Today, I came into work today at 7am and there was a student of mine walking in at the same time. He was trying to catch up because he is failing almost all his classes and it’s his senior. I could be frustrated he waited 6 weeks to make up his grade, or I could figure out what is going on. This kid has school, football (where he just suffered a concussion), a full time job, and due to an accident a few weeks ago, no home. He is not a stranger to the streets, and is doing everything he can to be the first in his family, including three older siblings, to graduate high school.
Talking with the kid brought back every reason why we take our work home. It’s not that I felt guilty for taking some time this weekend for me, but it reminded me why we do work hard outside of school and why we do commit so much of our energy to our job. We do it because the kids depend on our work. Sometimes it might feel like we are attached to a sinking ship, helpless to make any change and falling down with it. Like our work and our hours don’t make a difference. No matter how hard we try, that observation or that student may not recognize it. In reality though, we can. Do I think alone I can change this kids situation? No, of course not. I am not naïve or unrealistic. We are not heroes in a movie and I don’t have a magic wand to snap to make the situation better. We can listen though, provide advice, give support, sit down with the student and create strategies to manage all the responsibilities. We can be there.
We take our work home with us because we want to be better for our students. We are not trying to create the next best soda flavor, we are working towards helping kids be successful, and sometime we need to take that home with us. Sometimes we can’t really control whether we take it home with us or not, because it consumes us. Our students, their lives, their aspirations, and how we can help them succeed. You can’t turn that off at 5pm.
So here is my proposal, don’t take the negative, compliance driven, critical work home with you. Take the meaningful, heartfelt work that you care about home. The work that drives you to stay in education. Sometimes we don’t just need a break. We need a reminder why we signed up in the first place. It’s not a bad thing to be committed to your job. We shouldn’t tell first year teachers or veteran teachers to leave it all in their classroom. That’s not fair to them and that not fair to their students. We should tell them not to let the work they do at home tear them down, but motivate them to grow.
Don't take school home