• Beth Ott

I am SO OVER this word

You know how some words just rub you the wrong way? I have a visceral reaction when I see this particular word, and it's becoming one of 'those' words that seems to be increasing in education popularity. Just like its predecessors Grit, and Perseverance, I have had it with the word Resilience when used to describe what teachers should be doing to prevent burn out. For me, this word is dripping with ill-placed fault, and a false answer. Like I just need to put on more armor to make it through the day. Like it's a problem with how I'm processing the difficulties rather than the difficulties themselves.

re·sil·ience /rəˈzilyəns/noun 1. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

Instead of talking about the difficulties of which I need to recover quickly from, or what is making it harder to recover, the idea of building up my resilience is a band-aid solution. With my background in special education and my research in Functional Behavioral Analysis, I know that building up my resilience will not fix the root problem that caused my burn-out in the first place.

So you're still going to get burnt out, only now you're wearing a heavy piece of clothing.

But the answer to preventing teacher burn-out is multi-layered, and not quite as simple as putting on more armor or going to a yoga class.

Prevention starts with teacher efficacy, equitable classroom and building practices, sustainable district initiatives that are founded in best practice for both teachers and students, better pay and public support, and balanced work/home life...just to name a few.

And yes, prevention also includes self-care, but more than just yoga classes and mindfulness (believe me, I love both...AND there's more to self-care). Self care might look like saying no (or yes) to events that support or don't support your vision. It might look like going to bed really early, or waking up for an early morning walk. It might mean taking care of your bills, or going to therapy. All of these things can be included in self-care. But they can't be the only ones we instill in our practice.

I'd like to offer a different approach rather than resilience. Rather than putting on more armor, can we clothe ourselves with truthfulness and honestly? Can we start talking openly about what the difficulties actually are that make teaching so exhausting? Can we examine our own practices and identify those which are not truly equitable?

Because I don't just want to survive. I want to come alive. And just becoming more resilient isn't the answer.

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