Skip to main content

Burnout is A Part of The Plan

"Trudging the Road to Happy Destiny."

Silly me for taking it so seriously. Silly me for feeling guilty or ashamed for not being able to fulfill my duties.

This morning, featured an article about the charter school movement in New Orleans.

It didn't reveal anything I didn't already know first hand, like long hours, low pay, an excessive drive to raise scores, but it did reveal a mind set about burnout. I assumed that my leaders were too busy driving culture and curriculum to have thought about what happens to a teacher who is burning out, but apparently, according to Andrew Rotherham, it was all apart of the plan.

He states, "I don't think turnover is inherently bad," said Andrew Rotherham, publisher of Education Sector, an education policy think tank. "Planned turnover or turnover you can deal with without yielding quality is fine." * I think there is a typo there, and I assume yielding should say "affecting" or something like that.*

Turnover is such a nice word. Reminds me of fruit filled pastries or when it's time for a back rub. But what does turnover look like? Do I look like turnover?

For anyone who looks at my blog, it's not called Ariel Pork for nothing. I feel like the flying pig, a laboring soul who spends so much time with his nose in the mud, never remembering he's got wings. I've been practicing Zen for 7 years, practicing yoga for 2, in A.A for 1, and seeing a therapist (off and on) for a year. Given my background of growing up in relative chaos and shaky households, I've always had a tough time with depression, anxiety, and worst of all, panic attacks. Teaching in the Recovery School District has seemed to amplify every condition, which is good and bad.

Good or bad, it's been quite disruptive. And it comes with a good bit of shame and guilt I have to constantly defuse, let go, and accept. (Is that so bad a skill set?)

The whole country knows that this charter school movement found a peitre dish in post-Katrina New Orleans. Coming from a long lasting horrible tradition of public education in the city, it didn't seem that there was anything to lose. Accept maybe yourself.

If Andrew Rotherham thinks my burnout is an acceptable cost, maybe he should know what it looks like: Waking up at 3am not being able to breath, drunken escapades on Bourbon Street followed by extreme Zen retreats, crying, crying when the relationships failed, crying when you lost the dog, crying in front of students, violence, hitting another teacher, violence, having students push you, and you push back, screaming, feeling lost, feeling worthless, feeling less-than, feeling hopeless, feeling doomed, with glimpsing visions of the solace of death.

All over A,B,C and 1,2, 3? I must be kidding myself. I should thank Andrew and be on my way. There is a great matter to attend to and I don't think it's whether or not we all know how to explicate a poem or identify a gerund.

It's tempting to make a big stink. I know my activist Buddhist friends will think I should write an op-ed or make a statement, and frankly, I do feel like filing for disability, taking the care I should have taken for the last 3 years while I worked long hours ( holding a record at school for 6:30am to 11pm- ask my principal). But they don't give disability for resentment. And my panic attacks and depression are manageable, even if I did miss 3 days of work last week.

Honestly, I am thankful. The students I have encountered, the hard drive, the amplification of all my ancient twisted karma, is perfect in a way. How long would it have taken me to really sink into my zafu? How long would it have taken to recognize alcoholism as a real thing and not just some club my Dad, Grandfather, and Grandmother belong to?

And I've got 3 months left. I put in my intent to return and I'm letting go of all the mess (and the glory). What will I do next year? No clear idea, but things seem to work out, and for once, I don't have my entire future locked in.


  1. I've certainly felt a lot of that craziness with my own adult ESL teaching job, which is another field littered with "turnover." What a crock of a word that is! Like "restructuring," and all these other corporate euphemisms that have slid into everything now. Peace man, and best of luck with the next chapter of life. I'm still hanging on at my job, but change is coming, I can feel it.

  2. Hey! It's been a while. How are you doing?

  3. Well, pretty good! I've decided to:
    A: Do a farm apprenticeship
    B: Go to school for Community Counsiling

    And by "Decide" I mean applied and now I wait.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

How To Become A Zen Monk (or die trying)

"Now, if you have decided to become a monk because you think that life in this world is too hard and bitter for you and you would prefer to rather live off other people's donations while drinking your tea - if you want to become a monk just to make a living, then the following is not for you." -Kosho Uchiyama
So you want to be a Zen monk or priest? Unsui, which means clouds and water? Good on ya. Me too. 
Having googled that very aspiration for the first time in 2003, I was convinced it was impossible. I'll admit I am as thick headed as they come. I was also resistant to meet some figure in a robe. I heard my father's voice when I begged him to get my fortune read in Jackson Square, New Orleans, "I'm not paying some fat asshole in a bathrobe to tell you lies." Instead, for the first four years of my Zen practice, I committed as little as possible to my local sangha, left when they started chanting, and never talked to the teacher. I was so unapproacha…

Boredom and Buddhism

To say I feel bored feels disrespectful. How could that be? I have a three month old daughter, I'm training for a demanding job in the temple, I'm a wilderness medic responding to incidents every 4 days or so, and I'm sewing my priest robes for ordination. And I have this sense of disinterest.

I have a few theories as to why I feel bored. One could be the natural come down from having the baby and becoming stable in our schedule. Another come down plays out in the adrenaline crash after responding to a medical emergency or the general up keep work I do at the temple when compared to fixing something crucial to operations. When I hear there's a fire in the area I'm pretty excited to be mobilized for stay and defend duty. I feel pretty guilty about that, too.

So I read Beyond Boredom and Depression by Ajahn Jagaro and I was reminded to be careful about looking outward by this passage:

So what is boredom? It is a subjective experience that occurs when the mind is not i…

Vows and Compass

Being in new Orleans reminds me that my way seeking mind ripened here. Maybe it was the level of maturity my father's recovery actualized. Maybe it was the Ben Wren book I found at Beaucoup Books on my lunch break. Maybe it was my step mom's copy of things fall apart by Pema Chodron sitting in the bathroom.

Later I would witness the host of suffering post-katrina offered to a young public school teacher. How could I help? I took my first set of vows not really knowing where they would lead, like the old black metal compass my dad put in my Christmas stocking when I was about ten. Beautiful to hold, difficult to understand.

Now, years later, I feel a bit subdued as form,sensation, perception, impulse, and thought tag everything, beckoning some purchase for the price of belief. I'm home, but a home leaver. People wonder when I'll move back and being a home leaver means being ready to leave home again and again, which could mean coming back.

How will I actually engage all…