Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.James Belasco & Ralph Stayer
I am here.
Here I am.
Here is a point in my professional life when, where, and how I decide to move it forward. A transitional, and perhaps even more precisely, a transformative shift, of sorts. Struggling with massive anxiety and feeling immense overwhelm, and to a degree, helplessness, in the classroom, I am at a crossroads (of sorts). Make no mistake, it has felt SO intensely empowering to take the necessary time away from the ‘noise’ of work to deeply rest, deeply reflect, and deeply restore my joy for education. I recognize my privilege to do so and do not take this lightly.
As a part of an application to the TAC program, candidates are asked to provide a photo and a “personal bio”.
I began to write the standard summary, where I live, my passions, my interest, etc. Admittedly, it felt like I was going through the motions, but it was done. Bio. Check. Time to for nice long run in the forest. But..
My fingers could not hit ‘send’. Truth be told, I am not exactly sure what constitutes a personal mission statement (I never really cared for one, aren’t those for corporations?), but one hour later there it was: a snapshot of my feelings on something so close to my heart: teacher burnout. This was ‘me’ in a more authentic way. An attempt to find the why: Why did I choose to enroll and commit to the TAC program in the first place? What brought me to this moment right here, right now? Why am I so excited to jump in?
Here’s the piece that I submitted (with a photo) this morning to the TAC program administration:
MY MISSION STATEMENT/STORY (sort of)
As a public educator for nearly a quarter of a century, I have had the privilege of working at the school, district, and provincial levels with some of the most earnest, dedicated, kind, and compassionate individuals I have come to know. I am very grateful for the opportunity to push myself into a variety of responsibilities including enrolling, non-enrolling, and school administrative positions. Currently, I am struggling with anxiety and a recurring ‘heaviness’ in my heart brought on by increasing reporting and assessment expectations; pressures to hold spaces for, at times, difficult discussions on gender, race, and indigenous relations; continual eroding of resources and support for the classroom; the growing schism between personal and institutional (and societal) values of public education; and the politicization of the COVID-19 pandemic that has found its way into our classrooms. I am witnessing a gradual shift from ‘thriving’ in my work within education to one of surviving increasing episodes of overwhelm.
Concurrently, I have witnessed a growing number of colleagues suffer the symptoms of an epidemic-in-the-making: teacher burnout. As the vast majority of educators in British Columbia settle into the second half of their teaching career many, many are struggling: a loss of passion (why we got into teaching); increasing self-isolation (“shut the door and do my own thing”; a noticeable rise in tenuous conflicts with both administration and colleagues; the amplification of triggers; the slow morphing of the contagious energy of ‘thriving’ into behaviours of ‘surviving’ (aka “going through the motions”); and continually difficult (and often futile) conversations about supporting students with appropriate resources that all but dominate the staff room and hallway dialogue. Gratefully, I found the courage to recognize my downward spiral and pull up by giving myself a much needed reprieve from ‘the noise’. I have given myself the gift of time to rest, restore, rejuvenate, and reflect.
Simultaneously over the past twenty-four years in public education, I have observed the increasing struggles of the young educator (1-4 years) and how quickly (and unnecessarily) this group has become disenfranchised, disillusioned, isolated, and disheartened. I find it utterly frustrating to witness this phenomenon in an occupation that is, by nature, a calling. Each year, educators (particularly those holding a classroom) are asked to do more. Teachers are tasked with increased expectations for supporting students with more intense and varied social and emotional needs (with less support, the growing disconnect between decisions made by bureaucrats and senior administration and the realism of the daily classroom scenario), and increasing demands for accountability which include more restrictive reporting orders. These new realities have served to augment the burdens of the post-modern educator.
So dear reader, this brings me to my personal work and the mental health and wellness space that I currently occupy. As I progress towards gaining a deeper clarity on a professional (transitional) shift, I know one thing to be true: I want to develop strong coaching skills and offer my empathetic and compassionate energies to supporting teachers on the verge of burnout, requiring a transformational shift in their work or simply needing the space to safely reflect, reaffirm, rejuvenate. For me, teaching is a very challenging profession in a very challenging time. My hope is that the ‘Teacher As Coach’ program will help me with my transformational shift, reaffirming my commitment to thrive and grow in what is truly the most important job in the world.
A BRIEF BIOGRAPHY
My name is Jeff Yasinchuk, son of Fred and Joyce Yasinchuk. I am a settler of Ukrainian and Italian ancestry. I live on the unceded territory of the Ktunaxa, Sinxt, Sylix, and Secwepemc First Peoples with my beautiful family in Nelson, BC (population 12 000) nestled in the Selkirk Mountain Range midway between Vancouver and Calgary, and a two-hour drive north of Spokane, Washington.
I am currently on a medical leave from my responsibilities of leading and co-learning with an amazing group of multi-age middle school learners. Living in the mountains and on the shores of Kootenay Lake offers a lifestyle of outdoor pursuits including skiing, mountain biking, trail running, canoeing, and swimming. As an avid reader, wanna-be- rock-guitar-god and drummer, and reticent artist, I relish opportunities to experience and learn. You can check out my professional reflections and personal journey of learning at jeffyasinchuk.ca.
Definitely, not my finest effort but it captures me in a vulnerable moment. This exact moment in a long and privileged professional career.
In deep reflection.
In a desire for transformation.