I’m a big fan of lists. Apps and sites like Todoist and Wunderlist have been great at enabling that. As a matter of fact, it’s on my to-do list to make a posts about lists. For now though, I’ll just speak about prioritising the most important thing on any teacher’s to-do list;
Today has brought about my second sick day this week, and my fourth sick day in the past two and a half weeks. It’s mostly to do that sometime three weeks ago I contracted an ear infection from my beloved boyfriend (thanks sweetie), but just kept pushing it aside. Like, literally! It wasn’t even a constant thing for most of the time, which is why I thought I could keep pushing through.
My problem is, this is the second time in my short-teacher career that this has happened. The first was on my third-year teaching prac, where I ignored the fact I could barely raise my voice to speak to my class (btw, not a bad teaching strategy to coerce the class into a secret whispering conspiracy*). At least, I ignored it until the Principal of the school told me that I should really stay home the next day. When I finally got to the Doctor, while it had started as a cold, because I pushed through, turned into my very first Sinus Infection. The anti-biotics alone were huge.
I swore that as long as I was a teacher, I would never let this happen again.
I mean, technically I haven’t broken that promise, being a coordinator now. Which also may be the reason why I did let that happen again. #paradox
But it has got me thinking, especially with early-career teachers, why do we push ourselves? Why are we not putting ourselves as the little #1 exclamation mark on those to-do lists?
- Is it the selfless nature of the career? No one enters teaching with themselves as a priority (except for those sweet, sweet school holiday breaks), it’s all about others – the students. Looking at my own to-do list tasks, there’s a definite pattern in which tasks I complete on the day set (for-student and for-school tasks), and which ones get pushed along until later (personal project tasks).
- Is it because it’s easier to just teach the damn class then set a relief for it? I personally become slightly disgusted at myself when I set “Class to continue working on theory sheet 4…” in my relief notes at 7:15am in the morning. Don’t get me started on the ‘aftermath’-
- Is it the aftermath? I just said don’t- fine. Technically, I should have had three sick days this week – but I had a lot of parents to contact and I hadn’t seen one of my music classes that week and I had a meeting that would be very difficult to schedule on that day and there was no way I was leaving any of that until next week – “it’s just easier to do it now than later”. Except that one day off has now turned into two.
- Is it the GUILT?
- Is it all of the above?
Definitely all of the above.
The teaching field is definitely unique in the sense that if you’re not there one day, the work isn’t going to be done like it can in other fields. It’s up to you, you’re the one who is responsible for your classes, your students, your work.
But it’s important to be your best. And you can’t be your best when you’re half stumbling past student desks saying “what? speak into my good ear” for the third time in 30 minutes. Take time to rest; put yourself first*.
*Unless you’ve almost lost your voice – seriously, secret whispering conspiracies can be really fun when some students are late to class.