Being a teacher is hard. And by “hard”, I mean “incredibly difficult”. What calls to mind this idea today in particular – because we all know that there are loads of reasons being a teacher is difficult – is the aspect of life outside of school.
You see, to be a good teacher, the best one can be, requires arriving early to school, working through free periods during the day, actually teaching classes, working privately with students at lunch and/or after school, and then working at least a little bit more before going home for the night. By then, exhaustion is just about ready to set in, leaving time only enough to make it home, eat some food (maybe), and crash to bed. And then the alarm goes off at five-something in the morning to start it all over again. In other words, a truly dedicated teacher, at least in his/her first several years teaching a specific subject, works at least a ten-hour day daily, and has little to no time and/or energy to pursue anything else during the week. Social life just doesn’t exist alongside being a good, dedicated teacher.
Right now, everything is working for me. Right now, I have almost zero social obligations or immediate opportunities. I go early and work late every day, and I have this strong sense of ‘got-it-togetherness’. I am prepared for the following day by the time I leave for home in the evening. But I have no active friends. Sure, I chat with people at school from time to time, but we aren’t friends. Besides, they all seem to be doing things for various clubs and such for the school on the weekends. When I have wondered how things might be if I were a permanent teacher at this school, I have been almost certain that I would be staying even later for club activities, and sooner or later would find myself on campus or at activities (sports, possibly) for the school on the weekends. It really is wonderful to be an active part of a school. And that unfortunately means giving up most outside opportunities.
There is a delicate balance between having a life outside of school and making the school one’s whole life. Sacrifices must be made in either case – either giving up social time for school events, or giving up involvement with the school and kids (when kids are truly at their best, too) to go get drinks or coffee with a friend or family member. At my last two jobs, I wasn’t fulfilled as a teacher without being involved in things with kids outside of class. Be it playing in the band for certain events, singing songs together at the community piano, coaching lacrosse, or choreographing and assisting with the musical, those were the necessary pieces to rounding out the teacher experience and being fulfilled as a teacher. Unfortunately, those all meant giving up time that could have been spent on a life outside of school, getting to know people my own age or, believe it or not, older than I am. I could have spent the time running in the park. But I spent it with the kids instead. So, I was fulfilled somewhat as a teacher, and hardly at all as a person in life.
Anyway, that’s what’s been on my mind this evening, and is one of the many reasons why teaching is hard