I’m going to write about things that I’ve heard people say before. I do not care. It does not matter. If you have something to say, say it. Say it regularly.

Today, it’s time to talk about teacher hours and guilt. This will not be a deep dive. But. It might. I’m going to write, and I’m going to write from the heart, and I’m not going to edit. This is free for me and free for you.

MANY teachers work well beyond the hours for which they’re paid. It’s clearly exploitation. The system, the state, the school board, many administrators, and the culture of school rely on some very common truths in teachers’ hearts. Many teachers are incredibly conscientious people — this is a generalization, sure, but it’s so common. I’ve known so many teachers who try their damnedest to be perfect, to make no mistakes, to let nothing fall. This is a trap. More on that later. I’m not organizing my thoughts for you here, I’m writing to organize my thoughts. The second common truth is that teaching comes as a sense of mission. You’re not going to change that. That’s not all teachers, sure, but it’s a lot of us.

These two common truths make us very easy to exploit. No matter the paycheck, from states where teacher pay is criminally low to places where teachers are doing alright financially, you’ll find classrooms that are open hours after the end of the contract day. You’ll find dedicated educators (Let’s not create a mash-up of those words. Deducators does not have a good ring to it!) working at home into the night, grading essays on the couch, spending their own money on lessons and plans, and I know, me ranting about this is not going to fix any of this.

I can set my own limits, though. They’re soft limits because flexibility is important to me, but I really believe this: You shouldn’t do work after contract time unless it makes you feel good. Now, if you really want to put together something cool to support a neat thing that your kids are doing, that’s different. If there’s something that you want to do to make your job more personally satisfying, I suppose that’s okay, too. But if there’s something that you’re supposed to do, and there hasn’t been a single moment during work time to do it? Do it tomorrow. Make sure your parents know that you’re going to take care of your family (see my definition of family below!) during non-work hours. Draw the line. It’s going to be okay. We overplan, and we overtry, and we overkill ourselves.

This isn’t good for us, it’s not good for our families, and it’s not good for our students. Do your best, and then go home. Leave stuff at work. Treat yourself and your family well, and then you’ll have goodwill left for your students. Overwork yourself, and you’re going to resent them. Maybe not today, but you’ll come to. You’ll be angry about your paycheck, you’ll be grumpy at work, you’ll snap at people. Sooner or later, trying conscientiously to get everything done and be perfect is going to make you hate your mission. That’s all. I mean, I think that’s all.

Oh wait, no, the definition of family — and I have to hurry, because the litter box is suddenly very stinky — that’s been promised. Your family is you and anyone at home that you care about. It could be your spider plant, it could be you and your girlfriend or boyfriend. It could be you and a cat named George. It could be you and your spouse and a dog named Donna. I mean, it could also be you and another adult and a bunch of kids, but your family is you and the beings at home that you care about.

That’s all now. I love you.

Written by

I teach kids, snuggle with cats (mine) and dogs (when I can). I eat plants, draw pictures, ride bikes, and I like to read and write. @MagicPantsJones on social.

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