Friday, December 13, 2013

Year 4: Week 15 - Working 7 to 3

There are teachers who work late at school long after students have left. There are teachers that after a long day at school go home and grade papers. And there are teachers who spend their entire weekend planning for the upcoming week. These are the teachers who take their job beyond the seven hour school day and give it their all.

Then there are the teachers who get to school right before the students get there and leave immediately after school.

When I first started teaching I was one of those teachers who worked the long hours, gave many of my weekday nights to school events and would work at least one day per weekend. While there were many rewarding moments, when I look back at my personal life it feels like a blur. At the end of it all, after two years of being a teacher who gave so much more than those seven hours a day, my contract wasn’t renewed and I was fired.

I knew that things weren’t going well and that it wasn’t the right fit. But I hoped that if I worked long enough hours and show my commitment in that way, it would make up for my deficiencies. It didn’t and that was really hard to accept. I did the best I could, and it wasn’t enough.

Then there were my years as an assistant. I got to school about fifteen minutes before the kids got there and left about fifteen minutes after they left. As an assistant, I had no papers to grade that I couldn’t get done in the day, and no planning to do.

Yes, I was underpaid and it wasn’t my idea job, but what this job allowed me to have a life outside of my job. It was during this time that my wife and I enjoyed our first two years of marriage, we got and raised Buffy and we had many great adventures together.

When I was interviewing for my current job four years ago and I was asked about working long hours and putting in time during weeknights and weekends, I didn’t give an enthusiastic, “yes, I’m willing to put in whatever time is necessary for this job.” Instead I told them that I had to talk to my wife.

I knew that this job was going to take more time outside of the workday than being an assistant but I didn’t want to completely lose having a life outside my job. I made it clear to this school that a work/life balance was important to me, and they still hired me.  

My first year was an adjustment. I was one of those people who would stay later and I took pride in that. I volunteered for committees, met with other teachers after school and went to community events. I managed to be able to give a lot to this school while still having time at home. There were days that I would go home right after school, but since Diana usually got home later than I did, there wasn’t a strong feeling that I had to get home quickly. I could hang out after school for an hour and still get home with have enough time to get dinner on the table before Diana got home.

There are so many teachers at my school who put in the extra time that sometimes I felt that the teachers who got to school later than me and left earlier, weren’t pulling their weight.

Then Diana got pregnant and everything changed.

There was so much to do. Diana being pregnant would have taken up most of our time but on top of that we were trying to sell our condo and buy a house.  While I needed to be home more, Diana could handle things if I had to work late. Now with Ollie being born, it all feels different.

Five minutes hanging out after school is five minutes less that I have with Ollie. After being away from him for a whole day, any extra time that I’m away is difficult. It’s not just the emotional stuff. Diana has things to get done and if I don’t get home at agreed upon times, it effects her job.

This year, I’ve left right after school more than I ever have. I don’t think this makes me a worse teacher or a less valuable part of the community.  Now I feel ashamed for looking down at other teachers who I witnessed leaving right after school when I didn’t.  Maybe they were slacking off, but much more likely they had as good a reasons as I do to get home.

I want to do a great job, but I want to be home with my son. This balancing act isn’t easy. This tension inside of myself has made me more thoughtful about the way I use my time at school. I want Ollie to know that the time that I choose to be away from him means something. I don’t want him to ever think that I care more about my kids at school than I care about him, and I hope that one day he'll understand that I am a better father for him because of the work I do at school.

It's hard to leave Ollie in the morning as he is waking up and it's hard to leave work after school with tasks left undone.  However, I do this every work day and somehow its all working out, it's hard but I'm doing it.

As difficult as this is, I wouldn't give it up for anything.  This challenge is a reminder of how blessed I am with a great job and a beautiful son. 

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