Big Decisions Ahead
Covid and the shutdown have impacted school counselors and educators creating an environment that many are leaving in droves. I know that within my own circle of friends, it resulted in a rash of retirement decisions for all who were able to do so. For those who remained and hoped for a return to normal, this year has been extremely difficult and disappointing. Educators are faced with children who are behind academically, traumatized by the Covid experience and undisciplined. Teachers tell me of students who still can’t follow simple classroom rules, even as we move into the end of the school year and students who can’t learn because of overwhelming anxiety.
The National Education Association, the nation’s largest union representing nearly 3 million educators, recently released a survey of members’ opinions on key issues facing public education during the pandemic. The results showed that “55% of educators now indicate that they are ready to leave the profession they love earlier than planned” (Jotkoff, 2022). And NPR reports that more than 50% of educators are “looking for the exits.” In addition, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that roughly 43% of currently posted teaching positions are unfilled across the country.
However, it can’t all be blamed on Covid. Things were in transition before Covid. Interest in the teaching profession has been waning for a decade with most new hires leaving within an average of five years. There are of course many reasons, low pay, lack of the opportunity to progress in the career and overwhelming caseloads, with increasing mental health issues of anxiety, suicide, and depression in the general population reflected in similar serious mental health issues for children in the schools.
The great resignation isn’t just for corporations. It is happening in schools across the country, and I’ve read account after account of school counselors who love the kids and the staff they work with but who simply cannot continue in a job that drains them to the point where they have nothing left for themselves or their families. I know it is an agonizing life-changing decision but an important one and I think that we need to apply the same compassion and understanding to ourselves that we give others.
How do you make a decision when the stakes are high and the consequences unknown?
I bet you’ve taught students how to make good decisions and you know all the steps. But when making a career decision, there is an additional step. To make the best decision, make the decision from where you want to be in the future. Imagine yourself, six months, one year or more from the present time and where you want to be in your life. What do you want to happen? What do you want the details of your life to look like? What do you want your relationships to be like? How do you want to spend your time? What would be an ideal work situation? Now make that decision based on what will be most effective in getting you there. In essence you are making the decision from the position of your future self, your hopes, and dreams. You are removing the questions of, “What if…” and stepping into the necessary actions to reach your goal. This is more than saying, “What would my future self advise me to do?”. Instead, ask yourself, “What do I want my life to look like at a future date and how will making this decision impact that goal?” Then step into that decision with bold confidence.
I believe that we were all meant to make a difference in the world, but in order to do that we must first take care of ourselves so that we can bring our best selves to the needs in the world. I encourage anyone questioning continuing in their current position to take the upcoming summer break to review and assess their future.
Believe in your own possibility.
Create the future you dream of.