Today is the middle Tuesday of the 2 weeks easter break. Today was a fabulous autumnal day filled with holidays chores like getting a hair cut, chimney sweeps, gardening etc. And marking. And then some-one popped round which was a very welcome distraction from marking. I was talking to them about how I had felt burn out after the last term, which isn’t like me because I usually have pretty good coping strategies etc, and how frustrated I was with teaching and education in general and she introduced me to to idea of moral injury (see the youtube clip below). Moral injury has been mostly explored (from what a quick google search could tell me) from a military perspective, where those who had gone into a war zone (or other traumatic place/experience) but is increasingly being used in health and in education.
For what ever reason, it has really hit home. I am not burned out, and I do not need a well being program in my school to make me feel better – I need education to be better. And society too!
Easier said that done right 🙂 Sigh
From what I could find (in a brief search where I can’t access a whole of of journals due to pay walls etc), the idea of moral injury is a real thing. For example, this paper gives an example of whether to exclude a student or not – something I know that I have grappled with as an educator when I am struggling to understand the steps my school has taken (or not taken)
It is the very classic damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario…. for schools, for school leaders, for teachers and for communities……
Another example is HERE, where a teacher just didn’t want to come to school after a decision was made that they didn’t agree with. The post goes on to talk about how to find ways to still enjoy your job.
And the hopelessness is real. Knowing that change could be made, but constantly feeling hamstrung by the very system you are battling against. Knowing that there must be good reasons for decisions being made, but not being privy to them, or not agreeing with them.
So I’m going to have to re think how I look at systems, and system change, and if nothing else from today, I have found a way to be kinder to myself and to my colleagues. Because there is shame attached to burnout is a thing. And I have often wondered why some people blow out and others don’t. As the video said, when we think of burnout, we wonder what strategy or resilience did they lack? Or was it simply the case of the straw that broke the camels back? We teeter around on tiptoes not trying to upset some-one to try and avoid things getting rough again, or shift classes, or re-arrange time-tables without ever addressing the underlying reasons why people are struggling.
And then sometimes the world just does get too much. Illness, moving house, relationship issues, there are rafts and rafts of reasons why people sometimes struggle at work. And they perhaps need to be made more seperate from when the reason some-one is struggling at work is because of the work, rather than another life event.
Another friend said to me last week in when I was catching up in chch when I said I wasn’t sure I still enjoyed teaching ‘well, there is a reason people get paid to go there, not many people would if there was no money’. So where is that line between being ‘precious’ and actually being fulfilled enough to be content. When do I need to remember I am paid to do a job, and I should (sometimes) shut up and do it……..
And I guess I still don’t have an answer, and I’m still not sure where this thinking might take me. It is another reminder I need to do better by my family and myself. Make that time. Just make it. But if you are out there, feeling ‘burnt out’, you are not alone, and maybe, just maybe, you are not as burned out as you think.
And I really wanted to read this article, but it was locked behind a paywall – https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00344087.2017.1403789?journalCode=urea20