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"How are you?” It is a simple but important question to ask educators during this time of teacher burnout and massive changes in how and where we work. We get lost in our ocean of tasks, and rarely take a moment to reflect and process how we and others are managing the stress of another school year.

At the beginning of this school year, I wrote an article addressing teacher burnout and the coping techniques I planned to utilize this school year to reignite my love for teaching. As we approach the end of another school year, I am now beginning to reflect on my personal experiences with overcoming teacher burnout in hopes of helping others deal with this important issue.

I have been in a much better frame of mind compared to last school year. Of course, there is always stress associated with being a teacher, but I am finding that these stresses have returned to more of the “normal” or “typical” stresses I’ve encountered in a school year, rather than those that were connected to the pandemic, and the virtual and hybrid teaching environments we relied on to get us through it.

As I reflect, it’s clear to me that the most effective medicine for my teacher burnout was, and will continue to be, connections. In one of my favorite Ted Talks, Every Kid Needs a Champion, Rita Pierson states, “Kids can’t learn from someone they don’t like.” This doesn’t mean that you need to be friends with your students. Rather, to create an effective classroom environment, you must establish connections with your students. Masks, social distancing, and virtual instruction proved to be extremely challenging hurdles that we had to clear in order to make meaningful connections with both students and colleagues.

In my experience, connections have been the foundation that bring the job of being an educator to life. Connections drive the laughs, smiles, and successes associated with being a teacher. With these hurdles removed for this full school year, I was able to reestablish the rapport with my students and colleagues that was missing during the past few years.

The connections with your fellow teachers is just as important as the ones with your students. Passion and positive energy toward the profession are contagious. For me, AACT has been so much more than a resource library for my lesson plans. Through my involvement in AACT, I have made valuable connections with positive and supportive people from all over the country. Just as we encourage students to get involved with clubs, sports, and extracurricular activities to get the most out of their school experience, teachers should also get involved in “extracurricular activities” through participation in professional communities. If you’re not already doing it, I encourage you to get connected with AACT and take advantage of the great programs and opportunities it offers. You can learn from others, share your own knowledge and experience, and make a positive impact on the chemistry education community.

If you are looking to get involved, AACT has many ways to help you get started. You can connect directly with the staff to indicate your area of interest or participate in current opportunities found on the website. For example, you can contribute to this quarterly periodical, Chemistry Solutions! It’s written for and by teachers, and it’s a great way to share about your own unique teaching experience with the community. You can also participate in other content writing opportunities. For example, you can work with other great teachers to create authentic teaching resources for the Classroom Resource Library. This summer, AACT will also host a content writing opportunity focused on the chemistry of health and medicine!

Looking to bring real-world science in your classroom? Apply to participate in the Science Coaches Program, which pairs you with a chemistry professional who can help bring chemistry to life for you and your students through a variety of project options. From guest speaking about careers to providing assistance with labs, this valuable partnership can be reenergizing for any teacher!

Do you want to meet new teachers in your area? Volunteer to become an AACT Regional Representative and meet with the members of the governing board to serve as a liaison to ensure the needs of your region are being met by AACT. The time commitment for any of these activities is small, while the value is huge. Having been part of this wonderful professional community for the past seven years, I can attest that getting involved in these ways has had a positive and profound impact on me in my career.

Please, take a few minutes to learn from and be inspired by current teachers who are sharing about their own experiences in the May 2023 issue of Chemistry Solutions:

  • In the featured article, learn about a project that introduces students to the intersection of social justice and chemistry through studying the Flint, Michigan water crisis.
  • A veteran high school chemistry teacher hopes to inspire and support fellow chemistry teachers as she shares some points of wisdom and suggestions from her teaching career.
  • If you struggle with engaging students in meaningful note-taking, read about a middle school teacher’s journey to make the task more active and engaging for students.
  • Finally, hear from a teacher who has moved from the other side of the world to embrace a chemistry teaching position at an inner city school in Florida. Many teachers may relate to the unanticipated challenges that he has encountered and the strategies that helped him succeed.

As this school year comes to an end, if you are still struggling to overcome teacher burnout, I strongly encourage you to focus on making connections with the positive people around you. Connect with others and the education community to help recharge your enthusiasm, and inspire you to get back to loving your profession. And, if you need help finding people who will help, AACT is a great place to start.

Matt Perekupka
AACT Governing Board President