'Break My Soul' Is the Perfect Summer Anthem for Burnt Out Teachers

Music, in general, just has this uncanny ability to transmit positive vibrations throughout our bodies. But I would take it a step further by saying that there are a handful of songs that are special because they accurately convey the feelings and emotions at the core of what so many people are experiencing during a specific moment in time. That was especially the case when I listened to Beyoncé’s newest single, “Break My Soul”.  


I could be wrong, but I strongly believe that Beyoncé spent the entire school year hearing our cries and listening to the hardships, struggles, and challenges that so many of us have endured. It was our collective cry that gave her the motivation to go into the studio, record this song, and strategically release it at the start of summer break. You can call me crazy but, at the very least, you have to admit that my theory is plausible.   

It’s no secret that the 2021-2022 school year has arguably been THE most difficult year for many teachers. Teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic is one thing, but when we have to do that and simultaneously fight against book bans, anti-CRT rhetoric, the threat of school shootings, and all these other negative forces, our workload becomes too much to shoulder. Am I thrilled that an astounding number of great teachers are leaving the classroom for good? 

I would say No … and Yes.  

Although it’s unfortunate that students are witnessing their favorite teachers leave the classroom, the silver lining is that we’re finally witnessing a growing movement of teachers unapologetically prioritizing themselves and choosing not to have their souls broken by a broken system.

Rather than subjecting themselves to the divisive politics that are so deeply entrenched in our education system, they’re deciding to eye-soul-ate (isolate) themselves from the situation altogether. So what does it mean to eye-soul-ate? It means that, as teachers, we are looking deep within our souls to constantly assess the moral and ethical quality of every professional decision we make, we are gauging the impact that decision will have on our students, and most importantly, ourselves. 

At the start of this school year, I proclaimed that how we, as an educator community, respond to what’s going on will very well dictate how the future of education will look and sound moving forward. So given the amount of teacher movement that has taken place over the last nine months, I think it’s safe to say that a great majority of us have answered the call and many more will follow.

As we enter the summer break, we must shift our focus toward recalibrating ourselves and, in the words of Beyoncé, catching a new vibration that will propel us to build a new foundation for our school system … a foundation that will humanize teachers, students, parents, and all other stakeholders of the education process. 

Regardless of whether you remain in the classroom or decide to transition into a new career, the task of building a new foundation for our education system is one to which we all must commit.  

The current way we do education is outdated, ineffective, and just flat-out dehumanizing. It doesn’t have to be like that. We deserve so much better. Our students deserve so much better. So let’s let this summer serve as the genesis of building a new foundation for a better system—one that won’t break our souls.

Kwame Sarfo-Mensah
Kwame Sarfo-Mensah is the founder of Identity Talk Consulting, LLC., an independent educational consulting firm that provides professional development and consulting services globally to educators who desire to enhance their instructional practices and reach their utmost potential in the classroom. He is the author of two books, "Shaping the Teacher Identity: 8 Lessons That Will Help Define the ...

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