Evaluating teacher extra-curricular commitments
When I first started teaching, I said yes to everything. I chaperoned the Halloween dance and somehow won the costume contest for taping leaves to myself as a “pile of leaves”. I went on the school trip to France for two weeks during Spring Break and had an amazing if sleep-deprived time. Every opportunity that arose was an exciting chance to get to know the kids and bond with them so that lessons in the classroom could be more effective.
However, after five years of working in education, I realized that I was burning myself out by saying yes. I needed to take time to evaluate what I could and should continue, and what I needed to say goodbye to. I decided to evaluate the highlights and hard parts of each commitment to decide if the joys were worth the pains for me personally in the long run.
- Coaching cross-country
The highlight: running alongside + motivating students as we ran together up mountains in Mammoth
The hard part: waking up at 5:30 am for 5 weeks in the summer for pre-season, running in 3 pm heat in Los Angeles from August to November, Saturday morning practices in the fall
2. Choreographing the school musical
The highlight: refining the dances with the students like a drill sergeant
The hard part: going back to school on Monday after tech week + weekend shows
3. Coaching FIRST FTC Robotics
The highlight: helping kids solve problems as a team by testing and evaluating solutions
The hard part: weekend tournaments that can last 9–12 hours
As you can see, the hard part is often the sheer time it detracts from my personal replenishing time. Schools sometimes assume young faculty members without a spouse or kids have more time to give, but we still need to recharge our batteries. At the same time, the decision to discontinue helping out with an extra-curricular can be tough. If you say no, the school may not be able to run the program. However, you never know; if you step down, someone else might just step up.
Another hard part is: upon looking back on memories from the year, I see that these exhausting and maybe even dreaded long events are often the most meaningful. Looking through my photos, I find myself smiling most at pictures from early-morning, long-lasting meets. Giving up my connection with these groups is both tempting and heart-breaking.
I have found for myself that the most important thing is for me to feel free to say no, because then when I help with something, I know — and can remind myself if I am feeling exhausted — that I am doing it willingly and freely. I have also realized the importance of humility; I am probably not as necessary as I think, and the team/show/club/trip can probably continue without me.
I used to feel like a grinch for saying no, but then I realized: saying no to one (or a few) extra-curricular commitments will help me say yes to working in education in the long run.