A friend and I met up to eat Mexican food the other day, because who doesn’t like stuffing fried tortilla chips topped with cheese dip in their mouth? She also is a teacher. She is on year seven of her teaching career, and I am on year two. She said something to me that has sat with me all night. She said, “I have decided that I am not taking work home with me anymore”. She was referring to actual work. Papers to grade, lessons to plan, etc. We will always take stress from work home with us. It’s so hard to keep 7 hours of your day and additional hours of your energy and thoughts out of your home.
After 6 or so weeks of being in school, the new has worn off and the grind starts to happen.You know how your brakes will do that little squeal for a bit and then when it starts grinding you realize you let yourself go to long without a check-up?
That’s my analogy for teachers. You’ve got to give yourself a check-up on reality and a check up on your values every so often.
As a responsible teacher, I give my students breaks often. When was the last time I gave myself a break?
You value family? How much time are you spending with them?
You value adventure? Where are you traveling?
You value Christ? How are you growing in Him?
You get my point, right.
Unfortunately teaching goes from being a “job” on paper to being a life in action. Before you even realize it, you spend 12 hours at the school building, and 2 more getting lessons planned when you return home.
If you’re not actually doing something for school, you are thinking about school. And if you’re not thinking about school, you thinking about how you should be thinking about it.
So over this bowl of cheese dip, my fellow teacher friend and I, as hard as we try to get our mind off of school, tried to talk about families and life.
She talked about her new goal to get her planning done while at school. Doesn’t get done at school? It will still be there tomorrow.
Why? Why do we say this? You cannot teach your students about life if you don’t have one. You can’t teach them about family if you don’t see your own. You can’t explain living a balanced lifestyle if yours is all out of whack. You can show them how to let adventures take you places if you spend all your time at school.
Maybe this relationship with work is something ingrained in us, but my personal opinion is that it we have such high exceptions of ourselves from ourselves. Yes, there is A LOT that they ask of teachers. Mu belief is that our long-term tie to our classroom and our students is because they become our children and our lessons become our masterpieces.
If an artist never went outside, how could they paint landscapes? If a musician had never been in love, how are they going to passionately sing about it? If a writer had never been a mom, how could they write “how to” books about parenting? You get my flow? If a teacher does not have a life of their own where they are involved in their community, supportive of their family, active in their friendships, and indulging in hobbies , how are they supposed to teach their students about anything other than “being a teacher.”
No wonder there are a lot bitter, burnt out, tired, or empty feeling teachers.
A possible solution is to prioritize our lives to rearrange our job as a teacher to be a little lower on the totem pole. That way characteristics from our higher priorities above teaching can filter into our lessons and our discussions with our kids.
This looks like setting rules for yourself and your preparation for school. Bringing your work home every night SHOULD NOT happen. Staying multiple weekends at the school in a school year is not helpful. I know this, because I have done it.
We need experienced teachers, not burnt out teachers. We need helpful teachers, not exhausted ones. We need life-breathing teachers, not life sucking.
This was a tough blog to write, because I stepped all over my toes. If you remember ANYTHING, I hoped it’s this:
Being a great teacher is not determined by the number of hours you put into a lesson. It’s not about the elaborate bulletin boards or the fancy technology. Being a great teacher is determined by how you engage the students, how you love the students, and how you encourage learning and a good life for them.
Yes, some lessons require some planning time outside of the classroom. But, when teaching becomes our life, we’ve done a disservice to our students in a strong way.
Go get a mani/pedi and soak in your tub. Go for a jog, take a nap, blow dry your hair. Grab a Sonic drink, take a walk with your hubby, and even take a second to breath. Sit on your couch with you favorite Netflix show and let you feet stay propped up for at least 45 minutes.
For people like me, its harder to take it slow and to do less. It literally pains me at times to sit. But, oh, do I and my family, and my students, and my community need it.
That Teacher Wife.