It’s not that kind of job.


242/365: Lesson plans

Image by DavidDMuir via Flickr

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 don’t.

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.

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9 thoughts on “It’s not that kind of job.

  1. Good on you, Katie. I try to set up boundaries like that too- work at work and home at home, for the same reasons. I want my sanity and my peace and if I do work all the time I won’t have either. Great post ‘slacker’! 😉

  2. Jolly good! Haters are gonna hate. Do what you need to do to keep your sanity. Boundaries for sure. My fiancee went to college to be a teacher and her mom is a teacher, and her aunt, cousins, grandmother…. you get the picture. I understand and for what it is worth, good job.

  3. Amen Katie! I also want to point out that you are extremely efficient in what you do and you don’t waste time. You get crap done.

    I have also been reassessing my boundaries about work. I spent the last like 6 months thinking about work, doing work, and worrying about work ALL the time. Lately, I’ve been trying to “reclaim my identity” after work. I don’t want my identity to be in my job. I’m more than that, and when my identity gets too wrapped up in my job, I start really obessing over it and being a crazy perfectionist because I ruin my idenity when I don’t do my job perfectly.

    Good post! Today is an especially good day for me to have read this post because I’ve been so busy this week! I’m going home tonight to reclaim my identity!

    • That’s awesome, Lori. I think I stole several of the ideas in this post from talking to you. You’ve given me a lot of perspective about working full-time. I’m wiser because of you 🙂

  4. Boundaries are so important, especially for teachers. You are so right about seperating home and work. We are not our jobs and we shouldn’t feel guilty about being whole. well-rounded people outside of work. I loved reading this post!

  5. I love your honesty! Teaching is one of those jobs where sometimes you should leave it all at the door. I have several teacher friends who have told me horror stories about the things they have to endure but I always applaud them because they stick it out because they believe in what they do. The teachers that carry every burden and work hours after they turn off the classroom lights will be the very ones burned out in a short time. Set boundaries and leave the teacher hat at the door.

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