Sunday, May 13, 2012

Avenging Burnout

John T. Spencer takes on the issue of teacher burnout,

In each case, teachers didn't have the permission to fail. They didn't have the chance to be open with people about their own fears. Change requires humility. Humility requires vulnerability. And Superman, for all his greatness, doesn't exude vulnerability.
Burnout isn't about eating right and exercising well. It's about a loss of passion and purpose. It's about losing one's identity. If we want to fix the issue of burnout, we need a better story; one with a deeper theme than passing the test, a more vulnerable protagonist than Superman, a community of trusted relationships and a setting of authenticity.

Spencer expresses the pathos of burnout better than I can, but he invokes Superman, and the comic book geek in me sees the need to use the latest comic book blockbuster to point out a couple of other reasons that teachers burnout.

First, teachers are isolated from other professionals during most of their careers, a problem this trailer highlights

It's not just the Avengers who need to come together; most creative types seem to have that need.  In an Atlantic interview with Richard Florida, Jonah Lehrer asserts,
I just find it slightly ironic that even the researchers inventing all these wonderful tools that allow us to interact remotely, such as email and Skype and Facetime, still organize themselves into local clusters. They know that they need to constantly interact in person, . . . [italics in original]
The following trailer backs up Spencer's point about humility and admitting failures and faults; Stark freely admits fault.  The clip also illustrates several problems teachers seem to have, the reluctance to engage in tough talk, celebrate individual teachers' gifts, and unleash a little anger at politicians who denigrate the profession.  It probably wouldn't hurt to be able to smirk at ourselves a bit either.

Teachers do themselves a disservice when they don't face down the political foes with tough talk.  Too often the "for the children" lines preclude using using a few well-chosen fighting words. Political endorsements that take place two years before an election make it difficult to issue credible threats to politicians who pursue policies that harm schools.

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