Saturday, July 26, 2014

SELFLESS VS. SELFISH...IT'S A FINE LINE

It's that time of year again.  The time where teachers across America are hauling crap tons of supplies into their barren classrooms, and, with elbow grease, a frequent flyer card to a big box craft store, and a glue gun (and let's be honest here, a lot of hours spent on PINTEREST), they create glamour in the form of an inviting classroom out of nothing.  

They begin to think curriculum maps and unit plans and fun, creative ways of bringing children to a better understanding in Math and Reading and Writing and Science and Social Studies.  They are invigorated and rested and ready to tackle the world!

And once again, it's that time of year for the sappy, soul-sucking articles to hit Facebook making it plainly obvious what all teachers need to do ... sacrifice their own personal lives for those that they are teaching as well as all of their family members.

Melodramatic much?

All the time!  It's a character flaw.  However, before you get all offended and take up the teacher cross and beat me over the head with it, allow me to explain.

I love my job.  I love the families that I serve.  I love my kiddos.  I am beginning my 13th year in this business with the same fresh-faced enthusiasm I had 13 years ago.  Okay, that might be a slight stretch, but you all get what I mean, I hope.

The point is, I am just as excited and nervous and thrilled and full of anticipation as the kiddos are when those doors open on that first day of school. 

Recently, however, and I wish I could put my finger on when exactly the tide shifted, it has become accepted practice that teachers are teachers beyond the school day.  No, I am not just talking grading and lesson planning.  I am talking an expectation that we be tied to our emails ... that we make sure to friend each and every parent on our personal Facebook pages ... that we make sure to give each parent our cell phone numbers, sealing the deal on making ourselves available to them 24-7.  

I read an article the other day on Facebook that I've noticed numerous people share.  It infuriated me, and I refused to share it.  Why such a strong reaction?  Because it perpetuated the notion that teachers, in order to be considered a fantastic teacher in the eyes of parents, must go so far above and beyond for individual kids, that their own personal lives are sacrificed.  My reaction was so strong that I checked myself with two friends that I feel understand where I am coming from in reading this article.  Surprisingly, they agreed with me.  Both said they had the same reaction to the article. 

The societal push is large and strong, and a lot of my colleagues have unwittingly or unknowingly jumped on the band wagon making it extremely difficult for those of us that have finally had enough.  You see, we are expected to help solve parenting problems and be available for homework help and generally have an open ear to any and all gripes that seem reasonable at 10:30 at nigh -- or later.  

What!?!  Someone has the audacity to contact me at 10:30 p.m.?  Yes.  They do.  I have had it happen numerous times. Early on in my career, I once had a parent call me at 10:45 p.m. to discuss with me the fact that she didn't like homework.  In general.  The stuff I gave her kid.  The entire theory behind it.  Everything.  She took the time, she told me, to call all the people in the phone book with my last name to find me and discuss this with me at 10:45 p.m.

That's why my phone number is unlisted.

I have had numerous requests for meetings ... at 10:30 p.m.   I am not sure if the individuals that were requesting the meetings thought it imperative to have that meeting right then? Or if it was just necessary to bug me with it at 10:30 p.m. Either way, I was awakened during those times to text messages requesting meetings. 

I have been texted at 11:00 p.m. to inform me their child was sick and wouldn't be at school the following day.  Don't get me wrong.  I appreciate the thought behind wanting me to know.  However, 11:00 p.m. perhaps wasn't the best time. 

Thus the reason I am no longer handing out my cell phone number. 

I have had numerous requests for meetings during my vacations.  Let me ask you something. When you are on vacation?  Do you take meetings?  

Thus the reason I set very specific boundaries as to when and where I will be available during my vacation times.

I can imagine, at about this point in my blog, many of you are angered by my words.  There was a time in my life that I would be concerned by that anger.  At this particular point in my life, I no longer care.

There are studies out there that purport that teachers have a higher than average rate of physical illnesses (beyond the normal flu-like stuff we all get during the school year).  There are just as many studies that refute those claims.  I will tell you from personal experience, the number of my colleagues on blood pressure meds, migraine meds, anti-anxiety meds, statins, and a whole host of other meds is, quite frankly, staggering.  And it's more than just a large group of society that all have poor genes AND get into teaching.  Something is amiss, and I've had to deal with it personally rather recently.

When your own father sits you down and tells you that if something doesn't change, and soon, this job will eventually kill you, it's time to listen. When your doctor warns you about the ill-effects of allowing your job to rule your life, you listen.  When that same doctor kindly and gently encourages some rather strict boundaries, you again listen.  Or at least you should ...  I did.

I have had some wonderful, wonderful families who have allowed me to share their children's lives.  They have been supportive and loving and just downright amazing.  It's for those families that I continue doing this job.  However, I am doing this job with some pretty strict boundaries this year, and I recognize that they will, more than likely, not win me TEACHER OF THE YEAR.  I am okay with that.  I have to be.  

For some, this decision will be considered selfish.  I will live with their assessment.  I will also live with the knowledge that I am doing something for me, that makes me a healthier person, a kinder person, a person that hopefully my kids will be comfortable being around, and a person that will make my family proud.  In my eyes, that seems more selfless than selfish.  


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