TABSS: Teacher Assessment of Burnout and Survival Skills

by Mary-Pat Buss



Question 1
You have three minutes until the bell rings to start the school day. Usually you are in your classroom setting up at this point, but today, someone broke the copier again. Creating a class set of instructions became a fifteen-minute waiting game of stress while you begged for emergency copies in the front office. Plus, you left your coffee on your desk. As you power walk down the hallway to your classroom, you will pass a restroom.
Question 2
You observe two students locked in a passionate embrace in the hallway. Typically, you overlook a short kiss, but this is not short. In fact, you’re pretty sure there is tongue involved, and upon closer inspection—Oh! Oh no! Pelvic movement. DISASTER.
Question 3.
You teach sixteen-year-olds. You have teenager down to a science. You speak teenager, read teenager, and reason with teenagers. In fact, sometimes the teenagers treat you more like one of them than a teacher. As a result, your classroom after school has somehow become the meeting ground for stinky football players looking to avoid practice drills in the name of “tutoring.” You do teach these kids but the smell is ridiculous and so is the drain on your time.
Question 4.
It’s the holidays, and you are the recipient of numerous baked goods from well-intentioned students. You appreciate the gesture, but as each hand-baked gift is delivered, children stare at you with expectant eyes. They want to see you try it, and they want to know you enjoyed the gift. They will not leave satisfied until you have eaten at least a little.
Question 5.
To accomodate teenage hormones and school dress codes, you dress at least twenty years older than other people your age. Over the years, your closet has gradually filled with spirit shirts, unflattering crew neck business casual wear, and a slew of pants with as much stretch as possible paired with orthopaedic shoes. Why then are you conducting a writing conference with a student that is intent on staring at your chest?
Question 6.
You conduct an exercise with your Creative Writing class called, “If You Really Knew Me.” This exercise is emotional, but it brings students together and teaches them to judge one another less while learning to appreciate each other’s efforts more. It’s needed, but the kids cry. They share dark things. You warn the school counselors ahead of time. Early in the exercise, a student begins to cry and comes to you, sinks to the ground, rests their head on your knee, and sobs. The class continues working silently, writing. Ambient music plays so no one hears them. How should you proceed?
Question 7.
You have explained to your classes that you are required to report any worrisome information, but despite knowing this fact, kids voice their agonies. Chris, a frequent flyer in your classroom, has taken to coming to you after school for tutoring and “just to talk.” They are bright, funny, and intelligent, and you grow to enjoy their company. When they tell you they are fascinated by the idea of killing themselves one afternoon, it is a total surprise. You do not have the option of staying quiet and the counselors have gone home for the day. Do you …
Question 8.
Arrive for your annual Professional Development and Appraisal System evaluation (PDAS—teachers ​love​ acronyms) with your assigned administrator. This meeting is your only official opportunity to prove your worth. It’s almost the end of the teaching year, which means it is also testing season and printing time for the school literary magazine, another one of your responsibilities. You have precious little energy left in reserve. Attempt to look at ease as you listen to your evaluator discuss your performance. Receive a stunning compliment. “You are a good teacher.” How do you react?
Question 9.
As the sole Creative Writing teacher, the expectation is that you will produce a literary magazine by the end of the school year. You continue to teach regular classes and must operate magazine demands after school. Often, these additional responsibilities amount to late nights, and you receive no extra pay for the additional hours. You are tired, stressed, and feel unappreciated. You formally request compensation for your added responsibilities. The director of instruction arranges a meeting with you to discuss it.



Mary-Pat Buss is an assistant professor at Texas Lutheran University and passionate educator. Her research focuses on minimized feminist voices and disability studies while her work as a nonfiction writer also explores lessons in empathy and representation. She is a recent graduate of Texas State University’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program, nonfiction winner in the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities’ Pen 2 Paper competition, and a D.H. Lawrence Society fellowship recipient. She lives in Central Texas and fills her time with friends, shenanigans, and playing with her labradoodle, Daisy.

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