How to regain passion for working with kids
December 26, 2018 2:40 AM   Subscribe

I'm a teacher but I don't enjoy working with children very much anymore. What can I do to enjoy working with them again?

I used to be able to build rapport with kids easily when I tutored, volunteered, or worked in summer camps. That plus my interest in learning made me become a teacher but weirdly, the longer I work in a school the less I enjoy working with kids. In fact, I feel like I got worse at talking to kids and now I have a hard time bonding with them. I've had more negative experiences working as a full time teacher than positive and I feel like I've lost my affinity to kids. I feel sad about this and it makes me doubt whether I can even continue working as a teacher. But regardless, it is my job for now and I can't right away quit in the middle of the year.

What are some ways I can get myself and my students to enjoy the rest of our time together? How can I be excited about kids again?
posted by ichomp to Education (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This isn't really a fix, but when I worked summer camps, I often reached a point in the summer when I was thinking of the campers as a group rather than as individuals. When my job was herding cats rather than connecting with individuals, it was a lot less pleasant. If you're able to mentally shift towards thinking about Hannah and Dylan and Avery, rather than "the class," it might help?
posted by metasarah at 5:03 AM on December 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

You can't quit right now (well you can, but probably the negatives outweigh the positives), but you can start making plans for a career change. And you probably should. Burnout is a real thing, and so are changing interests. I taught in summer camps, field schools, and the classroom for about 10 years and then realized I could not stay intellectually or emotionally engaged with it. My work with it was just done. I career-transitioned to an adjacent field where I work more in informal learning and with adult audiences in free-choice settings. I've never looked back. I strongly believe that people who no longer want to be teachers should not be teachers. No good can come from that for anyone. There may be ways you can fall back in love with teaching, but it might also just be time for some self-examination and adjustment. Just because this was the perfect career choice for you some time ago doesn't mean you must stay in it your whole life. Start thinking about what else you might be interested and how you can transition these skills.

And don't feel guilty for considering alternatives. Every year, 8% of the teaching force transitions to another profession. Teaching is great while you love it, but it's incredibly repetitive work, in a complex organization with many stakeholders and regulations and rigidity, and has lots of other challenges as well. The nature and challenges of children don't change, so it's easy to lose a sense of constant growth. Some people are interested in this work for a season, some for a lifetime, both are fine.

If you have a commitment to stay, ways I and other teachers have tried to make teaching more interesting include: getting involved in classroom/pedagogical reform efforts, experimenting with cutting-edge learning strategies, writing essays or op-eds about classroom experiences; developing a subject-matter speciality you can bring into the classroom; team teaching/collaborative teaching; joining a cross-school/international project that matches classrooms in large-scale projects; getting really into child development psychology; etc. Some of the teaching journals, like Radical Teacher or the International Journal for Progressive Education, are also interesting - reading them can keep you excited about your practice and there's always the opportunity to write or co-write for them too.
posted by Miko at 5:10 AM on December 26, 2018 [12 favorites]

When I taught I also started feeling this way when I wasn’t getting enough adult interactation. Teaching is weird where you can be talking with people all day but not have a real conversation.
posted by raccoon409 at 5:11 AM on December 26, 2018 [6 favorites]

Could you coach a team, or lead a club or other special interest group? Maybe a chance to interact with kids outside of the usual classroom hierarchy might help.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:10 AM on December 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

When I've started to feel this way, it's because I'm focusing too much on what I want the kids to do, and not enough on just enjoying the kids as people. At my kid's school they do a morning meeting where the kids share joys and gives the teachers insight into the kids themselves, and allows them to get to know the kids on a different level.

During my first year in education I also had a journal where I recorded one good thing about my job each day. It really made me look for the good in each day because I knew I'd have to write SOMETHING. I usually think stuff like that is silly, but it did help me shift my focus.
posted by christinetheslp at 8:00 AM on December 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

You might consider teaching another grade level, if possible. Talking to 12-year-olds is entirely different from talking to 6-year-olds. I know a few teachers who felt burned out but regained their love of teaching by switching grades.
posted by Huck500 at 3:29 PM on December 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

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