"Can we play Monopoly?" my son Alex asks me as I finish washing the dinner dishes.
My mind debates the idea silently. I have SO. MUCH. WORK. TO. DO. I was hoping to sit down for an hour and sketch out some plans for the rest of the week, create a review for an upcoming fractions test, check the pile of math papers that have been waiting for my attention, plan out some small group reading lessons. Respond to Slice of Life emails. Create a letter for a grant explaining a trip my class will take. All work that I can never get to at actual work. Most of my day is spent directly in front of the students. The prep I get involves phone calls, photocopying, pulling up the resources I need on my Smartboard, or attending a meeting. After dismissal, I'm either on bus duty, in a meeting, or trying to plug in all the chrome books that need to be charged for the next morning. Then rushing home to take my children to whatever activity they have that afternoon. Next is homework (for them), dinner preparation, eating. Soon it will be getting them ready for bed which lately has involved laying in my daughter's bed then sitting in my son's chair. By that time of night, I'm exhausted and cannot get up to do more work. So this after dinner-before bed is the time I have to do any of the stacks of work I have to do.
"Sure we can play," I tell him and he beams and rushes off to set up the game.
A lesson I learned this week is life is short and precious, fragile and fleeting. Our tomorrows are not guaranteed. My son will not always want to play Monopoly with me on a school night after dinner. Tonight, he did. Tonight, we did. He crushed me- built hotels on every property and I owed him $1000 every time I landed on his space. We laughed. I made the best choice for my child.
But oh how I wish sometimes my job didn't put me in the position of having to choose between getting it all done and spending time with my family. How every night and weekend didn't involve lugging home a big work bag and trying to find a pocket of time to plan, assess, create, communicate. An ongoing conversation I have with other teachers is how we are given so little time to do the actual work of crafting our lessons, being reflective, assessing, planning. All of this is expected to be done after work because during work is completely occupied by the business of teaching and being with the children. Does every professional job involve hours of work on your own time? Or do most professionals leave work at work when they leave at the end of the day?
Having this conversation feels awkward- like people think you don't want to work hard. Like you aren't grateful to get out of work by 3:15 and to have summers off. But when you leave work at 3:15 to go home and do all the mom jobs and then have to work for hours in the evening just to be not be drowning....it's not really about the day ending at 3:15. And the teachers I know- the dedicated, amazing teachers- we are burning out. We are feeling the job is impossible. The expectations are too many and too high. We want to do amazing work but there is literally not enough hours in the day.
And some of us refuse to miss precious opportunities to be with our own children- fully present, fully getting our butt kicked at Monopoly.
How do you handle the work/life balance that comes with being a teacher? Have you found any solutions?
Kathleen Neagle Sokolowski