Bilingual Burnout and Other Acts of Pity Partyness

by multilingualmania on July 24, 2010

in Bilingual Burnout

Well, I haven’t been feeling well and subsequently I have suddenly contracted a bad case of writer’s block. A close friend just suggested to me that the best way to combat writer’s block is to just throw yourself into writing a post and writing anything that comes to mind. So we’ll see about that, right?

And strangely nothing really comes to mind. Perhaps I am a little burned out with work since so much is going on in the education world and I’m sure that we are all a bit overwhelmed. I’m working in a school district that has been hard hit this year with bad luck, turmoil and conflict and it’s just starting to wear on me.

I’ve gone through times in my career in the past as a bilingual coordinator or a bilingual teacher where the fight to maintain quality bilingual education programs just seems like an interminable uphill battle. I know it is something that I will always have to battle all of my life and it will probably never get easier. I’ve learned to try to recognize those times when I’m feeling overwhelmed, burned out and alone in order for me to recharge my battery and replenish what keeps me going in this battle. Because a battle is exactly what it is.

This month I am tired of fighting. Fighting against principals who don’t want bilingual programs in their school. Fighting against policies that harm our bilingual programs and children who are learning two languages. But what most especially stings the most is that I am tired of fighting against educators who are in bilingual education programs and don’t even believe in them. And I’m tired of feeling alone in the battle.

Let’s face it. Bilingual education is already given a bad reputation and so it just ticks me off like nothing else does when I see educators in bilingual programs who don’t really believe in what they are doing. I work with far too many bilingual educators who didn’t even bother to teach their own children Spanish, or whose children are attending the same school where they are teaching yet their children are placed in English programs. Why again are they bilingual educators if bilingualism isn’t even important enough for their own children??

The online world has been a safe haven for me, where I have found other people who are interested in bilingualism. It relieves me and makes me happy to meet tons of parents online who are excited about raising bilingual children. But lately I have been feeling sad because I don’t see the same passion online from bilingual educators in the online realm. Do they not exist online? Or does the same lack of passion that often exists in the real world with some bilingual educators also manifest itself in a lack of apathy in the online world?

Well apparently this problem is not going to be resolved as I write this post and something deep inside of me suggests that I just need to stop this inner dialogue right now before it degenerates into something much more toxic. So in the meantime I am taking off my bilingual hat, putting on my straw hat and heading to the beach to forget that any of these problems even exist.

And on that note, I sure hope that I didn’t sour any of your positive attitudes today.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Monica July 24, 2010 at 6:14 pm

I have found that the educators on the Nandu listserve seem to really care about their work. They go there to ask others for answers and are quick to offer advice, or share lesson plans/ideas with others who are seeking information. Have you tried them?

Chin up! In the last few weeks I have been reading many articles that show that there are many out there who believe strongly in bilingual education and are willing to fight for it.

Ana Lilian Flores July 25, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Hope you enjoyed your day in the sun!

Thanks for opening up and sharing your real thoughts. It’s important to set it free. You are doing an amazing job and the only thing you can really do is to continue setting a positive example. Lead by example, as you are already doing.

Corey Heller July 25, 2010 at 2:19 pm

Thank you for this post! With everything you do for bilingual education, you are definitely allowed to go through periods of burnout! I have definitely had my share of burnout periods… just coming out of a year and a half one.

What helps me during burnout is exactly what you said: to just step back a bit, rest and recuperate, focus on ME, ME, ME for a while. Don’t forget, it is summertime – the perfect time to take a break and read a good novel (I’m trying to do that today!). We are no good to anyone, ourselves included, if we can’t function well.

I also notice that I hit burnout when I feel that I am struggling to make something happen but don’t have full control over it – I’m just a part of the big picture. I push and push but in the end I’m pushing against a big brick wall. It’s that whole “lead a horse to water” concept: We put out the information, we talk to everyone we can, we share the research but in the end people will hear and do what they want to hear and do.

Ultimately, what people want is inspiration and a sense of fulfillment in their lives. If only bilingualism in all of its forms could be seen as something lovely, brilliant and inspirational. Because once the world sees it this way, they will do everything they can to have it. The big question is how can we help the world see bilingualism as we do?

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