Columbia College–Fort Worth associate director battles teacher burnout.
They're everywhere: in your town, your neighborhood, on your streets.
In your children's classroom.
They are burnt out, negative teachers, what Dr. Brenda Cole, associate director, Columbia College–Fort Worth and a veteran teacher and administrator, calls "babysitter teachers," there to meet minimum curriculum and No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requirements as they trudge through their day.
Yet almost every one of these weary, pessimistic teachers started out as an enthusiastic education student raring to ignite a spark of learning in students.
"I see it all the time," says Cole from Fort Worth, where Columbia College has a campus on a naval air station joint reserve base. "My students are so excited about teaching," she says. "They even have emails like 'love2beteaching' and 'want2teach.'"
A complex educational bureaucracy, the non-stop testing of NCLB, crushing paperwork and homework overload all contribute to teacher burnout. To keep the spark alive, Cole has co-authored, "Learn to Love Teaching Again: Tips and Tools for Every Educator."
Cole wrote her doctoral thesis on preventing teacher burnout. So when she and a former colleague were asked to present on teacher stress at a conference in Anaheim, Calif., last spring, they were ready.
"It was a break-out session where teachers could choose which session they wanted to attend," she says. "Our ballroom had 500 seats. We thought we would only fill half the room but to our surprise teachers were lined up outside the room!"
Here are a few of Cole's tips, as applicable to teaching as it is to your profession:
- Stay positive.
In her presentations, Cole demonstrates the literal power of positive thinking with a classic behavioral arm strength test: She asks for a volunteer, has them face a smiley face or something equally positive, and extend their arm horizontally. She then tries to force it down. It's usually pretty hard to do when the volunteer is facing or thinking something happy. When faced with an angry face, the volunteer's arm drops easily.
"People don't believe it – they think it's rigged," she says. "So we pick people from the audience who are skeptics. It works every time."
- Don't be a bag person.
- Play games.
- Stay away from the teachers' lounge.
Her tactics work, too: Columbia College–Fort Worth graduates Maria Hannah '08 and Randy Summerhill '06 were recently named White Settlement Independent School District, west Fort Worth metro area, teachers of the year. "People want to be around people who are positive," Cole says. "Principals like to see a happy teacher teaching happy kids."
"I want all veteran teachers to rejuvenate that same spirit our Columbia College students hold in their hearts," she says.
"Learn to Love Teaching Again" can be ordered from Amazon.com, barnesandoble.com and www.incentivepublications.com