Monday, July 9, 2007

Book Review: The Garden at Night

The Garden at Night: Burnout & Breakdown in the Teaching Life by Mary Rose O’Reilley

This book takes a look at the spiritual side of burnout and breakdown. As her experience is as a college teacher, this is where O’Reilley focuses her essays, but there are applicable lessons for teachers of all levels.

One of the strongest lessons is that everyone undergoes a “dark night of the soul.” It is not unusual, nor should it be unanticipated. Not that these facts make it any easier to endure, as she herself acknowledges. She does advise that we look for the lesson in these situations, to see what we can learn from them. And that, sometimes, that lesson is that it is time to find a different profession.

O’Reilley also emphasizes the need for teachers to take time to meditate or pray daily. She discusses the spiritual traditions of Christianity and Zen Buddhism. These are not mutually exclusive. Both ask that practitioners take that time out of their lives to focus on something besides the problems constantly besieging them. The importance of taking time for one’s self is an important part, perhaps the most important part, of avoiding a burnout—or at least putting it off.

This is an extremely interesting book that takes a look at burnout from a different perspective than others I have read. The practical applications are from a different direction. The philosophical stance is accessible and attainable. This is one I will need to reread to gain the full impact of, but it has already broadened my thinking on the topic of burnout.


Kate said...

Art, I tried to write a comment on your first post, but it took forever so I switched to this one and got on immediately, I think your blog is important to the teaching community and critical for your own development. Since leaving teaching, I have become engrossed in photo blogs. Suggestions: Try to add a photo here and there to enhance your posts. It is visually more attractive and lend variety to your blog. Check out my main photo blog for a real treat ;=) !! Regards, KateM

Carla said...

Art, having survived a few of those "dark nights of the soul" as a teacher, I can appreciate your review of this book. This will be a fun blog to visit. Best of luck!


W Brown said...


I was reffered to your blog from someone from a list serve you belong to... I'm adding the link to my blog

I too write about random educational issues stuff.