When I graduated from college nine years ago, I never would have thought I'd be in this position. You see, I am a teacher. I pour my heart and soul into my work every single day. I dedicate my summers to professional development and conferences to help me keep up with the ever changing dynamics of the profession. I have tutored and taught summer school many times to earn extra income. I buy supplies for students. I write proposals to get donations from my family and friends to have supplies that will last the school year. I have participated in school events after contracted hours. I have gone to work sick because I couldn't find a sub. I even went to work while I was in labor to return the keys to my classroom (totally my fault, because they should've been in my mailbox). I serve as a grade level chair, committee chair and mentor at my school. I open my room for teachers and district staff to observe. I have arrived early for conferences and meetings and stayed late for more conferences and meetings. Oh yeah, and I teach kids, too.
I have spent countless hours caring and thinking about families and children of others, while simultaneously neglecting my own.
This is the guilt of being a teacher. The feeling of not doing enough for your kids so you go above and beyond, but you come home empty with nothing to give to your family. I had to realize that this was not only unhealthy, but unfair. Some days, I was physically there but my mind was focused on what I needed to do at work the next day. I wasn't present and it hurt. Some days, I would get home and my daughter would already be asleep for the night. It seemed as if my husband and her had a connection that I could not have because I was so immersed in my work. I cried tears of guilt and frustration because I did not know what to do, but I knew that something needed to be done.
Then, I decided that I would establish and adhere to boundaries. This meant prioritizing exactly what needed to be done and doing it. This also meant that I needed to write down or say aloud exactly what I needed to do to help me eliminate any feelings of anxiety, stress and worry. Before March, I decided to set arrival and leave times for myself. If the clock hit 4:00 PM and I was still doing something, I left it on my desk for the following day. Having an accountability partner, (my husband) was extremely beneficial in this case.
I had to learn how to work from home by establishing a space for work and work only. This was tough, but manageable. I also had to communicate my concerns and brainstorm solutions with my colleagues and administrators. My principal called me weekly to check in and I was honest with her every time. She was helpful and shared self care strategies from her own life. Being surrounded by transparent and vulnerable educators has helped me adjust.
Also, advocate for changes in the educational system that cause teachers so much stress. This is an ongoing challenge for teachers but in the meantime, I had to make sure that I was making room for me. (Part 2 on COVID Teacher Guilt coming soon.)
Being home since March has been incredibly helpful and I do not take this privilege for granted. However, I am so grateful that I have been able to spend so much time with my daughter and husband.
I am so done with all kinds of guilt.