Educators are exhausted. The various stresses placed on teachers and administrators can't fully be appreciated or understood unless you've worn our shoes. The day-to-day grind of worrying for our students, meeting their individual needs, planning lessons, grading, attending meetings, questioning our own abilities, etc. takes its toll. This doesn't include the energy needed to be on top of our game for each class of every day. On top of that, there are mandates passed down from our legislators, school boards, and administrators which add to already full plates. We give so much to our work, and our students, we often do not have much left in the tank for our own families and children.
All of these things, and more, leave us tired. When we talk about our exhaustion, these are some of the reasons mentioned. However, there may be another underlying cause we're not aware of.
In her book Dare to Lead, Brene Brown shares a study which was done with a group of military members who constantly felt exhausted by the demands of their work. The study found they were actually exhausted from loneliness. Not just loneliness from their families, but loneliness from connections and inclusion among those with which they served.
Only those of us who've been in education can fully understand the things which exhaust us - many of which result in emotional exhaustion.
Perhaps our exhaustion is rooted in loneliness more than we realize. There are several possible contributors to our loneliness. Some were mentioned above. Other possibilities? Perhaps we're the only one in our building who does what we do - or teaches what we teach. This leaves very few, if any, to lean on. We may not feel appreciated or understood. Maybe we don't feel empowered or that our experience matters. You may relate to some of these or have a completely different experience altogether.
Perhaps we should talk about loneliness more often. Loneliness within our profession is real and likely not understood or acknowledged enough.
What do you feel are some strategies or ideas which could increase our sense of connection and inclusion? Do you believe feeling more connected in your school could increase your energy level?
The bottom line is we need each other. We understand our pressures and demands more than anybody else. Let's lean in to one another and build each other up. If we won't do it, who will?
Doug Dunn is superintendent and principal of a small K-8 school in rural, south central Missouri. He can be found on Twitter at DougDunnEdS.