Why is it so hard for teachers to take a break? There’s a teacher in my school now who recently hasn’t been eating or sleeping because all she does it work. She gives up her weekend and time with her boyfriend, to work. Some teachers might look and say: “well, that’s just part of the job”. But, I reject that idea! I’ve been in education for 15 years now and I’ve rarely had to give up on “life things” to work. I only do that if there is a special event or for parent teacher conferences etc.
Why teachers find it so easy to let work consume their lives:
1. Most teachers are perfectionists. We have very high work ethic and want things done in a certain way. That means we spend hours agonizing over one thing until we get it just right.
Hard truth: That worksheet you’ve spent hours working on might not ever get used again. Next year, you might be teaching a different grade or a different curriculum. Or you might just come up with a better idea. Instead, of insisting of getting it perfect the first time. Make it good, see if it helps your students, and then make it better for next time.
2. Our passion and love for children won’t let us say “no”. Most teachers came into this line of work because we wanted to make an impact on kids and we know kids deserve so much. We feel that any personal need or want we might have as an individual can’t be as important as a child.
Hard truth: Kids are important, but so are you! You can only help your students if you are in the best physical, mental and emotional state yourself. Taking care of yourself if not just about you, but it actually helps you be more productive and effective in your teaching. So next time you feel guilty for taking a break and fueling one of your other passions, see it not as a break but an investment in future productivity.
3. Maybe, just maybe you loose yourself in your job because you’re afraid of what the rest of life might bring. This could be the case with anyone devoting themselves to their job.
Hard truth: Most teachers don’t finish their career in teaching. Don’t be afraid to pursue other things and enjoy other talents and passions you might have. You may find you’re good not just at teaching, but a lot of other things as well.
This is a graphic taken from MonsterPost about being a workaholic.
I think there are a lot of teachers that would identify with how how these monsters are feeling. Most teachers even feel guilty for taking a sick day. I used to be like that (maybe I still am a bit). Last year I lost my voice and couldn’t even speak but I still went to school for a day. Finally, the second day I stayed home because I decided I really wasn’t doing much good without a voice anyways. Let me tell you a little secret you might not realize. Most school districts won’t pay you for unused sick days!! I just left a job I had worked at for 2 years. I had stored up 15 sick days and when I left they told me they wouldn’t pay for any of them. My district only pays sick days to people who retire. That means those days I pulled myself out of bed and dragged myself to school instead of calling in sick…. well I could have actually gotten paid the exact same to stay at home. Use your sick days teachers!!!
My tip: At the beginning of the year, spend some time preparing a quality sub lesson plan. Not a fluff plan just so you can check it off your list. Make several days worth of plans that could be used anytime throughout the year and would really benefit your students. That way, if you do get sick you don’t have to feel guilty that your students are loosing out on a day of your brilliant teaching!
So if you are consumed with teaching, how do you begin to change?
First, you can read specific ways of how you can lessen your workload in my other blog post. These strategies can help you finish the required tasks of teaching, faster.
Second, realize that you need to change. Being a great teacher starts by being great yourself! You need to understand that ultimately you will help your students more by making this change.
Third, set small goals. Create a set time where you stop working every day. No matter what still isn’t finished, if that time comes, you stop and go home.
Fourth, rely on others! So many teachers let themselves become isolated and feel they need to do everything themselves. Friends, there are sooooo many free, amazing resources out there that have already been created for you. You do not need to recreate it! Use your fellow grade-level teachers. Delegate the work. Maybe one teacher plans for Science and one teacher plans for Math and then you share materials. There is nothing wrong with this. It doesn’t make you a lazy or bad teacher. It saves your energy for other things. Like investing in your students!