Someone recently asked me if I consider myself a “slacker teacher”.
And I gave a polite, though obviously offended, no.
So let’s start by explaining where this idea came from: in my group of friends, there are five teachers. We all have less than five years of experience, and so all of us probably have a lot of growing up to do. Three of my friends bring grading and other work with them to our hang out nights.
I actually have a deep aversion to bringing work home. I’m vehemently opposed to it because I believe I should be paid for the work I do. My contract requires that I work from 7:30 – 4:00. It requires that I assess student work, incorporate 21st century skills into my lesson plans, and help my students meet state standards. My contract does not require me to spend 3-5 hours grading papers after work.
So… probably what happens is my friends compare me to the three teachers who grade papers in the evening, and assume that I’m not doing my job.
Another thing to factor in here is that I refuse to talk about my job when I get home.
When asked how work was, I give the answer, “good,” and I move on. This is intentional.
If I talk about work when I’m at home, I’ll go insane.
Work is really stressful. Students tell me crap that I’ve never wanted to know about anyone. I hear stories about their Pelvic Inflamatory Disease, abusive parents, bodily functions, abortions, hang-overs… I’ve had teenage boys declare their undying love for me. I’ve had students shoot themselves overnight.
You cannot tell me that you’d want to deal with that stuff for 8 hours, then come home and deal with it some more. I don’t care if that makes my friends think I’m a slacker. I’d rather have Ballatrix use the cruciatus curse on me every afternoon than deal with that stuff more than is necessary.
You see, I believe in the cruciality of boundaries.
Teaching is this crazy important thing where I get to make a real difference.
But it’s also a job.
And it’s one of the few jobs out there where we declare “slacker!’ when work is separated from personal life.
That’s all I’m really doing… separating work from personal life. I don’t take my personal life into the classroom, and I don’t take work home with me.
That doesn’t make me a slacker. It’s wise.
And I advise all new teachers to set boundaries early… because I’ve known more teachers who spend all night working and hate their lives than teachers who work 7:30 – 4:00 and love what they do.
I love what I do.
I just don’t want it to be the only thing that I do.
I want to have friends. I want to write a book, volunteer, play video games, run a marathon, and drink a lot of coffee.
That doesn’t make me a slacker.
I’m a very good teacher. Most of the time, I’ll say that I suck, because I could always be better and because I truly wish I’d been good enough to keep that freshman girl from killing herself… but the truth is that even on my worst day, I’m better than half of my colleagues on their best days.
Depending on what criteria you evaluate us on.
Evaluate us on relationships with students, and I win nearly every time.
Because I care.
Because I’m the one students tell about their Pelvic Inflamatory Disease, abusive parents, bodily functions, abortions and hangovers.
Evaluate based on number of papers graded or hours spent planning, and I’ll lose every time. Because, honestly, students probably walk out of other teachers’ classrooms knowing a little more about literary analysis than they learn in mine…
Because the only time I’m committed to working at home is the few minutes I spend praying for my students every night.
And that’s not going to change.
Because I don’t believe it should.
But in all honesty, “Wouldn’t you call yourself a slacker teacher?” is probably one of the most offensive and ridiculous questions anyone has ever asked me. And teachers get asked a lot of offensive and ridiculous questions.
But, let’s get real here, it isn’t even possible to be a slacker and a teacher… and keep your job.
It’s not that kind of job.