I’m starting to face the reality of how much emotional labor goes into teaching, and how unhealthy it can be to labor over an extended period of time without much of a reservoir to draw from.
It hit me recently when was I reading an article in the Atlantic about anxiety and burnout in activism communities, and it really resonated with me about my own teaching:
“Excessive worry can lead to fatigue, lack of concentration, and muscle tightness,” Woodruff says. If that stress and worry becomes chronic, Lertzman adds, “people get overwhelmed. They burn out and short-circuit and turn their backs on the very issues that they care most deeply about.”
Activists pour a lot of emotional labor into their work, Chen says, which “heightens the risk of discouragement and despair when their work becomes too overwhelming.” Sometimes, for their health, people find it necessary to step away from activism altogether.
The symptoms of burnout include depression, anxiety, headaches and other physical ailments, substance abuse, loss of productivity, and trouble concentrating.”
There’s a part of me that thinks maybe I just need a sabbatical, but there’s also a part of me that thinks that (more fundamentally) I am prone to orienting toward teaching in ways that are just not sustainable. It’s something I will need to seriously commit to working on if I’m going to make it beyond another year or two.
I imagine this is a pretty common feeling for teachers at one point or another, especially for those who aim to teach in ways that are responsive and attentive to students.
And I also imagine it is not uncommon to feel this way after getting tenure. It’s like you were probably already burned out, but now you can face it honestly.
Finally, I think daycare has also helped me to have new perspectives on my own teaching that pertain to issues of emotional labor and emotional well being.