Teachers have this nasty habit of not being able to stop thinking about their work. Even during the holidays you might see a teacher at a Thanksgiving dinner steering the conversation to what they are currently doing in class to ask for input from those around the table. You might even see that same teacher then frantically grading a final stack of papers while everyone else is watching the big game on TV. Let’s be honest, teaching is an consuming profession. Most teachers I’ve met in my career are the ones who show up at their classroom at 6:30AM and rarely, if ever, leave before 6:00PM. Every day teachers work eleven and a half hours at school and then go home to think, conceptualize and plan/grade/stress about the next morning. Mind you a teacher’s contract usually states that they are paid for only the hours that the school is open (7:30-3:30 in my district).
This is one of many reasons why teacher burnout is so prevalent. Most sane, rational people can’t keep up this pace of immersion in their work for more than a few weeks straight. Yet teachers do this year after year. Most often we don’t realize that we are dangerously close to burning out. We get so consumed by the moment, by the next lesson, by the child who needs extra support, or by the upcoming evaluation by an administrator that we don’t recognize the warning signs. It sometimes takes an outside helping hand to tell us that enough is enough. The work will be there tomorrow and no matter how much you complete tonight, there will be just as much tomorrow. So I’m telling you right now…
Let it go.
I shut my laptop and consciously choose not to open it the ENTIRE Thanksgiving holiday. I didn’t write a single sentence for a blog post, grade a single paper or quiz, and did not think about about anything but family, friends and just let go for a few days. That was the hardest part, the letting go. It took me most of Thursday but thanks to the snowpocalypse I was without power for a day and a half. What a relief that I didn’t have the choice of checking in, even with my phone! Yet after I did finally embrace it, I felt lifted. I actually engaged in conversation about something other than teaching! We talked about movies, beer, football, and I was even able to watch an entire soccer game in which my beloved home team won their semifinal match to make it to the MLS cup (GO REVS!)
We as educators have to make hard choices about our lives and the balance that we try to keep between our ‘home life’ and our ‘school life’. Usually the lines blur and many times there is no line at all, not even a blurry one but if this post serves a reminder to just one other teacher then it has served it’s purpose. I resolving to strive for more balance with the following mantra:
DON’T BRING WORK HOME AT LEAST TWICE A WEEK AND NEVER ON WEEKENDS
Seriously. Don’t even put it in your backpack or bag. I’ve been guilty of taking work home with the intention of completing it while watching a TV with my wife. What happens in reality is that I want to spend quality time with her so I don’t actually complete any grading while watching the Walking Dead. I go to bed feeling guilty about it and can’t sleep so I get up super early the next day and rush in my classroom to try and get it done. If I had just left it at work I would have been able to sleep better at night because I would have planned the next day with the intention of grading as number one on my to-do list. ARGH! When will I ever learn… hopefully now.