‘Without you, there would be no other professions’: Retired educator gives teachers advice about burnout, starting new school year

Published: Aug. 11, 2022 at 8:46 AM CDT
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ROBINSON, Texas (KWTX) - A retired teacher gives teachers advice about starting a new school year and preventing burnout as a new year is not only hard and exciting for students but also teachers.

Merrikay Shade taught for almost 30 years. She taught at Robinson High School, Texas Christian Academy, in Luling, Lockhart and Axtel during that time. She said she had the best job, but it did come with many challenges.

“You’ve chosen a career that is the best career in the world,” Shade said. “It’s hard, but most careers that are worthwhile are hard.”

She said what made the career hard is classroom management, parent-teacher communication, strain on personal life and salary.

Over half of K-12 teachers report feelings of burnout based on those surveyed in a 2022 Gallup Poll.

“Always look for a place to use your personal life in a positive manner,” she said. “The two things I think that burn teachers out the most is making school their whole life and not having good classroom management.”

She says classroom management means enforcing a set of rules, especially during the first few weeks, so that students will understand teachers’ roles in the classroom.

“Now, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t love them,” Shade said. “Be empathetic to them, listen to them, but you have a role in their life that should be very positive. You’re a motivator.”

Shade emphasized the importance of teachers taking time for themselves. This will provide enough space and energy for teachers to be able to take on the classroom full of students every day.

“Do not let this overshadow your personal life. If you don’t take time for yourself, exercise, have a social life,” she said. “If all you do is dwell on school, they’re going to ask you to do 1,000 extracurriculars. Sometimes you just have to say, I can’t do all of that.”

In addition to classroom management and personal time, Shade gave a few extra tips for teachers starting the school year.

She said new or younger teachers should try to find a mentor teacher who can answer any questions or listen to any concerns.

“Somebody that knows the ropes, that can answer your questions and tell you how things run,” Shade said.

Making parent-teacher connections is also crucial, especially starting at the beginning of the school year.

“My favorite one is I called one time...and I told her her son was doing well and she said, ‘is this a prank call?” Shade said. “I was like, ‘no, he really is doing well.’ From that point on, we had the greatest communication for her son who did very well.”

For any teacher who struggles at the start, Shade wants all teachers to know that they are not alone.

“When you feel like you are not doing a good job, you go to that mentor or you have friends there that you can talk with, and they’ll reassure you,” she said. “We have been in your shoes.”

Regardless of the struggles that may come with teaching, Shade said her time spent making an impact on students was worth it.

“We try to interact with students in helping teachers, but you will never stop missing the kids, ever,” she said.

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