I almost get it. You know…the whole “teachers couldn’t be married” thing of years past. A teacher without a family is a lot like a religious in the Catholic faith; wholly dedicated to their community and available.
I have a list of things I need to do each night and I seem to get a lot more of them done than I used to during my first few years of teaching. One reason for this is simply because planning and grading don’t take as long once you’ve dialed in a system that works for you. The first year, I seemed to flounder with all of that. I’m a much better planner now. Another reason for this is that I don’t have much to do on a weeknight at home, other than school work.
I can’t imagine raising a family while being a teacher, yet many amazing parents do it and do it well. I can’t fathom going home from school with all of the work that has piled up throughout the day, and in addition to grading it, to have to care for children and spouses, clean up after others, help with schoolwork, feed an army, and then maybe carve out a little slice of personal time. Teacher parents, you are ROCK STARS.
Teaching isn’t exactly a career where you can leave your work at the door. When I’m not actively doing stuff involving my students, I’m thinking about them or I’m mentally planning something that they might like. During the school year and well into the summer, my thoughts aren’t even my own…they belong to my classroom.
Thinking of all the tasks that administrators, school districts, and society want done from teachers, in the name of “best practice”, it would almost be possible to finish them…if teachers had no family, friends, or social life of their own. Teacher burn-out is a real thing.
I’m in a situation where a lot of my focus can be on my profession, this allows me to work at a slow and steady pace that doesn’t seem to exhaust me. Yet, there are still plenty of nights where that day’s grading gets pushed back. There are still plenty of Thursdays where I haven’t written our differentiated spelling tests for the next morning. I almost never feel like I do enough.
Even though I have the time to focus on my profession, that doesn’t mean it is healthy for me to spend all my time doing schoolwork. That’s where I’ve learned to be lenient with myself as well. My staying up grading until well past midnight, isn’t going to positively impact the full day I’ll spend with students. My handing back their corrected grammar work from the week may have a larger impact on their learning, but my remembering to order hot chocolate so we can have our first official Hot Chocolate Club (HCC) Kivalina Chapter reward party will have a larger impact on our relationship.
Let’s face it, I forget just about everything…written down or not.
It’s so important to follow through with what you told your students you would do. However, the practice of following through on every little thing and trying to get everything done can leave very little time for anything else. That’s why teachers have to pick and choose their battles. That’s why an elementary teacher may not push their students as hard in social studies, but they may have a killer science unit. That’s why a high school teacher may check homework for completion rather than accuracy. That’s why sometimes it looks like a teacher doesn’t care or isn’t paying attention, but in reality their mind is trying to do everything at once and is sifting through all of the new information a school day brings.
If there was more time in the day, I’m sure teachers would do more. But from where I stand, they already “do too much”.
Go be humans this weekend. Take a day off. Enjoy your spring break.
With that, by the time this posts (weather permitting*), I’ll be in Anchorage spending time with a friend and getting my adventure on!
*Thanks to weather, I rescheduled this post…but hopefully I’ll be there soon! (Either way, I am off my island and was able to get delivery (fresh)!