We teachers have been conditioned not to complain. And really, it's in our nature to quietly sacrifice for the good of others. It is one of the things that makes teachers such amazing people. We never got into this job because we were going to earn a big money, have great prestige, or command great power. That is just not who we are.
But, years ago I was watching the Oprah show and something was said that has stayed with me forever. I'm paraphrasing here, but basically You cannot continue to help others unless you take time to fill your own tank.
The powerful part of this statement is in its simplicity and it's obvious truth. It's not about caring enough. Nor is it about organization, time-management, or even love. One simply cannot go on working forever without attending to personal needs from time to time.
I was recently reading a Philosophy of Teaching statement by a fellow teacher in which this quote was highlighted, "Teaching Spanish is my life." . . . wow, really? No interests outside school, no faith community, no hobbies, no loved ones? Teaching Spanish is your life?
I'm passionate about quality education, creating the best experience for my students, showing them love and compassion, and making materials that will be engaging for them. But it is not my life, and I don't think I would be healthy if I didn't have an outside life.
But, more and more, I find that my outside life is eroding away. I haven't had time to knit, make jewelry, or paint in a long time. A friend of mine from my World of Warcraft days (yes, it's true), was chatting with me on Facebook and trying to lure me back in. And I stopped to wonder how I ever had time for that. All I seem to do with myself now is schoolwork - in and out of school.
Do you have a teachers' lounge at your school? A real teachers' lounge - not a workroom, a place for teachers to come together and relax. Do you sit down and eat lunch with your colleagues or do you gulp down a couple of fast bites at your desk while you wait for a student to show up to take a quiz? How many nights per quarter are you spending at school doing Open House, conferences, meetings, dance chaperoning, sports duty, watching the recitals and plays?
And my school is cutting into our planning time in a serious way. It seems they cannot find enough substitutes, so they tap us to cover classes. And I'm losing planning time on Thursday to give the ACT-PLAN. I will also lose planning time to read tests out loud for students in other classes. And again when we have mandatory meetings during out planning.
So when do we do our planning? Well, that's easy - we do it at home. I take time away from my six-year-old son, my elderly mother, my beloved husband and my pets. I take time away from knitting, television, sculpting. I take so much time away from myself that I hardly know who I am apart from my job. (No hyperbole - I really do lose touch with the real me, far too often.) So, even though I think it's not sane, it looks like teaching Spanish actually IS my life.
I am beginning to feel like I have gotten into an unstable partnership. I still love my partner, but this is no longer a healthy relationship.