I went out to dinner a couple nights ago with a friend of mine who is getting out of teaching after 20 years in the classroom. Her reason? Basically, she is tired of feeling like she must give up her self, her free time, and her life to teach other people’s children. She often stays at school until six or seven at night, and takes work home in top of that.
Why do we celebrate this narrative as a society? Why do we celebrate the teachers who give up everything for their careers? Are the best teachers those who lose themselves to the profession?
I want to push back against this narrative.
If we encourage teachers by stating the best teachers are those who are first in the parking lot in the morning and the last to leave at night, aren’t we just asking them to burn out? Aren’t we telling them they and their lives don’t matter as much as their students?
I used to buy into the teacher martyr narrative: the rougher the school, the tougher the student, the more hours I worked, the better the teacher I was. I have to say, none of this made me a better anything other than a better member at Weight Watchers because of all the stress eating I did in those days.
There is no other career I can think of where the martyr narrative is as celebrated as teaching. To celebrate teachers in the way we do is to acknowledge our agreement with the martyr narrative.
I would rather be elevated as a professional to a place where I don’t have to give my life to do what I love.