Thursday, September 15, 2011

take the time

Week 2 (or maybe 3 or 4!) is done. Phew, you made it! You're likely exhausted and under a pile of paperwork, grading, planning, and organizing. And if you're like me, you have plans to work most of the weekend. I've been teaching for 13 years, and I still take home work most nights and weekends. But, in reading English teacher Jim Burke's Letters to a New Teacher, a book I'll return to soon in another blog post, he says it well:

This work of ours will never get simple and never... get under control. We work in the midst of barely controlled chaos. You must set aside time for yourself on the weekends and each day during the week (even if it's only fifteen minutes!) to tend to your own needs. This is how I began reading poetry again. It's why I listen to books on tape. Because our work is never done, we can always be working. And then it consumes you and the next thing you know you lose the joy of teaching, and you join the ranks of the 60 percent who leave the profession within the first five years. You must teach yourself the habits that will allow you to sustain not only your love of teaching, but your love of life... You must, as hard as it can be, give yourself permission to get up from your desk and go into the garden, out to the beach, over to a friend's, or out to dinner for conversation about things other than teaching and school. This is essential for your personal and professional health. (p. 12)

You might not find an exact work-life balance (I still struggle with that), but you need to try. From experience and from watching many others suffer through it, if you are not happy and healthy, it won't make a hill of beans difference how late you stayed up to grade that last math quiz or make that new bulletin board. You have to do those things too, of course, but find some time every day for what nurtures you - work out, make a nice dinner, read Hollywood gossip, chat with a friend. You do have time. And it will pay off in the end.


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