I know you’re finishing up your lesson plan in your classroom right now at six o’clock in the evening drinking whatever stale coffee you have left in your morning mug—I’ve been there.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from staying late at work, it’s that whatever I was working on could have been done the next day or the next week.
As teachers, we’re always trying to get ahead. We always feel like we can give more, do more, be more. But I’ll bet if you’re reading this, you already are.
The thing is, work will always be there. So go home. Go home to your family, your spouse, your children, or whomever your loved ones are at home and be with them.
Truly be with them; make memories and stop working. Yes, I have to swallow this pill every time I leave work and hope that it does its job on the road home. My husband reminds me of this every time I pick up my laptop to start writing IEP’s or my next lesson plan. Don’t get me wrong. I wholeheartedly believe in completing deadlines, but everything else can wait.
Statistics say teachers work an average 50 hours a week and we keep working over 400 hours of overtime a year. At the beginning of the school year, I stayed late at work for almost four months and kept working until nine o’clock at home. The time I was missing with my husband grew on me especially the weight I took home. My go-to spot on the couch was no longer my unwinding place with a glass of wine snuggling up to my husband, but one where I’d snack on a PB & J while my laptop kept my legs warm.
Doing this inordinately drained me. I had no spirit to give my eighteen non-biological kids day after day. This became a chronic problem because my students deserve first class and I wasn’t giving them that. I needed to take care of myself by giving time to all the wonderful things that once nourished me. I needed to feel my husbands hugs and hear the laughter that springs from family gatherings again. I needed to taste the goodness that comes from a fresh glass of wine while soaking myself in a hot lavender bath. I needed to be in nature and feel the sun’s kiss on my skin and see the beauty that comes from blooming trees. I needed to be with my friends and catch up on life. I needed to pray and be OK with not doing anything.
I need to do my life; all that it is when I’m not teaching. I absolutely love my students and what I do as a teacher, but it is not my whole life—so I choose not to give my work all of my time. I choose balance; giving myself to all the different things I love in life.
I realized the work I stayed late to do wasn’t due the next day. I had made up my own rules to make myself feel better in the moment not sensing the taxing impact it was having on my loved ones or myself.
So, my dear teacher friend, you’re not a crummy teacher because you don’t stay late at work. We have one of the largest professions in the country with more than 3.1 million teachers, which means that much more people have your back on that. So go home and sip your cup of evening tea on your front porch and feel the warmth of sunset before dusk hits. It’s OK to choose home and be with your crazy humans before the moon rises. You see, we give our best to our students by giving them a well-rested healthy us—not we got three hours of sleep and ate a PB & J before bed us.
You deserve to go home and truly be home. Your people at home deserve it—and the on average 3,000 students you’ll affect in your career life do too.
You’re already an amazing teacher. It’s time to take care of yourself.
image by Rustic Vegan @ therusticvegan.com