My husband just started his first teaching job. He was in meetings for two weeks – new teacher orientation, workshops, etc. I got texts from him frequently – “When am I going to be able to get into my classroom?” I smiled. Never during this time – should have taken up knitting when I suggested it, is what I wanted to tell him. Instead, I said, “I know, it stinks. You are not alone in that question. All teachers feel this way during workshop week.” Through his experience, I am reliving what it was like during my first years in the classroom – being in a few different rooms, teaching lessons that take half as long as he planned, and receiving memos to attend meetings that are unrelated to his job. This is the stuff I don’t miss.
I also remember trying to get involved in everything and anything. I wanted to advise student council, coach speech, and I even considered being the advisor for a bowling team. I chaperoned dances, I went to sports games and theater events. I even went to a few “out of the way” events to support and connect with students. I had a lot of energy back then. I am guessing that Tom will start to get that itch as well – the one that really makes you feel like you are giving all you can to each of your students. Plus, since he’s New Guy, I’m betting that his admin will ask him to do all sorts of stuff in addition to his load (which is .8, by the way) – bus duty, hall duty, study hall, lunch duty…you name it, and adult supervision is needed. And, wanting to be seen as a team player, he won’t ever say “no.” He’ll say “yes” – in the spirit of support, and because he wants to be seen as a leader. Leaders take on additional responsibilities, right? Also – he’s a special ed resource room teacher, and he’s got a ton of paperwork to do.
He’s doomed to the unbalanced life of a teacher.
Patrick Ledesma writes the blog, Leading from the Classroom, and talks about this practice of “extra duties” in schools. In many cases, as some of the comments would imply, the “extra duties” often are billed as leadership opportunities, but they have nothing to do with that, as such. Gratefully, Ledesma also talks about how many admins in schools have worked to have a balance of such activities.
At the beginning of my teaching career, I looked at the teachers who were doing “everything” as my role models. I thought that was where it was at. They were always the ones more recognized for their achievements, loved by students, and respected by parents. They were, I thought, the pillars of our school community. As I grew older and wiser, I began to see that those were the folks who also never saw their spouses and kids, and didn’t get home until well after dark. They seemed to still be teaching well – most of them weren’t known as “slackers,” but still. I didn’t want that kind of life for me and my family.
Turns out – I was a much better teacher once I shifted my focus. I didn’t achieve that balance, and all of that involvement really didn’t get me any recognition, or “leadership” points. I still don’t know how to be actively involved in a school community without a personal life suffering, which is why I needed to leave teaching.
How do you say “no” to extra duties that you can’t handle? How do you balance life and teaching? It’s a constant struggle – and I hope that teachers everywhere find that sweet spot in the middle. What an amazing life that would be!