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BIRD Magazine

END-OF-YEAR BURNOUT

TERESA DA SILVA
Manic May, as I call it, is the worst month for most teachers. Not only are we struggling to reach objectives and aims, but we also have to handle the chaos and excitement brought on by Spring. There seems to be no difference between primary school teachers, middle school teachers or secondary school teachers when May makes its appearance and we all realise that national exams are coming up, that the syllabus hasn’t been fully covered, that evaluation time is almost catching up with us and that neither we nor our students seem to be capable of dealing with the pressure.
To my dismay, my students have become rowdier, noisier and not one bit inclined to put in the effort needed to reach the finish line. I, on the contrary, seem to have doubled my efforts but have all my energy sucked out of me. After a particularly complicated lesson, I had a corridor chat with a small group of students from that class and unanimously we all pronounced that we were exhausted. Hearing them out, I realised that they, too, were having difficulty coping with the burnout caused by the trimester, by the gnawing anxiety brought on by the deadlines of the endless papers, projects and tests required at the end of a school year. Indiscipline has peaked and absences risen.
I believe there must be a solution, but it requires a holistic method. A bonding of the various subjects and, most importantly, the teachers willing to explore the multiple intelligences in the groups, to surrender syllabus to obtain mentally and physically healthier students, teachers and other staff members, that will allow flexibility in the students’ learning process.
Indiscipline should be promptly dealt with: be it tough decisions such as reprimands, parent-student meetings, being expelled, or meditation, discussing the levels of anger/anxiety that led to the incident, quiet moments, tutor-teacher/student. These last suggestions are seldom used, especially in the first years of school. How can one expect a child to listen and become a critical thinker if this has not been part of the learning process? Teachers do not and should not have to substitute parents. Parenting implies (one hopes!) that you are educating your children to be respectful and kind. However, teachers do need to spend time, effort with classroom management. It requires planning and systematic work; yet, there is no other way! Students, especially young learners, need to be taught how to behave in the learning environment, they need to acquire the skills to be able to handle the extreme pressure of sitting through a lesson so that they can benefit from it, so that they can grow from it.
The overwhelming amount of work required from students who have not been given the tools or skills or psychological structure to sit, listen, interact and work with teachers and peers is driving us all of the edge. It is urgent that we discuss this issue in the learning/teaching process before we reach the point of no return, before the end-of.year burnout turns us all to char.

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