Letter to a Friend
Thank you for trusting me and telling me about everything. I didn’t realize how difficult this fall has been for you. The problems you described are painfully familiar:
• Fundamental imbalances in the amount of tasks required within the time period allotted
• Insurmountable paperwork and documentation, and the sinking knowledge that you could easily fill all of your time with paperwork alone
• Lack of building level support due to insufficient understanding of Special Education processes and legal requirements
• Daily meetings before and after school extending the work day into the evening
• Suggestions for interventions that you should implement that appear as veiled accusations of an inability to provide a sufficient level of support for students
• Lack of respect and understanding for your training and expertise
• Subjection to the continual rotation of administrative policies and the whims of certain administrative personnel
• And more, because there is always more…
You told me what this is doing to you. You told me, with a quiver in your voice how you are affected:
• Lying awake at night making lists in your head about the tasks that you are expected to accomplish the next day
• Crying at work
• Recognizing that your continual stress level is affecting your ability to be emotionally present when you are at home with your family
• Fearing that you may be missing out on your own life because you are consumed by work
• Feeling inadequate because you work hard daily and are not able to accomplish all that is expected
• Questioning your ability to continue in this field, tinged with a thread of desperation about changing jobs, moving, changing careers, or changing anything…
You said quietly, “I think I’m burned out,” and in your distress, you lamented how much you had loved this field, this avocation, and this gift of communication that we share.
You still love this work – our fundamental clinical work. I could hear it when you told me about the students and we problem-solved tricky cases together. I sensed it when your expression changed and you smiled while sharing funny stories about student interactions. I know that you care deeply about the needs of your clients.
We work under federally mandated guidelines, which are interpreted at the statewide level, and implemented at the local level. We work within complicated, convoluted, and restrictive bureaucratic organizational systems. You are not alone in your experiences. Some of us might not talk about these challenges for fear of drowning in disillusionment.
Every year is a re-commitment to an organizational infrastructure in which we agree to abide by given mandates in order to provide therapeutic services to clients. We have all tried to make positive changes. Sometimes things change. Sometimes they don’t. We all wish that we could make it better. As you make a commitment to this school year, know that this is a choice.
We hugged when we said goodbye and we joked about compartmentalizing and disassociating. I hope that you know how much I value your friendship and how much I respect the work that you do.