Sunday, October 2, 2011

Teacher Guilt Vs. Mommy Guilt

The name I have chosen for myself is TeacherMomNJ because those are the three things that define me as a person. Teacher, Mother, Jersey Girl (not a Jersey Shore type girl or a Jerseylicious type girl, just a real no nonsense woman with kick butt attitude). I am also a wife, daughter, sister, cousin and friend. Sometimes maintaining the balance in my life can be very difficult.

Many times we are asked what is a good teacher. On many teacher blogs and articles you hear how teachers spend an exorbitant amount of their personal time on the job. Those teachers who go in at 6:30 am and stay until 6:30pm. The ones who create and maintain websites for their classes, who spend hours and hours on preparation and assessment, those who create teacher resources for others to use. It's almost as though the self-sacrifice is a badge of honor and that sacrifice has become expected. Those who don't go that extra 10 miles vs. just the extra mile, are sometimes made to feel guilty.

The same problem occurs for moms. What does it take to be a good mommy? Is it the cleanest house? Is it someone with the most exceptional children who get nothing but good grades in school? Are the best moms the ones who are full time homemakers who dedicate their lives to their kids and families? Frankly I think any parent who has non-homicidal children who know how to be responsible and get along with others isn't doing too bad.

I want to be great at both jobs. What person doesn't want to excel at what they have chosen to do? Unfortunately keeping the balance can be hard, and if I spend more time on one job than the other, I get the guilt pushing in on both sides. (I used to be Catholic, and I am very familiar with guilt.) I have recently been dealing with medical issues that sap all of my energy, so the time and energy I can dedicate to anything is at a premium. Therefore, the guilt I feel for NOT being able to dedicate MORE time and energy to my children at home and my children at work is at an all time high. It begs the question WHY should I feel that way at all?

I spend 8 hours a day at work given my students everything I got. I get in early, work through lunch and prep, then stay a little late to set up for the next day. When I get home I have almost nothing left. Due to my exhaustion and lack of energy, I can't give my own children my best, and there is nothing left over for my husband or even myself.

Why do teachers feel compelled to do this? Teaching is just about the only job where you bring your work home. Where you are EXPECTED to work for free all the extra overtime. Well, I'm done. I've already had to quit my second job in direct sales because the sacrifices of time and energy were too much and I was spread too thin. My 8 hours are all I am willing to put in because my job as mom is just as, if not more important. 10 years as a teacher has taught me my own value as a parent. The kids most likely to slip through the cracks are the ones who don't have enough support from their parents. They may have their love and devotion, but quite often it's time that makes the difference. That isn't just for poor kids. Affluent kids who have workaholic or absentee parents face the same issues. When parents ask me what they can do for their kids, I simply tell them to give them your time, not things that can be bought.  Go places together, read stories, and just talk to them.

I know I do a good job. It has taken 10 years, but I have developed the efficiency to do my job at my job. I am no longer willing to sacrifice my children or my family. I may give a 9th hour here or there, but after 10 years I know there is nothing that can't wait until tomorrow.  My hope is that as I get my medical issues sorted out I will have more energy, but until then, this is all I have to give and I refuse to feel guilty about it.

I guess the moral of the story is, stop giving us more and more work to do. If you couldn't do it in a 7-8 hour day, than I shouldn't be expected to either. I feel that the #1 most important thing I do at work, is the direct instruction of my students. The attention I give directly to THEM! So policy makers, stop giving us more. Compile your own data. My job says to write plans, lead my students, assess and adjust instruction according to those assessments, and to facilitate LEARNING. Anything else you want me to do isn't in my job description. Teachers need to step up and say NO MORE! Stop letting people walk all over you and stop convincing yourself that you are doing it for the kids. Frankly, if you are a good teacher and you try to keep that pace forever, even later when you have a family of your own, you WILL burn out and won't be good to anybody? You need to have a life of your own. You need to keep the balance. Keep your sanity and stay connected to the world so that you can help your students connect to the world.