Ashley Hall is an Assistant Professor in the Rusche College of Business at Stephen F. Austin State University
Most instructors begin their career in education wide-eyed, full of enthusiasm and joy. The idea of connecting with students and teaching a subject you are passionate about is compelling. You spend time crafting engaging lessons and keeping up with your field to bring the latest and greatest information to your students. You look forward to sharing your knowledge with eager learners.
But somewhere between the blank stares, questions that are clearly answered in your syllabus, endless committee meetings and the “Sorry I missed class. Did we cover anything important?” questions, you may find your joy and passion for teaching waning. Then add in the stress that has accompanied the last year and a half as a person enduring a global pandemic—much less an educator trying to juggle the endless demands and changing guidelines—and you have a recipe for burnout and exhaustion.
So, what is an instructor to do? If you have lost that loving feeling, here are five strategies that you can implement in the coming weeks to help you reclaim your joy and passion for teaching as we gear up for another semester.
1. Take time to honestly evaluate your situation
I encourage you to take some time to yourself to really evaluate what is going on and what you are feeling. Try to get to the root of what is causing you to feel like you have lost a bit of your luster and passion for teaching. These elements may or may not be pandemic-related. You cannot make a solid plan to improve your situation if you are not aware of the why behind your feelings. What is it that is bothering you about teaching? Don’t just say “everything!” Be specific. Make a list. Once you have a list of grievances, consider what elements are within your control to change. It’s likely that there will be things on your list that are outside of your control. That’s okay. Start considering what you can do something about and make an action plan for what you will do to overcome the challenges.
2. Be realistic
To impact your situation, you have to be realistic about what you can actually do and the changes you can successfully implement. Instead of setting yourself up for failure, set some SMART goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound. Perhaps part of your frustration with teaching is rooted in unrealistic expectations for yourself.
3. Talk to others
Sometimes it is helpful to share your concerns with others and not keep them pent up inside. Choose a confidant with whom you know you can be real, raw, and vulnerable. Be honest about what you are experiencing. Sometimes just getting the burden off your chest can help you know that you are not alone. Invite others to hold you accountable in making the changes you identified above.
Spend some time reflecting on why you began teaching in the first place and what you desire your life to look like. Recalling what originally motivated you to choose this profession can help you find that feeling again. If your priorities are misaligned, that can lead to feeling frustrated, depressed or burnt out. As you make changes and re-evaluate your life, it helps to have something that you are working towards, not just things you are leaving behind.
5. Critically evaluate
Finally, I encourage you to critically evaluate your work situation and your life. Teachers are leaving education in droves. Do you need to change schools? Is it time for you to pursue other interests or another career? Would adding time for fun in your schedule or making hobbies a higher priority help you regain some balance and enjoyment in your life? These are decisions that only you can make.
There are so many factors outside of your control that impact your job satisfaction. But when it comes to the things that are in your control, do what you can over the next few weeks to do some honest soul-searching. You may find that with some minor adjustments, you can tweak little things that are dragging you down, or you may discover that it is time to change careers. Whatever the outcome of this self-exploration process, you can become more in tune with yourself and your situation and work to build a life you love.
For more inspiration on making the most out of this coming semester based on what you’ve learned over the last year, view our recorded webinar “How to Blend the Best of Virtual & Traditional.”