Winter break has been awesome so far.
- Hadassah (my eldest) and I made a postmodern gingerbread house (pictured above).
- In an act of the-only-person-in-the-family-without-the-flu heroism, I made off-brand frozen pizza for Christmas dinner.
Need I say more?
I’ve also taken some time to write, which is good, because I’m working on a new ebook called Never Finished.
(Pre-order it now while the price is only a five-spot.)
My top teaching-related lesson of break so far: teaching is work
I am nearly positive that, in Hell, there’s a book filled with quotes that sound wise but are actually horrifically not so.
One of those quotes has got to be this one; this is one of the most poisonous bits of non-wisdom in circulation today:
If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.
I am one of a million or so teachers who live as proof against that: we love teaching, yet it’s work, baby.
Waking up to that alarm on Monday, January 5, is going to be work. Doing the same thing January 6 and every day afterward will be more of the same.
Grading papers? Work.
Responding to emails? Work.
Calling parents? Work.
Planning lessons? Work.
Reading teaching literature? Why yes, Johnny, you’ve got it–it’s work!
I’m not trying to prove a point here; my bones and my brain prove the point when I come home after a day of teaching.
Sub-lesson 1: The fact that teaching is work isn’t something we need to justify
I used to dive headlong into arguments when someone would make the “summers off must be nice” comments. (Nods to father-in-law.) I’d do stuff like the comparing-my-hourly-wage-to-that-of-a-babysitter thing.
But I don’t ever do any kind of arguing in response to those comments now because just as it would be absurd to argue that construction workers don’t earn their living, it’s absurd to say that great teachers don’t.
I’m not saying all teachers work hard, just as my uncle in the concrete construction business won’t say that all cement guys work hard. Generalizations don’t work with individuals, let alone large groups.
I am saying that the vast majority of teachers do work hard.
And that needs to go without saying.
Sub-lesson 2: Workaholism is not smart
As a newbie teacher in Baltimore, I used to literally pride myself on being the first guy in the parking lot every morning and the last guy to leave at night.
Some people pride themselves on how well their lawns look; I prided myself on not knowing how my lawn looked because I never saw it in daylight.
Please hear this: I was incredibly lame.
Teaching is an excellent way to put bread on the table. I can think of no paid work I’d rather do, especially since I moonlight as a writer for teachers and get paid a bit to do that, too. But becoming a master teacher isn’t possible if you give yourself unlimited hours within which to master it for one simple reason: allowing yourself unlimited time to do the work of teaching makes you much slower at figuring out what the most important work of teaching is.
The solution? Set strict works hours for yourself. Mine are 7:00am to 5:20pm — and I don’t take work home.
(Ahem. Except for this article, I guess.)
Final takeaway: in 2015, I want to get better and saner as a teacher
Teaching is like swimming Lake Michigan. It’s awesome and it’s fresh, and sometimes it’s even warm(ish). But there’s also this deadly undertow that constantly pulls you into deadly places like Complacency and Burnout.
In 2015, I want to get better at being a teacher who day in and day out gets better. I want to write more about that here on the blog.
I also want to do the work of teaching with greater efficiency. So many of you have said that one of your greatest struggles in the job is time. I feel that. The time:workload ratio in this job is insane; I want to fight that.
Enough winter break lessons from me…
What have you been learning? What are you hoping to dominate in 2015?
Share in the comments section below.