California Educator

April / May 2018

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The term "burnout " is deeply entrenched in the discussion about why teachers leave the profession. You've been making the case for a decade that it could be a misdiagnosis. What tipped you off that the term might be inaccu- rate in many cases? DORIS SANTORO: I had this amazing colleague at the school I taught at in San Francisco in the 1990s. She was going to teach forever. She was a lifer. When she resigned years later, she sent me her res- ignation letter. When I read it , I thought , " Wait , this doesn't fit any of the narratives about teachers we've been fed." This woman was saying, "I can't teach the way I know I'm supposed to be teaching." The profession had changed. This isn't burnout. This is demoralization. When we talk about resilience in teachers, it's usually centered around self-care. I'm all for self-care. But that is an insufficient and entirely too passive way to address the problems teachers are encountering today. So with my study, I had to go small and deep to find out what is going on with teachers who were like my colleague: teach- ers who are dedicated to the profession, and who have shown their dedication by teaching five or more years. I had in-depth conversations with teachers who could talk about having moral or ethical concerns with how teaching was changing. Your book features stories from 23 teachers who have profound concerns about the state of their profession but who have not yet decided to leave. In initial conversations, were they generally resigned to thinking they were just burning out? DS: Yeah, I think they just thought they were burning out, although some had a hunch about what it meant to be demoralized due to the profession losing those moral rewards. The burnout narrative comes down to, "Sorry, you blew it! You couldn't hack it, you didn't preserve yourself." With burn- out, there's nothing left, no possibility for regeneration. If you are demoralized, however, you are not done. For these teachers, it's a new vocabulary. " We're totally deaf to the moral concerns of teach- ers. The ways teacher dissatisfaction is captured is mostly from a self-interested position, rather than giving them space to express concern for students or about being stewards of the profession." Doris Santoro e difference between them, and why it matters By Tim Walker W H Y S O M A N Y teachers leave the profession is one of the most often discussed topics in public education. e exhaustion, despair, anger and sense of helplessness many teachers feel is usually branded as "burnout." But is this always an accurate diagnosis? Doris Santoro, author of Demoralized: Why Teachers Leave the Profession They Love and How They Can Stay, believes it is not. An associate professor at Bowdoin College and chair of its education department, Santoro argues that while teachers can burn out, many are more likely to be demoralized by the direction of public education and the effect it has had on their profession. High-stakes testing, standardization, the stripping of teacher autonomy and other trends have eroded what Santoro calls the "moral rewards" of teaching. A better understanding of the root causes of teacher dissatisfaction, Santoro says, can empower experienced teachers to "re-moralize" and help revitalize the profession. Teacher Burnout Demoralization? or 19 A P R I L / M AY 2 018 P

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