In my district, we are required to attend without extra pay two after-school events per semester. The events range from things like teacher/parent conferences to science fairs to chorus concerts. It’s no big deal as most of the events don’t run that late. A few weeks back, an informal email went out to determine the interest in holding a Trunk or Treat event after school where kids come back to school in costume and scamper about the parking lot to get candy from us. Initially, I was eager to help out. When the formal request came out we were told that the event would *not* count towards our two-events requirement.
Between the time of the first email and the second request, two situations took place that made me re-think my desire to help out. First, a girl was acting disrespectfully towards me (the full details could – and just might- make for its own post. When I called her mother, Mom cursed me out, hung up on me, and raced down to the school to complain about me. The second incident involved another girl whose dislike of me is stronger than anything I have ever encountered as a teacher (again, the story behind this could be its own post). Curiously, every time an object either hit me or flew past me when I was in her classroom, the object’s origin was approximately in the same area that she was sitting in. After these two incidents, it was very easy to decide that I was not going to stay after school to hand out candy. Once upon a time, a decision like this would’ve filled me with guilt and angst but this one was a no-brainer. What changed?
I learned how to say ”no”.
Last year, we had an evening event that was part of the ritual of wishing our 5th graders well as they make their way out of elementary school and over to middle school. My 5th grade homeroom was, other than a few exceptions, highly disrespectful to me all year long. I was not going to “reward” them by chaperoning an event where they get to run around and scream their heads off. When I was asked if I was going to attend, I explained that I had already fulfilled my events requirement for the semester. The person who asked me tried to lay on the guilt, suggesting that I could just attend for the sake of attending. Was. not. going. to. happen. I felt great about my decision.
Our profession is unique in that we are asked to do things for our “customers” that other professions do not ask of their employees. Does your mail carrier come around on a day off to entertain you? Would your obstetrician keep the office open after hours so that you can come by, enjoy a delicious spread, and dance? Of course not. However, we are expected to put our schools ahead of ourselves. Many of us make out-of-pocket purchases for supplies, answer parent phone calls at late hours, and over-extend ourselves to the point of burnout. I learned the hard way to put up my boundaries and defend them. Here’s the cold hard truth: if you die tomorrow, your principal will send out an all-staff email announcing the tragic news. Maybe there will be an awkward staff meeting where you will be remembered as a good person and a great teacher. Some of your colleagues will share their grief in hushed tones. And then what?
Someone else will be doing your job and, soon enough, it will be as if you were never there.
Cynical, you say? It’s the reality of life. We’re just not as important to the universe as we wish we were. However, we should consider ourselves of utmost importance to ourselves. Do not shortcut on the things you need to do to feel like a vibrant human being. Put yourself first because no one else will do it for you.
When the children start to get in each others’ business I remind them” “Do who? Do YOU.” It’s a quick reminder for them to worry about themselves instead of everyone else’s drama. If more kids did this, we’d have far fewer issues at work.
I will say the same to you when you’re being pulled in different directions from admin and overbearing parents: Do who? Do YOU.