I love being That Teacher, the one that students tell Life Stories to (even when they’ve only been in my class 3 days, I’ve had students pull up a chair and tell me some horrifically personal/familial stories).
As much as I love it, that adds a lot of extra to a job that already includes managing expectations re: grades and class content, remaining cognizant of class dynamics and tensions, dealing with administrative expectations and district expectations and state and federal expectations, and keeping kids safe.
And it doesn’t stop when they graduate, either - in the last month, I talked a former student through breaking up with her boyfriend, and this young woman is 24, just finished her first year of teaching, and I hadn’t talked to her in a couple years. It’s true that once a kid becomes “yours,” they never really stop, no matter how old they are.
That circles back around to the original point, though - this level of relationship-building and emotional labor is hard, and it does leave me exhausted in the evenings, much more so than I thought I should be from the amount of work I had done. When I read about emotional labor, though, and realized how much of my day was about massaging egos and listening to stories and those kinds of things, it made a lot more sense what was going on.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any good ideas about how to reduce it at work. I can’t be that teacher who just tells kids who are hurting/angry Sucks For You, Dude, Now Let’s Get Back To Learning ENGLISH! Can’t do it.
What I am going to have to work on this year is the “taking care of myself after work” part. More time turning off Work Brain and less time sculpting the Most Perfect Lesson Evah. More sleeping. More eating. More dancing with a first grader. More grading assignments in class, so there’s nothing to do at home.
But if y’all have any ideas about how to create better work/life boundaries in this profession, I’d love to hear them.