Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Aug 23 2011

Overworked Slacker

We are opening up a brand new school. That’s pretty crazy. I’m just saying. Everything feels really high intensity and every decision really matters, because no one has done this before. If we screw up, it’s a huge disaster. If we do well, we create something great into the future. Noooooo pressure.

Part of the intensity also comes from the fact that all of us on staff are pretty intense people. I left work at 8pm, after a 13-hour day, and a third of our staff was still there for me to say goodbye to. It’s normal for people to be active on work email at 10pm. Most of us were at school on Saturday setting up classrooms, and I think people went on Sunday too. It’s SO obvious that most of us were in TFA once upon a time. The school is oozing Type A personalities.

On the one hand, I like this atmosphere. I’ve spent the last two years working these same hours all alone, and there is very little more depressing than regularly having the last car in the parking lot. Here, I have company and people to talk to long after work hours have ended. That is really, really nice.

On the other hand, for all the time I spend at school, I still often feel like one of the least Type A people on staff. I work really hard, but I also know my limits and believe in taking time for myself. I don’t settle for less than great work, but I also have no need for everything to be perfect. I’m happy to stop working in the interest of my sanity on a regular basis. I can’t count how many times this year I’ve told someone, “It’s good enough. Stop stressing. Go relax.” I’m a better teacher when I’m a happier person, and I’ve already learned that the hard way more than once. Usually, an hour of fun in my life does more for my kids than an extra hour perfecting something.

I know this sounds weird coming from someone who just admitted to a 13-hour Monday after working all day Saturday, but you haven’t been to my school. You read my second paragraph and thought it was disgusting, but my colleagues read it and wondered how I didn’t work on Sunday. Working longer hours serves to impress others rather than horrify them. I refuse to work on Friday or Saturday nights, and that’s already been dubbed the “Ms. Mathinaz Philosophy” by a couple people. There’s a big part of me that’s worried my adamant need to keep a low stress level is going to make people look down on me here. Can you work seventy hour weeks and still be considered a slacker? Is it possible to peer-pressure me into packing up my belongings and moving right into my classroom?

Luckily, I already talked through my concerns with a friend who recently left teaching. He pointed out that the “Work Hard, Play Hard” philosophy is fundamental in my life, and there’s no sense in sacrificing my mental health and my good teaching days just because other people are working more. His words were, “You know what works for you. If it doesn’t work for them, then clearly the school isn’t a good fit.” Amen. Since I think the school is a great fit, all I can really do is keep doing what I do and let them decide if they agree. I can handle that.

Now, I’m off to the gym. :-)

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