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Buying a House

I've been in the process of purchasing a home for what feels like a year. It's actually been about a month and a half, but it feels like it's taking a lot longer than it should. With the holidays approaching and a few necessary repairs taking place on the property, we're slowly acquiring the home that we've been dreaming of.

I mention the process of home buying because, for the first time in my teaching life, I have personal obligations that are really and truly consuming my time. I was telling my colleague the other day that this is the first time I've felt like this as a teacher. I've had the luxury of not having many out-of-school obligations and, in turn, I've been able to allow teaching, reading, writing, and much work-related thinking to consume my life. (I'm not complaining; I truly love so many of the responsibilities of my job!)

The custodian in my school jokingly called me a "part-timer" last week. I've gotten to know him over the course of several years of late nights of grading, organizing, and readying the room for the next day's lesson. Leaving my building before 4:00 PM was, up until this year, unheard of for me. For the past few weeks, there's rarely been a day that I haven't left before 4:00 PM. I've had to cancel commitments to watch students' events, to attend friends' gatherings, and familial obligations.

I'm starting to develop an understanding of what my students go through.

As a teen, I was often reminded about how much work being an adult is. Must we really create a distinction between adulthood and adolescence? Let's just admit that being a human being is hard work. Loads of it. It's far too easy to forget that and just assume that students' lives are significantly easier because they are in different life stages.

I've always been a fan of Alfie Kohn's research about homework (you can read more about it here). I've reduced the amount that I assign because I've known that students have obligations other than school. But until I had to meet with an insurance agent, schedule home visits, meet with a mortgage officer, and so many other things just to buy a house, I didn't understand how jam-packed one's life can really be.

With my students juggling jobs, extra-curriculars, chores, friends, hobbies, and school work, their lives can be pretty stressful. It's a game of time management. What can I postpone now because something else is more of a priority? If we as teachers aren't modeling this behavior, who is?

And this makes me think about the demands placed on teachers. When we're not differentiating, planning, meeting, developing ourselves professionally, we're still "on." We're expected to recognize emotional, social, personal, and academic needs all at once. We literally make thousands of decisions a day that have an impact on others' lives. (I know there's research on this, but anyone who has been a teacher doesn't need an article to validate this claim.)

I'm starting to get to the point in my career where I don't feel bad because I do an activity for me. I'll read a book. I'll have coffee with a friend. I will go for a walk on a Sunday afternoon and not feel guilty.

Buying a house helped me realize this. It's the oxygen-mask-on-an-airplane rule: You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else. If I'm not making time to develop myself as a person; if I'm not making time to pursue my own passions, hobbies, and interests; if I'm not making time to hang out with friends, then I know I will be less happy of a person in the classroom.

(Through all of this writing, I think I've also found another blog post: how going through the home-buying process has forced me outside my reading comfort zone. Saving this idea here publicly for later.)


Idea for next week:

Blog about More Happy Than Not. This was something we talked briefly about at NCTE, and I read it as promised. Let's not only blog about the book, but let's try to document a smiley face progression of our teaching week. What is one lesson, one moment, one experience from this week that we just shouldn't forget?

Comments

  1. YES! The oxygen-mask rule is sooooooooo important. (File this away for later, but it is just as important in a marriage and parenting.) I think, in some ways, teenagers are hardwired to the oxygen rule. (They might have brain development on their side with this...) But I agree - we often need life to give us reminders that they are full-fledged humans with lives beyond our classrooms. Once you think about that, what Kohn has to say about homework makes much sense. They have all sorts of things they need to learn about this world before they leave high school and home. Not all of that stuff has to do with what we teach them.

    I pulled those long hours at the beginning - my moment of realizing this was becoming a mom. That put the brakes on so much.

    I cannot wait to see what you have to say about More Happy Than Not. I am, necessarily (see oxygen mask rule), off work for this week as my father passed away on Monday morning. That said, I stopped in school yesterday to take care of some things and did see some students. I have my moments I won't forget so maybe I'll write early this week.

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  2. You are so right, taking care of oneself should come before anything else. It's a bit funny that that thought came to you while buying a house though. I personally would think that meeting mortgage officers and all those other things that go into buying a house would drive you just a bit mad. Being a human will always be hard work and buying a house on a teacher's salary will also always be a bit frightening.

    Tasha Reeves @ West Coast Mortgage Group

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