Does Not Staying Late At Work Make Me A Bad Teacher?

Teachers who walk out the door with their students tend to be frowned upon by their administrators and their colleagues. I was reminded of this unspoken “arrive early + stay late = good teacher rule” as I scrolled through a chat among educators on a FaceBook thread where the following was posted (names omitted to protect anonymity):

[T]oday I was told in a PD [Professional Development]  that ” Good teachers stay late and come early. Stop leaving work soon as the children leave”

Really ???  ill say this. Don’t spend the next 20 plus years of your life making sure everyone else’s children and families are good, while neglecting your OWN !! My children are just as important as the children I service! Im going home to my family !! I’ll come early, just might stay late every blue moon.  I refuse to be neglectful of my own while ensuring everyone else is ok!!


This is my response:

One of the greatest lessons that my cooperating teacher Keri Crocco imparted to me when I was student teaching under her careful supervision was to not take my work home. She told me that teaching was a very draining line of work and that my brain would begin to see everything as a possible lesson plan. She told me that I would become a social worker, a mom, a big sister, a confidante, an advocate, and a liaison on some level for every student that I would have the honor of teaching. So as not to get burned-out, an all too common trend among new teachers, I should leave my work at work.

Easier said than done.

During my first four years as a teacher within the NYC Department of Education, I taught at an all-boys public school for Black and Brown young men that was erected in direct opposition to the school-to-prison pipeline that plagues the neighborhoods from which these beautiful young men hail. Although it was hard work, I believed in the mission of the school. I still do. I loved teaching my young men and finding meaningful ways to connect with them and help them learn. I went to work early; I taught in the after-school program; I stayed late in my classroom several times a week until after 8pm; I attended my students’ basketball and football games on the weekends; I lesson-planned with my colleagues on the phone when I got home from work — all of this while raising my son and daughter, who were 11 and 13 years-old at the time.

I had moved far away from the wise counsel of my cooperating teacher and the proverbial chickens soon came home to roost: I came home from work one day to an intervention for yours truly in my living room assembled by none other than my very own 11 and 13 year-old children. They told me in no uncertain terms that while they appreciated my dedication to my craft, they needed me and were missing me terribly because I was rarely present with them. Even when we were all physically together, my focus was on my students and my work. My daughter pointed out that even when we went grocery shopping I was thinking about and shopping for snacks for my students — snacks which she resentfully wasn’t allowed to take to school because it, like everything else, it seemed, was for my students.

I had strayed far from the wise counsel I received during my pre-service training. I’m thankful that I heard my babies loud and clear during that fateful intervention and have, from that moment forward, never put my work time before my family time.

Samuel Taylor, writes,

I am in work from 7:15 am – 6:00 pm, I take five lessons a day, the rest of my time is spent doing pointless paperwork, the odd detention etc. Marking is done at home, I typically start at 7:30 pm after putting my children to bed and finish at 10:30 pm unless I have coursework to mark, then sometimes I’m up until the early hours. I teach five lessons a day so five hours, typically most teachers have 2.5 hours in a week where they are not teaching. However I teach a special subject so I don’t have those hours. During the weekend I work most of Saturday so I can have Sunday off.

Striking this balance between dedication to work and dedication to home is a challenging one for many educators.  A lot of the struggle derives from the unwritten expectation that good teachers arrive early and stay late. Much of it is self-imposed and comes from a place of genuinely caring so much about our students that it quite naturally begins to consume us. Our students need so much, so we, being who we are as teachers, give it to them — information, love, attention, support, encouragement, mentoring, coaching, counseling — sometimes even parenting.

Even more of the pressure comes from the paperwork demands that come with the territory, too. Papers to grade, weekly parent-teacher conferences, weekly professional development sessions, clubs to run, emails to write and respond to, anecdotal logs to write, bulletin boards to take down and put back up — the list goes on and on.

In our professional and humanitarian zeal, however, we must remember to prioritize ourselves and our families.

An empty vessel is of no use to anyone.


What do you think?

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