Teacher Blindspot – Do You Have One?

by | Mar 31, 2019

There is a clash in perceptions that is destroying the teaching profession. The Teacher Blindspot is the reason behind much of the stress and burnout within education today. It is the cause of overwork and it is behind issues of teacher retention and resilience

The teacher blindspot deserves attention and it requires action.

What is the Teacher Blindspot

Very simply, the teacher blindspot represents the often overlooked connection between the perception of what a “good” teacher is and its negative impact on teachers and the profession of education.

Teacher Identity

The collective identity of teachers is unhealthy and contradictory to teacher wellbeing. Harsh? I know, but also true. Click To Tweet

There are many “feeds” that can effect how one see’s their identity. For teachers, we are fed early on through teacher education programs and society at large, that educators are underpaid, undervalued, under appreciated, and overworked.

These ideas come within the same conversation as the topic of the importance of teachers to society. After all, without teachers there wouldn’t be any doctors, lawyers, scientists, or CEO’s, right?

This is often followed by stories of teacher sacrifice and heroism. Teachers who give selflessly of their time, their finances (often their emotional and physical well-being) to “save” their students. These stories are inspiring, uplifting, emotional. They draw people to the profession like moths to light.

Who wouldn’t want to be part of such amazing stories? Who wouldn’t want to be a part of a better future? Who wouldn’t want to make a difference in the lives of others? Even, if it does mean sacrifice.

And, with that, a teacher’s identity is formed. A heroic martyr with a heart of gold.

The Teacher Blindspot

When educators adopt the identity construct that positions them as selfless, self-sacrificing, and doing whatever it takes they become “blinded” to the impact their actions have on their own wellbeing. This is the Teacher Blindspot.

It's not that teachers can't see that they are becoming stressed, exhausted, and burned out, it's more like they have accepted these negative outcomes as the collateral damage that is required to be a good teacher. Click To Tweet

A teacher’s ability to ignore the toll their career is taking on their physical, emotional, even financial well-being is a hallmark trait of the collective teacher identity. And, it is a root cause of burnout and attrition within the field of education.

Exposing the Blindspot

So by now, you are probably asking yourself, “What is to be done about all this?”.

Well, it all starts with exposing the Teach Blindspot for what it really is – a tie that needs to be severed. By dissociating the value and success of a teacher with their level of sacrifice and selflessness we can begin to address each side of the equation separately. 

A teacher doesn’t have to run their wellbeing into the ground to be effective.
A teacher doesn’t have to work so hard they don’t love their job anymore to be successful.
A teacher isn’t the sum of their sacrifices.

Take the time to recognize what values make you a good teacher – none of them should be detrimental to your health.

If the traits that make you a good teacher are your willingness to work late, come in early, work through lunch, take work home, spend your own money, give your unpaid time and energy, or sacrifice your health or personal relationships, ask yourself, are these qualities that actually help me be my best (for myself and others)?

This is the first step in exposing your Teacher Blindspot and making intentional steps toward bettering your teacher wellbeing.

The Teacher Blindspot is a complex topic and one worth shining a light on. This isn’t the last you will hear about the Teaher Blindspot from Joy in Teaching. In the meantime, if you’re interested in teacher well-being and resilience check out these other resources:

Article: How Depressing Statistics on Teaching Can Deliver Hope [infographic]

Article: The Importance and Impact of Teacher Wellbeing

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