Teaching is a Job

This is part 2 of a post series where I explore my teaching philosophy. It is a very much in process document. Hopefully my efforts to formulate my thoughts are helpful for you too.

  1. Teachers must love their students.
  2. Teaching can be a good career and even a calling, but it is a primarily a JOB.
  3. Every student learns in roughly the same manner.
  4. Teachers should show their students the truth as far as possible while building their students’ knowledge of the world.
  5. Knowledge truly is power.

Even if you feel you were born to be a teacher or that teaching is your calling, like myself, you should view teaching as a job first and foremost. The reason being is that teaching can easily take over your life and those who view it as a calling are especially susceptible. When that happens, not only does your quality of life suffer, your teaching suffers, your students suffer.

I believe that teaching can easily take over your life because it is inherently intimate. You interact with the same students day in and day out. You see their struggles, failures, and successes. You learn about their interests and home life. The relationship we build with our students drives us to do more. And this is emphatically a positive.

However, this drive has a darker side. It can lead us to obsess over our job and we can become over-dedicated.

  • Regularly taking work home, and working unpaid
  • Taking on more responsibility at work, for the kids, and somebody has to do it
  • Planning lessons late into the night
  • When you have a social life, it consists of talking about work

When this happens to a few people in a school, the culture changes. Instead of being pleased by some teachers going above and beyond, it becomes an implicit expectation.

“Why didn’t you check your email over the weekend?”

“Look at all the great manipulatives Teacher Joe bought for his class. It would really help your students if you got some too.”

“Teacher Sally went to Wal-Mart and spent $400 on school supplies.”

“Have you donated tissues to the school yet? We really need them at the beginning of the year and during winter you know.”

When this happens at a few schools, the district’s culture changes. In a few districts, and the educational culture of the state begins to change. In a few states, and the nation’s educational culture changes. I believe that this culture is a major contributor to teachers becoming burnout and to teachers being taken advantage of by the school funding system.

The antidote, I believe is to maintain the view of teaching as incredibly important, inherently valuable, and fundamental to a flourishing society while viewing it as a job. A job has a “clock”. You are responsible to work from time A to time B. Before and after, is yours. A calling has no limit, jobs do. This is a freeing realization.

Now that I view teaching as a job (albeit, one I feel called to), I have found it much easier to go home with papers ungraded and imperfect lesson plans. This, in turn, has drastically reduced my stress. Which, then, has made me happy to go into work, and I feel that I am able to be more productive with my time there.

A teacher who is burned out is suffering and this teacher’s suffering is causing their students to suffer too. Sometimes doing less allows you to do more. Teaching is a job. A stressful one, but a good one. All teachers should strive to improve. But, to improve, you must stay in the profession and learn how to manage the stresses and temptations that come along for the ride. The best defense is healthy boundaries.

If you feel called into the field of education, welcome! It is a fantastically fulfilling place. But don’t make it your life, it will eat yours. If you make it your job, you just may fulfill your calling.