I am constantly baffled by teachers who never take work home, who leave right at 2:30, who look far more relaxed than I ever have.
Don't get me wrong, I'm still grateful I've changed professions and that I teach now. Days that were endlessly the same, that went into ten and twelve hours, that had me at a desk all day long, they ground me down. And teaching, whatever else there is about it, isn't like that.
But it's also not well paying. I know, news flash.
Some teachers compensate for that by having a hard limit on how much they'll do: what the contract stipulates and not an iota more. Other teachers say screw it, and stay as long as they feel they need to stay to get the job done (there are some there til 9 at night!). I've always wanted to strike some sort of happy medium between the two--I'm crazy that way--but it's hard. There's always--ALWAYS--more work than there is time for. Here it is, after five days of classes, and I'm behind on grading, I haven't been able to research my special-needs students, I want to be able to recommend some students for extra support but I don't know who they are yet, AND I don't have the online status updated for my AP students.
Planning? Ha! Improving lesson plans? PUH LEEZE. Organizing my room, cleaning my office, and planning for the clubs I advise. All are gone by the wayside.
Last year, I was looking ahead to this year and I knew I didn't want to be grading over dinner like I have been. With this tiny little human in my life now, I didn't want to have the two hours we have together tainted by a dark cloud of work. So I chose to reduce my load--I'm now a part time teacher. I'm getting paid 60% of what I used to get paid (remember, I'm a math teacher, so 60% of Not Much is... Even Less), but I'm also, now, finally, after three years of teaching the same two classes, getting time to improve where I wanted to improve. Take chances where I wanted to take chances.
Grade what I wanted to grade.
There's a lot more work I do now that I'm not getting paid for. But I'm considering it an investment at this point. Whereas I was getting paid for a fulltime job before but clearly working a job and a half, now I'm getting paid for 0.6 of a job--and I have a chance at only working full time. And still coming out with better lessons to use in the future. For someone who puts a lot of pressure on herself (me? naaaah) it's a huge relief to feel like I can do a good job without sacrificing my family.
Except, of course, financially. I'm lucky lucky lucky we're at a time and place and stage where I can do this--for my sanity. For my pocketbook, it's not so healthy.
What kind of world is it where we ask teachers, theoretically the ones who get our children ready for the world, to make this kind of tradeoff? You can work yourself into the ground, you can always feel inadequate, or you can skimp on what you teach our children--that's it, them's your choices. And none of them involve getting paid for the work you do.
In the meantime, though, it's really nice to not feel half-crazed and underprepared. Now, ask me again about Christmas time when my gift-list is a lot of hand-made "it's the thought that counts" type of gifts, my answer may change.