Dear Worn-Out, Run-Down, Absolutely Exhausted Teacher

Dear Worn-Out, Run-Down, Absolutely Exhausted Teacher,
Wow – you have almost made it! It is May and the countdown has begun! I know you are tired – deep down to your toes tired. And no wonder! For the past nine months you have poured yourself into your students. By God’s grace you have loved them. You have prayed for them. You have shouldered their burdens. You have cried for them. You have rejoiced with them. You have encouraged them. You have counseled them…and oh, yes – you’ve also taught them English or Math somewhere along the way.
You’re probably sick after your body has finally surrendered to the germs it has been battling all year long.
Even though you are exhausted, you’re probably not sleeping well because of the gazillion school-related thoughts and to-do lists going through your head at night.
You’re stressed when you look at all the curriculum and special events that need to be crammed into the next few weeks.
Your patience is wearing thin – it seems like you have been dealing with some of the same behavior and discipline problems for the entire nine months. Your kids have spring fever and all of those classroom management routines and academic skills you have drilled into them seem to have vanished.
You are discouraged. You haven’t reached them all. You look out at the sea of faces and see the one student you felt like you could never connect with. You see the student who has hardened their heart towards God. You see the student who may fail and need summer school. You feel like you have failed.
You feel like it is taking everything in you to drag yourself across the finish line of the school year.
But God’s not done with you, yet.
When you are tired, you are extra vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. He would love to see you fizzle out at the end of the year – just focusing on enduring the final days instead of thriving.He would love to see you stop leaning on the love and power of God that has been sustaining you all year long.
Don’t let him.
I can guarantee that you can’t finish this year well in your own strength, but you don’t have to. Finish this year strong, relying on God’s strength. In all of the busyness and exhaustion, cling so closely to your God. Spend a little extra time in prayer and His Word. Keep your gaze firmly fixed on Him and all that He has done this year.
Instead of focusing on how far your students still have to go, take a moment to realize how far they have come.
Instead of focusing on how you have failed this year, take a moment to see the moments of God’s grace in your classroom. You weren’t a perfect teacher – there’s no such thing. You probably did fail in some areas this year (in fact, I can guarantee it!), but remember that God delights in using broken things to accomplish His purposes. God chose you to be the teacher for your class this year – He didn’t make a mistake. You were where you were exactly when you were supposed to be there. He wanted to use you to teach them…and He wanted to use them to teach you. Look for the moments of His grace and spend time thanking Him for them instead of wallowing in where you feel that you failed.
In the stressful and overwhelming days yet to come, don’t forget your students. Don’t get so wrapped up in rushing through curriculum and packing things up that you fail to really enjoy your last few days with them. Stop running around for a minute and just observe them. Relish the joy on their faces as they tell you a story. Delight in the smiles and laughter they share with their friends. Look back at their pictures from the beginning of the year and see how much they have grown up. Have times where you put aside your to-do list and just love your kiddos for these final days. Use these days to direct their eyes towards God and all He has accomplished this year.
Yes, you are tired. You feel like you are completely done.
But God’s not done.
He is still at work in you and your students.
Lean on His everlasting arms and finish the race strong.

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.
 He gives power to the faint,
    and to him who has no might he increases strength.
 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
    and young men shall fall exhausted;
 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
    they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31)

Surely God is good!

Love,

A fellow worn-out, run-down, absolutely exhuasted teacher

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16 Comments

  1. it’s amazing how your blog posts always come at a moment when I need it the most. It has been absolutely exhausting, lots of inner struggles, questioning whether I’m a good teacher, why am I not able to connect with my kids etc. It has been exhausting indeed, to say the least. May I ask if you’re teaching at a Christian school?

    1. I am so sorry it’s been such a tough time for you, Char! Trust me, I know how you feel! My writing stems from my struggles 🙂 Yes, I do teach at a Christian school. I have so much admiration for the missionaries that are serving in our public schools, though!

    2. My wife was a mature student teacher with years of social care management experience she is a real grafter. She has given all she can and is handing in her resignation tomorrow. She loves teaching but cannot keep up with the constantly increasing data input and other paperwork and meetings. She is at a christian school who have lovely people but they seem blind to the fact they work their staff to a health damaging degree. My wife and I have strong faith but the education system is in desperate need of proper and full review. I don’t believe a well funded Christian school should create a system where it’s teacher’s have to work all hours including Sundays to keep on top of their work. Ultimately the kids pay by having stressed individuals teaching them. I feel really sad for her after going to university to enable her to follow what she felt was a calling.

      1. Hello, Geoff. So sorry to hear about your wife’s struggles- it sounds like the school will be missing out on a great teacher! The demands on a teacher are tough. It has helped me to make the decision to stay at school some days until 5:00 and then generally not take work home with me in evenings or over weekends – I have found that in teaching, there will ALWAYS be something more to do so I just need to come to a quitting point. This year I also joined an online teacher club by Angela Watson called the 40 hour teacher workweek – it is a little pricey, but she has given me some neat resources and ideas on saving time that I feel was worth the fees for me. You are right in that overburdened and stressed out teachers are not what is best for the kids! I would love to find a way to “fix the system” to cut down on some of the stresses and workload. I am praying that God would guide you all in the next steps to take. God sometimes directs our paths in other ways, and I know that if He is directing her out of teaching that He has a perfect plan for her. I know that He makes no mistakes, and perhaps this season of teaching was a way of preparing her for something still to come!

  2. As I sit and watch my students these last few days, I am emotional. They have come so far. They came to me with the “worst” reputation in the school. They chose/decided this was not who they wanted to be. They have grown academically and emotionally. Thank you for expressing how the heart of a teacher really feels.

    1. Gail, how encouraging to hear of a teacher who had a tough class and was able to help them grow! So awesome! I know it didn’t come without much love and work on your part!

  3. I TAUGHT POOR AND ESL KIDS FOR 14 YEARS. WAS I DISCOURAGED AT TIMES, OH YES. BUT WE GREETED EACH DAY AS ANOTHER CHANCE TO LEARN, AND EVEN TEACH A CLASSMATE, AND WE WOULD MAKE IT TO THE END OF THE YEAR, DISAPPOINTED THAT WE HAD TO SAY GOOD-BYE.

    I HAD TO LEAVE TEACHING BECAUSE I BECAME TOO DISABLED TO DO WHAT A TEACHER IS EXPECTED TO DO, BESIDES TEACH. YOU KNOW ALL THAT ENTAILS.
    OUR SCHOOL CLOSED AND OUR LIVES BECAME SCATTERED, BUT 25 YEARS LATER I’M HEARING FROM THOSE CHILDREN, AS THEY GRADUATE FROM MED SCHOOL, AS THEY GET MARRIED, HAVE THEIR BABIES BAPTIZED, WRITE A BOOK THAT GETS PUBLISHED, AND GET THEIR DREAM JOB AS A SCHOOL COUNSELOR (EVEN THOUGH SHE’S DEAF).

    AND I KNOW I DID REACH THEM, I DID TOUCH THE FUTURE IN A POSITIVE WAY, AND I WILL KEEP ON ENCOURAGING EVERY TEACHER; FOR YOU IMITATE THE GREATEST TEACHER, JESUS. TAKE A NAP, MAKE A CUP OF TEA AND ATTACK THAT PILE OF PAPERS AGAIN; YOU CAN DO IT. GOD’S HELPING YOU.
    P.S. I USE ALL CAPS BECAUSE IT’S EASIER WITH MY ADVANCED RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS.

    1. Wow, Mary Jane! How neat to see the impact you were able to have! I have only been teaching for a few years, but I have been encouraged by veteran teachers like yourself that you may not see the fruit immediately, but down the road – it’s so neat to see!

  4. It is very sweet and kind to want to encourage other teachers who love what they do and want to keep going.

    I need to speak for the burned out teachers. For the people who should stop teaching.

    I taught for 3 years and have made a career change and I’m happier than ever.

    I loved my kids and I was freaking good at what I did, but I was worn-out, run-down, and absolutely exhausted.

    I gave 100% to my classes, and this had a negative impact on my mental health, my marriage, and my personal life.

    Yes, teaching can be a noble thing, but I think we should be cautious in how we think about it. Ultimately, teaching is just a job and should be treated as such.

    But we tend to put jobs like teaching, being a pastor, a missionary, or a doctor on a pedestal. We treat them as though they aren’t just jobs–they’re a “higher calling.” So the natural conclusion is that if we don’t succeed in these callings, we are failing the Lord. So we just have to keep powering through, no matter the negative consequences.

    Is quitting a job at Walmart or a software company a spiritual failing? Then let’s not call leaving teaching succumbing to “Satan’s attacks.” I changed my career, but I never stopped “leaning on the love and power of God that has been sustaining” for me my entire life.

    If ANY other job was causing someone to be worn-out, run-down, and absolutely exhausted, we would advise people working that job to make a career change immediately. That would be the wise thing to do. Not the sinful thing to do.

    If you had a friend who was working in an office or as a secretary or in a marketing firm or in customer service and they felt they could never please all of the stakeholders in their jobs, if they were constantly evaluated on things they couldn’t control, if people were yelling at them or even throwing chairs at them (I’m looking at you, kindergarteners of Washington DC!) you’d tell your friend they’d be crazy not to quit.

    So yes, teachers who want to teach, be encouraged. Power to you. Someone’s gotta do it, after all.

    But for teachers who are burning out, be encouraged. You can still help others and honor the Lord with a million other careers. Teachers have more transferrable skills than anyone. You are smart, hardworking, creative, and have incredible people and communication skills. You are capable of so much, and you can create tremendous value for much higher pay and much less stress.

    So if you are worn-out, run-down, and absolutely exhausted, take heart. Sometimes quitting is the bravest thing you can do.

    Surely God is good. He is not done with you. But you might be done with teaching. And that is okay.

    1. Hi, Kristi! First of all, thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment! I appreciate your concern for burned out teachers – that is an issue for many teachers! Perhaps I should clarify my post – my goal here is to encourage teachers to finish the year strong in the Lord, not to stay in teaching long-term if it is not what God has for you. When I refer to Satan’s attacks, I am more thinking of Satan’s tempting us to discouragement or to not serve the Lord wholeheartedly in the last weeks of school. I think even teachers who love their kids and jobs 100% are feeling tired and worn out at this time of the year 🙂 I completely agree with you that it is not a sin to leave teaching – I believe you need to follow the Lord’s leading – and that leading may very well be away from teaching and into another job! The key is seeking to please Christ in whatever we do. Teaching is more than just a job for me – it is what I consider my ministry/mission field…but any job done for the glory of God is an important job and a mission field in itself- isn’t God good to give us so many different ways to serve Him with the gifts that He has given us? I am glad that God has provided a job opportunity that you can use to serve Him and find joy in (and where kindergartners don’t throw chairs at you!!) ! Thanks again for sharing! God bless!

    2. Hi Kristi
      Loved reading this encouraging post and absolutely loved reading what you had to say. Burnout is a VERY real thing and it has taken me years to recover and get to the physical and mental place where I have the ability to be employed again. But in that time the Lord has taught me that Who We Are IS NOT What We Do. It has been impressed into my very being, and that He absolutely LOVES us no matter our abilities or limitations. What matters is seeking Him and learning to live IN Him….audience of ONE. I never would have learnt this had I not burnt out. Difficult lesson but one I would not change. God is Faithful. (an encouraging website is http://www.holleygerth.com) God bless 🙂

  5. I love the scripture of Psalm 92:4 For thou Lord hast made me glad in thy work..I will triumph in the works of HIS hands. Verse 10 says ye shall have fresh oil. We have a God that reminds that though we may weary in His work….he can sustain and energize us. I am reminded that every endeavor is God’s endeavor. The calling of a teacher is one of the highest callings with Master Teacher Jesus Christ leading us by example through tribulation and discouragement. I love to take refuge in the fact that Psalm 138 reminds us that he will perfect that which concerns us! What a promise from the psalmist as he writes…

    ” Thy vows are upon me, O God: I will render praises unto thee.”

    Thank you Rachel for dealing with a real and present issue in our lives as Christian Educators!