Beating Burnout and Scribing Shipshape, a guest post by E. E. Dowd
I told my 5th-grade students that I was leaving teaching to become an author. I didn’t believe myself for a minute, but I needed something to say to them, didn’t I? The truth was, I’d had enough. After ten years in the classroom, the last school was the last straw. I won’t go into details, but it was toxic. So toxic, in fact, that I was making myself sick just staying there. I decided to let it go with no real idea of what I would do after I left. The kids were excited to hear about my next adventure; they knew I loved to write, so it made sense that I would take a break and pursue something new. I didn’t feel like I was embarking on a new adventure. I was too exhausted to feel anything.
Fast forward to November of the same year. I had put months between me and my burnout, but I wasn’t feeling the slightest bit better. I wasn’t working. I couldn’t bring myself to even look for a new job. I didn’t know what to do, and I was totally and utterly lost. Education, the thing I was best at and most passionate about, was no longer an option. I wanted nothing to do with it. I wanted nothing to do with anything.
At the time, my partner was working on his Ph.D. in Wales. I decided that a change of scenery would do me good, and this quaint town of Aberystwyth seemed like just the place. I started looking for things to occupy my time. I stumbled upon an organization called NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, which happens every November. Each day, you write a certain number of words, and by the end of the month, you have a whole novel (or at least the first 50,000 words of one).
This is what I decided to do. I had nothing to lose, so I just started with no story or plot lines in mind. I just wrote.
I wrote every day, and what I thought would be impossible became the most important thing I could do for myself. My creativity was activated. I started to feel alive again and was looking forward to writing each day. It’s what got me out of bed. Most importantly, I had an outlet to process my thoughts, feelings, and experiences in a safe space on the page. And I did. I poured all my anger, frustration, hurt, and love into Ben, Nate, Ellie, Ms. B., and all the other characters you will meet.
I’ve held on to this novel for so many years. I’ve made many changes and revisions, chapters and characters added and taken away. Part of me and my story lives on each page in Shipshape. While the story is a fun mystery full of riddles, underground tunnels, and robots, woven throughout are the struggles each educator faces walking into a school building. The tests, mandates, and changes that ultimately hurt kids are there through the lens of a passionate teacher and her problem-solving students.
While I wish I could say that burnout can be solved by writing a book, it can’t. But it was a good start and helped me realize how much I love education and teaching. It helped me find my way back to what I love. At the beginning of the book, Ben and his classmates learn about what it means to be a changemaker. I like to think that everyone can be a changemaker in their corner of the world to leave things just a bit better than when they began. Writing this book did that for me, and I hope readers feel inspired to be a changemaker and take action when they see something amiss. I wrote this novel as an escape for myself, and I hope it can be a fun escape for those who read it.
Meet the author
E. E. Dowd is an educator at heart. By day, she’s an education consultant and curriculum developer with a passion for global education and helping kids see themselves as changemakers. When she’s not writing, you can find her traveling, discovering new delicious foods to eat, and devouring all the books she can get her hands on. Shipshape is her debut novel.
Buy link: Amazon page- https://www.amazon.com/author/eedowd
Fifth grade for Ben Turner was supposed to start off like any other year at Riverside Elementary School. But with a puzzling scandal, a mysterious new principal who no one has ever seen, and robots that look an awful lot like people, Ben soon discovers that this is a year
Fifth grade for Ben Turner was supposed to start off like any other year at Riverside Elementary School. But with a puzzling scandal, a mysterious new principal who no one has ever seen, and robots that look an awful lot like people, Ben soon discovers that this is a year like no other. His rule-bending teacher, Ms. B., has done what she can to protect the students from absurd rules and too much testing, but she goes too far. Something sinister is happening, and now it’s up to Ben and his friends, Ellie and Nate, to put the clues together to find out what’s really going on at Riverside before it’s too late.
Will the trio be able to unravel the mysteries surrounding all the changes at school before time runs out? Or will they have to find out what it means to be shipshape?
Publisher: Sarah-Jane Thomas, LLC D/B/A Edumat
Publication date: 08/02/2022
Age Range: 10 – 12 Years
Filed under: Guest Post
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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