Teachers Unite: Know Your “Why”


Another school year is inching to a close. As we approach the end of a year of what so many are still calling “unprecedented” times, I hope this post doesn’t blend in with the mass amounts of teacher aimed gratitude or recognition blurbs about how much educators have put forth during the era of Covid-19.

Instead, I’d like to focus the conversation on a teacher’s “why.”

At the end of a school year especially, teachers are tired, worn out, “spent,” and ready for a break, just like their beloved students. School’s out for summer can’t play loud enough, and packing up or closing down your classroom is just as thrilling as setting it back up eight weeks later.

So where is our why?

How does the love for the job come back after those short-lived eight weeks of summer break? I can tell you from experience that there is such a thing as teacher burnout. It is real. It is a difficult feeling, especially if you have just put your whole heart into a school year, only to feel defeated, unappreciated, or overwhelmed.

Teacher burnout happened to me in my seventh year as an educator. I struggled to balance being a new mom, a positive teacher, and a supportive wife, as well as working a side coaching job to make ends meet. Before having our daughter, I spent hours after school working in my classroom or on weekends.

Over the years, my “why” for teaching became blurred and distorted into a monogamous game of going through the motions. Coming up with new, engaging lessons and activities and keeping up with the “Jones'” of teachers was tough and weighed heavily on my realistic and personal abilities as a teacher.

I lost my joy. I decided I needed to step away from teaching. No, I didn’t take a leave of absence – I resigned. I closed the door to a career path and did not foresee returning.

Fast-forward three years out of the classroom, and that silly one word crept back into my thoughts…


Why did I stop teaching? Why am I not teaching? Why do I want to go back?

Teacher Appreciation Week is upon us, my friends. Handmade cards from students, flowers, sweet treats, and goodies from parents and PTA are swarming our teacher boxes and classrooms. Much thought and planning have gone into what is being given and prepared for you as a teacher during this week. Take out of the mix what our students, parents and families, teachers, and staff have gone through in the past few years with the pandemic – dig deeper and search your teacher’s hearts for their why.

Why are they continuing to come back, love on these amazing children as if they were their own, and push them to higher standards? It’s not just for this one week of appreciation.  Their “why” is somewhere.

Their joy in teaching exists because this is what they were made to do!

When I returned to the classroom, I put a small framed sign in my room that says, “Remember Why You Started.”

JOY is a big word at my school, and we encourage one another to remember our joy daily.  I try to share this quote with as many of my fellow teachers as possible:

“A person who feels appreciated will always do more than is expected.”

Teacher friends – hold your heads high these last few weeks of school. Appreciate one another, lift each other up, and as we say in our neck of the woods…

“Don’t ever let anyone take away your (teaching) JOY.”


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