“Don’t be lazy, Mr. France.”
That’s what one of my students said to me the other day. I can’t remember exactly what elicited such an asinine thought, but of course, I have to remember that I am teaching blissfully ignorant beings. They don’t know any better.
So, in my normal sassy attitude, I placed my hands on my hips and tossed a fake surprised and dramatically offended smile towards that student.
“You know,” I replied. “Believe it or not, teachers are people, too. I do, in fact, have a life outside of you guys.”
And this thought seemed to be one of the most provocative things these kids had heard since they found out boys can wear pink. We quickly moved on, because, really, who has time to discuss such trivial things? However, the moment stuck with me, and it sparked an internal conversation in my head.
|Because sometimes… I sit at the back table and have
my students take a picture of me in a flat cap.
It always hits me about this time of year–how much time I’ve dedicated my job, how little time I’ve dedicated to myself and my personal life, and mostly, how I’ve created this superhero persona, at least in my kids’ and parents’ eyes–that I live and breathe to serve and teach.
This simply isn’t the truth.
It goes without saying that I am in love with my job, and it would be an understatement to say that I love to learn. But I love other things, too, and that’s okay. Well, at least it should be.
Here’s the thing: As teachers, we are constantly operating off of a set of values and philosophies. We have things we believe to be true about our craft, and we have principles that we believe serve kids the best. However, we also believe that not all children can be reached in the same way. Correction: All kids CANNOT and WILL NEVER be reached in the same way. #fact #omgsotrue
And while we, too, want to believe that we are superheroes and can save the world from illiteracy and a lack of number sense, we simply cannot do it all, and still have a life that fulfills us in all the ways that one should. It’s like any relationship. The other “thing,” whether it be a person, job, hobby, is an intense and even integral part of our identity, but it is simply one part, despite it’s relative size to the other parts of us. It is one part that composes my embodied entity.
And some parts are bigger than others. Teaching is a huge part of me. It stimulates me, and it makes me feel purposeful. Taking teaching out of my life would be a huge upset and would disrupt my sense of normalcy, but that does not make the other parts of me less important.
Regardless of these other parts, however, and despite the knowledge that in order to be truly healthy, we need to take care of all of these parts, teachers are still expected to do “whatever it takes.” They are expected to be the superheroes that no one can actually be. I don’t care how good you are; it’s just not possible.
And herein lies the problem. We are constantly operating off of these philosophies and doing our best to hold true to them, but in order to truly give our best effort to reach every student at every moment of the day, we need to give the entirety of our conscious lives to our craft (and even some of our unconscious lives #idreamaboutmyjob), a mere impossibility. If we did that, we’d burn out and do more damage than good.
But here’s the catch: Fostering a sense of love for ourselves and our personal lives means that sometimes we just have to stop working, but this also means that we are knowingly stopping, and potentially not doing “whatever it takes” to help kids.
We are teachers. We are imperfect. We are limited. We are not superheroes, we need to cut ourselves a break, and it pains me to see the bad rap that teachers are getting from the media and our country, in general.
‘Merica, it’d be nice if you cut us a break, too.
We’re doing our best, and that’s just going to have to cut it.