It was the summer of 2008 as I sat and cried all through the church service. Not just tears, but the gasping, heaving, ugly cry.
A dear friend couldn’t help but notice that I was in distress as we were filing out of the pews after the service. She responded, “I’m going to call you this afternoon.”
“O-o-ooo-kaaaay”, I cried.
My cries had stifled to a steady stream of tears as I ate a quick lunch at home and got my family ready to go meet friends for an afternoon pool date.
The phone rang and on the other end of the line, I heard my friend’s voice asking me what was wrong. The ugly cry was back in full force, and not wanting my daughter to hear nor see me in such a state, I shut myself inside my closet and wailed, “I… have… to go…back to sc-schooool t-t-tomorroooow.”
While it took some explaining on my part for my friend to understand my distraught state, I bet most teachers reading this understand completely, if not empathize.
We leave behind the lazy days of summer spent relaxing with our families, pursuing hobbies and dreaming of the day we don’t have to work and are swept into the whirlwind that is “Back to School.” Once we walk through those classroom doors, life becomes like a runaway train and we’re left constantly chasing after time. More aptly said, it is like going from 0 to 60 in 1 second.
So, I want to encourage you, dear teachers, friends, to take care of yourself this school year. You can work until the janitor locks the building every night and still not get it all done. Those hours will lead you to burn-out before you can say ‘Winter Break.’
When you go home at the end of the day, leave school in the classroom. You deserve to come home to a respite, clear your mind and spend time rejuvenating. Not only will you will be better for it, but so will your family and your students.
I know what you’re thinking. There isn’t enough time in your school day to grade papers, prepare lessons, return parent phone calls, attend meetings, enter scores, clean the classroom, help the new teacher, tutor struggling students, complete committee responsibilities, gather teaching materials, and still be able to get home at a reasonable hour, cook a decent meal, help the kids with homework, do a load of laundry……I know.
If you choose to neglect your personal well-being, if you choose to let the school year dominate your life, you are playing victim to the profession. Don’t be a victim. Victims don’t make good teachers. Victims don’t make good mothers. Victims don’t make good wives. Victims don’t make good colleagues, friends, or neighbors.
After being the victim for so long, one Monday morning last school year, I broke down, snapped, lost my marbles, went off the deep end, whatever you want to call it, and in a zombie-like state of mind, resigned.
So, please, teachers, take care of yourselves this school year. There are plenty of resources for organizing tasks and managing your time. Use them. Decide what your time is worth and buy it back if you need to. Get a cleaning service. Hire a babysitter. Limit social media. Reserve weekends for family. Do what it takes to choose life.
The friend who called me that afternoon, later ran into another teacher friend of hers at the gym. Guess what? That teacher was teary-eyed and sad over leaving behind the days of summer with her family to start another school year. Ummm, I’m not gonna lie: I was relieved to hear that, “I wasn’t the only one.”
And in sharing this story recently with a young teacher friend of mine, she said, “Oh my gosh, I’m so glad you shared that. I thought I was crazy for being upset about summer coming to an end.” That’s when I knew I needed to share this you all of you.
I’m thinking about you and wishing you a most successful 2012 -2013 school year! My door, and my wine bottle ;), are always open if you need to talk to someone who has been there…
See you in class,