“The key question to keep asking is, Are you spending your time on the right things? Because time is all you have. ”
― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture
For many years, I was an online secondary school teacher. At one point, I was teaching 130 students 8 different courses – and I was writing some of those courses while teaching them. I received hundreds of email messages every day. Day and night were blurred. If I was awake, I was marking or answering email. And how did I end every email?
But I wasn’t taking care at all.
Fast forward five years, and I can barely sit here to write this because I am in so much pain. I have been like this for 7 days, and it is a much needed wake up call. None of my colleagues are surprised. I don’t tell many people, but those hearing the news wonder why it has taken so long for my body to give up on me. Apparently I gave up on it long ago.
Yesterday, a teacher called me at 6 a.m. because she needed to take the day off. She was sick. She had been working sick for two days and she couldn’t do it any more. She apologized profusely for not being able to come in to teach and said she did not want to let the students down. The guilt was obvious. But why? Why is it so hard for teachers to take care of their own health?
I met two more teachers yesterday who are facing significant health issues, yet can’t drag themselves away from the work they do with kids. It is the caring profession, but do we sometimes care too much?
It is very hard to turn it off at the end of the day. I hear many teachers tell me that they would love to spend one year in a 9 to 5 job, so they could see what it is like to have a job that ended when they left it, instead of taking everything home with them and working all evening, sometimes waking up in the middle of the night still planning and problem solving.
It’s hard to draw a line where teaching ends and personal life begins. I see teachers on twitter at all kinds of crazy hours, perfecting lessons, marking one last paper, prepping an event. We work to exhaustion.
But the people who need us won’t have us if we continue to abuse ourselves.