Take a Step Away from the Overwhelm
November 19, 2021
Take a Step Away from the Overwhelm

There’s so much overwhelm out there today, and our teachers are feeling the brunt of it. They’re tasked with so much right now, from their regular teaching duties to “catching kids up” to navigating the trauma of kids, families, and themselves.

It’s no wonder that my own micro-school is seeing higher than normal teacher absenteeism. Maybe your schools are having a similar challenge.

It’s time for solutions that don’t overwhelm even more. With good teachers leaving the classroom at an alarming rate and fewer college graduates going into teaching, we’re in a crisis.

This week on the podcast, I’m sharing more of the challenges that we’re all facing (a reality check, if you will) and some of the solutions we’re incorporating at my micro-school. And I welcome input on other solutions you’ve tried!

Tune in now.


Jump in the Conversation:

  • [1:08] 2021 is harder than 2020
  • [1:30] Time for a reality check
  • [2:14] We don’t need more assessments
  • [4:40] Time to take things off teachers’ plates
  • [5:58] Simply say no
  • [6:20] We can’t return to business as usual
  • [6:41] Rethink your resources
  • [8:01] Two ways to address the overwhelm
  • [8:34] Now is not the time to do more of the same


Links & Resources:

Thanks for listening! Don’t forget to subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Android. If you like what you heard, please leave a review on iTunes and share what you liked about the show.



Maureen O’Shaughnessy  0:03  

Hello fellow parents and educators. Thank you for joining me at Education Evolution, where we are disrupting the status quo in today’s learning models. We talk about present day education, what’s broken, who’s fixing it, and how. I’m Dr. Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your host and founder of education evolution, micro school coalition, and co-founder of EdActive. I consult and train with schools and leaders who are fiercely committed to changing the narrative, reimagining the education landscape, and creating learning that serves all children and prepares them to thrive. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  0:49  

If you are new, welcome to the podcast. Please subscribe on our website to get it delivered to your inbox weekly. If you’ve been around a while, have you left a review?


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  1:08  

What a year. Everybody is saying that this year is even harder than last year for our frontline workers. And teachers just like health care providers, our frontline workers, general self care tips are not going to get us through. So what is here are my top two recommendations. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  1:30  

First, we need a reality check. EdWeek has an article that reminds us teachers are not okay, even though we need them to be last year was beyond exhausting. And the Delta and other variants add more uncertainty this fall. Teachers have not only to re establish in person school routines, and catch kids up academically. But they also must attend to learners trauma and social emotional needs. And listening to Jennifer Gonzalez his Cult of Pedagogy podcast on how teachers are barely hanging on, I get a snapshot of what is happening in more traditional school settings. It sounds like extra assessing and structures being added to get kids caught up on learning. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  2:21  

Wow, what a crazy time to add more to teachers plates. I think we all need to step back, especially school leaders. And look at this picture. One, everyone is readjusting to a daily classroom in person schedule to nobody knows how many more variants will be coming or when we will be passed this pandemic and all of the safety measures and worries three in a national EdWeek survey in July 60% of teachers said they experienced job related stress frequently or always, for more than a quarter of these teachers surveyed said this stress leads them to think often about quitting their jobs, with 16% saying they dread going to work every day. Five, anxiety has crippled many students, teachers and parents. Six, the whole idea of catching kids up assumes that every student is actually at the same place academically in any given class. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  3:25  

And given their age should be at a specific academic level. We won’t even go into how erroneous and impossible this school construct is. Also, teachers are exhausted and leaving the profession in droves. And additional data collection and assessment is being expected of many teachers.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  3:47  

What we all know that we have to create safety and trust before true learning happens. This is an incredibly unsafe and confusing time. Adding in more assessments to kids who are fragile and have a mixed 2021 school experience is not helping create safety and normalcy. Adding this additional burden and expectation of documentation to teachers is not reducing burnout and overwhelm. Taking in this reality. The silly Bob Newhart clip in the show notes comes to mind. His problem solving remedy is Sound Advice for this push to get kids tested and quickly on track this fall. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  4:29  

Bob the counselor has a two word solution. Stop it. I laugh as I watch this clip, but there’s some truth here. School leaders we need to take things off teachers plates right now. No extra testing. Stop it. No unnecessary meetings. Stop it. No new initiatives stop it. And teachers. As Jennifer suggests, if you’re fed up with the extras, you have an option beyond putting up or quitting, her podcast link is in the show notes. And I will quote her brilliant third option. It also challenges us to look at the whole construct we have of teaching. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  5:15  

Here’s what she says. The alternative is simply saying no, it’s subversion. Conscientious Objection, passive resistance. It’s looking at the massive pile of time consuming micromanaging, misguided nonsense you’re being told to do and simply not doing it. You don’t even need to say no, just don’t do it. You’re at the end of your rope anyway. Yes, you could lose your job. That’s a definite risk. But haven’t you been thinking about leaving anyway? And if the 10 best teachers in your school decided to simply refuse to perform some of the duties being asked of them? Do you really think you’d all be fired? 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  5:56  

Wow. Simply saying no. Something has to give and it can’t keep being our teachers and their mental health and their energy levels. Thank you, Jennifer, for challenging us to push back on a system that is not sustainable. So this reality check shows that we can’t return to business as usual, and definitely cannot add any new expectations to our teachers or students. We all must agree that addressing student and teacher wellness in the classroom is the first priority and totally, much more important than covering content. So my second strategy, we need to rethink our resources, we must rearrange from a triage perspective, stranded on a desert island. We look at shade and drinkable water in new ways. We are in a crisis as educators and a country right now, so we need to look at resources and options in new ways. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  7:03  

In a recent Grey’s Anatomy episode, resident doctors were used in a new way to address the shortage of doctors. How might we look at teaching and community resources in a different combination? This unrelenting stress is taking its toll on teachers. So we need to think differently. Now. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  7:23  

In my microscope alone, where we are focused on relationships and not state testing and covering content, our teacher absenteeism has been greater in the first six weeks of school than it was in the whole year, and any of our past three school years, the level of burnout our teachers are facing will have implications for both our learners and our professionals. This is on top of the impending teacher shortage, with fewer young people studying to become teachers. I have an EdWeek article on this concerning occurrence in the show notes.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  8:01  

So the two ideas or micro schools implemented to address the overwhelm one, we shorten the school day last year, and chose not to return to the full length this fall to we’re also hiring a floating sub to give our teachers relief and our students a familiar person stepping in when a teacher is absent. These are just two possible ways that we can look at resources and our school day differently. We’ve got to get creative. Think triage. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  8:34  

Now is not the time to keep doing more of the same, which we know is the definition of insanity. Our teachers need us to do a reality check and rethink our use of resources. Hopefully, this will help combat the crisis our teachers and schools are now facing. Thank you for joining the education evolution.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  9:06  

If you are finding yourself thinking, I need to do this in my school. Let’s talk about it. I consult and also have a book TEDx talk, an online course to support starting learner driven schools and programs. My goal is to help schools and individuals find new innovative solutions to reaching every student. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  9:29  

Let’s create an action plan together. Visit educationevolution.org/consult to book a call and let’s get started. Education evolution listeners, you are the ones to ensure we create classrooms where each student is seen, heard, valued and thriving. We need you. Let’s go out and reach every student today. I’d be so grateful if you Head over to your podcast app to give a great rating and review if you found this episode valuable. Don’t wait. Please do it right now before you forget. I really appreciate it. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  10:14  

Thank you listeners. signing off. This is Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your partner in boldly reimagining education.


Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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