Without another word, every teacher in this country knows what I am talking about. As a teacher, we experience this on a daily basis, and I believe it's one of the main reasons teachers are burning out and leaving.
You all know that people do not become a teacher for the money. We are paid some 20% lower than others with similar college degrees. So why teaching? There is no doubt that that teaching attracts people who are passionate as they feel called to teach. I would argue no job is more important that teaching our children. Teachers create our future society: future doctors, lawyers, military personnel, entertainers, artists, plumbers, architects...the list goes on. Teaching is a uniquely important job. Those outside of teaching often forget that, but those of us in the classroom can't. We know we are molding our very future and we take that very seriously. All of that leads us to teacher guilt.
Our guilt is built out of the desire to do everything we can to have our students succeed. There isn't a teacher I know who only works during the school day and the school year. We take time from our families to create curriculum, provide student feedback, contact parents, attend required trainings, etc.. I could go on for a long time about all the things teachers do outside of the school day. During the school day, teachers are usually given a prep period and lunch, but many teachers spend that time covering for colleagues who are out or working with students who need extra help. Schools are struggling with finding full-time teachers, so the teachers remaining are taking overloaded schedules. If teachers don't have the materials needed for their class, they frequently pay for supplies out of their own pockets. Teacher's who don't feel well will often come to school, because they are afraid their students will get behind and they don't want their colleagues to feel guilty covering their classes. In addition to all of this, districts are asking teachers to now do more. We need to be responsible for students mental health because there aren't enough mental health professionals in schools. Never mind that many teachers also need mental health services. And we are asking teachers to focus on learning loss and standardized test scores when their focus should be on bringing back the joy in teaching and learning. So here we are, feeling guilty and suffering quietly.
When I first started thinking about applying for the Einstein Fellowship, my first concern was who will take over teaching physics? Not, is this right for me or my family, but how do I leave the students? I know that was wrong, but after teaching for 30 years, it becomes part of you. I also suffer from mom guilt, which required me to focus only on my boys and not myself. When I started taking time out of my summer to teach AP Physics workshops, I remember my sons asking why I was choosing to do that instead of spending time with them. My answer was that helping other physics teachers fed my soul, it recharged me. When I took care of myself, I was a better mom. If the cabin on an airplane loses pressure and oxygen masks fall, you are supposed to put your mask and then help others.
If you are not a teacher, how can you help? Start by thanking a teacher. In our current climate, teachers no longer feel appreciated, so kind words help. Then stop micromanaging teachers and trust that the teachers are THE professionals and they know more than anyone else how to build student success. This goes for district administrators as well as state legislatures who seem to think they have all the answers. Here's a news flash, they don't. Trust the teachers, and pay them fairly for their expertise. There is no doubt in my mind that if we continue down the road we are on, the educational system in this country will collapse due to lack of teachers. The situation is that serious.
Teachers, you need to take care of your self first. In the end will be a better teacher and the students will benefit. Learn to say no and start doing things that fill your soul. Not just during the summer, but everyday. Teacher guilt is real, so let's work to put an end to it, once and for all.
A special thanks to my dear friend Tyler, who gave me the idea for this blog :)