I am not going to write about how teachers are over-worked, even though they are. I’ve already written about the long hours, the stacks of grading, the unrealistic expectations, the impossible demands, and the exhaustion and guilt from all of this that ultimately creates burnt out or former teachers. Instead, I am going to write about balance.
Balance is why I’ve not published a blog in a long, long time. It’s why our toilet in the guest bathroom is still not fixed. One of the shudders on the window above the garage is still missing. It’s at least partly why I’ve gained a little more weight over the last three months (that, and a slowing metabolism and increase in consumption of calories). There are cobwebs in the corners of my house and my accent tables hold more dust than pictures. Two-thirds of my boys are so overdue for a haircut that I have forgotten what their ears look like. Balance is why my kitchen is nearly empty and why I fear I might have forgotten how to cook entirely. It’s why I haven’t touched my new violin in weeks and weeks.
Balance says that other things take priority: my health, my husband, my children. Watching my sons play soccer or football is more important than scrubbing the baseboards. Going for a jog with my husband is more important than vacuuming. Putting out the fall decorations and shopping for birthday presents and spending time with my parents and parents-in-law—these are all more important than figuring out that new violin.
And my family is more important than a job, no matter how important that job is.
For decades teachers have been told otherwise. We have been fed the very noble idea that teaching is more than a career—it is a calling, a ministry. We have been led to believe that if we don’t work hours and hours at home, sacrifice time away from ourselves and our family and friends, then we are not truly devoted to our students.
But this way of thinking disrupts that balance. When we put teaching before everything else all kinds of unfortunate things could happen. We could become burnt out and bitter. We could ruin our health. We could have to live with regret because we took too much away from our family to give to our job.
This is not to say that teaching is unimportant. I know that what I do every day matters. I love my students and their success means worlds to me. I take what happens in my classroom to heart because those people sitting there have immeasurable worth. I feel privileged to be their teacher and work very hard to be the very best I can for them.
But our students do not benefit when the balance is off. We must teach them by example. More than teaching them academic content and skills, we have the opportunity to teach them what good living looks like. When we sacrifice too much of ourselves for our job, we cannot be our best selves. When we spend too many hours working too hard, our teaching will suffer.
So today I went to church with my family. Then I drove my nephew back to his mom, and we visited for a few minutes. When I got home, my twelve-year-old and I watched a movie together. I wrote a few letters of recommendation for my students and took care of some work emails. I listened to music with my fifteen-year-old. I took a nap, then took my sixteen-year-old to soccer practice. I cooked dinner, graded a few essays, played Spider Solitaire on my computer. My husband and I watched an episode of BBC’s Sherlock with our boys. Then I spent a few minutes going over tomorrow’s lesson plans while my son cuddled next to me in my polka-dot chair and my bulldogs napped on the floor close to my feet. And I smiled and looked forward to the week.
I didn’t worry about the cobwebs or the missing shudder today. And I didn’t get all the papers graded.
But my family and my students know I care about them. And I feel good.
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Welcome to my Blog! I am a wife, mother of three, high school English teacher, and a graduate of the Bluegrass Writers Studio at Eastern Kentucky University. Before anything else, I am a woman of faith.