You Don’t Owe Anyone Your Mental Health
Maybe you’re a teacher, like me. Maybe you’re navigating the exhausting new world of remote learning, like me. Maybe you’re looking ahead to a few weeks from now, when you’ll be standing in front of students, dressed in PPE, behind a plastic shield, teaching the kids in your classroom while simultaneously delivering remote instruction through a web cam. Like me.
If so, maybe you need to hear this right now: this is an impossible job, but it is just that — a job.
Do your job. Do it as well as you can. Show up early, get your plans straight for the day, and give it your all. And then go home.
No, I mean go home. And be home.
Sit in the sun. Read a book. Snuggle your kids or your mate or your pets. Take a walk or take a run or take a hike. Breathe fresh air. Actually cook dinner.
Don’t be “at-home teacher,” spreading out your binders and books and laptop and making fresh coffee at 8:00 pm to get you through the next few hours of planning. Just be home.
Take work email off your phone. Leave the ungraded papers in the school building. If you can’t make the time during the day to mark them, don’t mark them. The world won’t end. No one will even know.
You don’t owe it to your employer to break yourself over this job. You don’t owe them late nights and sleep deprivation and eye strain headaches and the guilt that comes with teacher burnout. You don’t owe them your peace of mind. They will replace you when you leave. Please remember that.
And guess what? Your students don’t care if you get the grading done tonight. They don’t care if you stay up late to plan the perfect lesson for tomorrow. It’s got a 50/50 chance of bombing no matter how perfectly you plan it. (You know in your heart this is true.) The kids just want you to show up for them in the only way that matters: as a compassionate fellow human who truly sees them. You can’t do that if you’re running on nothing but caffeine and anxiety.
So please, I beg you. Leave work when the workday ends. Be that teacher.
Get some exercise. Open all the windows. Have a glass of wine. Call a friend. Call your mom. Breathe.
In ten years, you might look back on this year and remember it as the one that broke you. But you don’t have to.
You don’t owe anyone that.