Our Students Don’t Clock Out at 3:30 PM. Why Should We?

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There are a lot of people who complain about how we, as educators, are underpaid.  I agree that those who are truly committed to the profession probably are.  Rather than open that can of worms (and maybe I already did just a little) I want to focus on the time the education profession requires in order to in fact be a great teacher.

Teaching is not a clock in and clock out, your-work-never-comes-home-with-you type of job.  A lot of professions require “after hours”: medical professions, law, real estate, parenting–the list goes on.  If you can’t make teaching a part of your life, not your whole life, but a part of your life outside of teaching, then I really don’t think this is the job for you.

I know people have complained to me, “I have a life too, I’m not going to stay up late grading every night….” and I get that.  From 3:30 – 8 PM I’m a Mom.  The minute my son goes to sleep, the book bag reopens and I’m thinking about next week.  Why?  Because, I really don’t want to stink at my job.  That doesn’t mean I never have a lesson that doesn’t spark something within my students, like I hoped, but at least I didn’t settle for some pre-made, boring crap of an activity that did nothing more for my students than fill time.

As educators we have a lot of meetings, and quite frankly, you need to be showing up for them.  Yes, they’re before or after our “work day”, but it involves your students, so show up.  I give exceptions if you’re double-booked with another school activity/committee meeting/supervision commitment, but if it’s an IEP or SAT, and you don’t have one of the above commitments listed as an excuse, then you need to be there.  Some schools I’ve worked with require it or suffer the consequences while others are satisfied with the minimum one classroom teacher.  The problem with the latter?  It’s always the same teacher coming to every meeting.

I’ve had colleagues ask me on Work Days (and I am forever grateful for the occasional Work Day), “What are you going to DO for the whole time?”  Why is this question even asked?  I’m smiling the whole time I’m answering their question, and on the inside I’m taking slow, deep breaths while explaining (what I think is FREAKING OBVIOUS), “Grading, lesson planning, reorganizing, editing, polishing, tweaking, brainstorming, etc., etc. (LIKE YOU SHOULD BE DOING!!!!!!!!!!!)”.

The job also doesn’t stop outside of the classroom when you’re out in public in terms of the image or behavior you should be exhibiting.  Again, I’ve heard colleagues in the past (I’ve worked in four different buildings in my career, so don’t assume which school/s I’m referring to) complain about how they should be able to be themselves, be free, let loose, etc. when off the clock.  You’re in charge of children.  You’re the poster person for public education.  If “being free” is becoming extremely inebriated in public, posting photos of yourself on social media looking like you’re trying to recreate Animal House, or simply functioning with limited clothing on, regardless of how trim you are…..then you need to try a different profession.

Think about it.  If I saw photos or first-hand behavior of my son’s teacher, doctor, scout leader, clergy member, daycare provider, friend’s parent, etc behaving like a complete juvenile donkey, I would be ending those relationships and cutting our losses…and I’m not even sure the loss would be significant since we’re supposed to be the professionals; the adults that are supposed to model not only proper behavior, but also model what it takes to positively contribute to this planet.

If you’ve chosen your contribution to be education, then don’t expect an 8 AM – 3:30 PM (approximation) schedule.  Our students don’t get to clock out at 3:30 PM, so why should we?

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