concerning than just my world? If so, what are some possible answers? How do we keep up with the ever changing environment of learning without burning out? I am tired just thinking about it!