At the end of the week I jetted away to Bali for the Apple Distinguished Educator Institue in Bali. I was pretty stoked when I learned of my selection back in December. Since then I’ve crossed days off my calendar and been doing the happy dance with increased frequency but the realities of the trip didn’t really hit until Thursday afternoon when all of a sudden I was struck by a terrifying thought; ZOMG someone else is teaching my class for a week.
Sure I’ve had the odd day of release here and there for various bits of PD and working on the Teachers & Social Media reference group last year but this is the first time I’ve left my class for an extended period of time. All up the trip encompasses three weeks due to Easter and I will be missing an important school event, the annual Fun Run. So on Thursday I had a sudden attack of the guilts and panic attacks and spent way too long at school dotting all the Is and crossing all the Ts for my absence.
As I wrote up instructions about my class and its personality for the reliever, I wondered if primary teachers by virtue of teaching the same group of kids for the year are susceptible to shouldering the burden of thinking: ‘I am the only one who knows how to teach this class.’ While the result can be an empowering sense of mama bear “RAWR! YES I AM THE TEACHER” it seems like it comes with a heavy tax.
By casting yourself in the role of the superhero teacher you risk burning yourself out. You don’t sick days because it seems like more work to prepare for a reliever than to battle on with the flu. You say no to PD opportunities because you worry that your plans won’t be covered to the T and the kids might be unsettled by your absence. And all of sudden there you are; frazzled, isolated and probably battling a lengthy flu because you didn’t take any time off to recuperate.
So once I sent off my plans I decided to enjoy my week ahead and stop stressing about my absence from school.
Does the reliever teach concepts differently than me? Meh, who cares: as long as the kids get exposure to the concept I’m happy. Did the reliever get the kids to put the markers back in the right place? Eh, as long as the kids know where to find them, then no problem. Did the reliever follow my plans exactly? Bah. As long is the class is happy and learning, it’s all probably fine.
Phew another teaching milestone reached.
Great blog and very true for many teachers. However hard it is, the strength of your teaching will be stronger after absences as a true teacher inspires students to learn regardless of your location. Your kids will surprise you and with any luck when you return you may actually feel a little redundant… You letting go is the ultimate in trust… Enjoy your learning
Thanks for writing on this, Stephanie. For me, the great thing is that you are so passionate about your job and (most importantly) your students that you want the best for them; you don’t want to leave them to the mercies of a relief teacher who might just fill in time with them. That is what passionate teaching is all about!
Yes, you have got to that place where you have a sense of reality about the positives of you being away – and that is perfectly OK and right. But your true heart came through in your writing: you are passionate about your students’ weelbeing. Why? No doubt because of the relationship you have developed with them and from this relationship comes your desire for the best for them.
Enjoy your conference. Let go of the stress. But I’m sure you will come back even more resdy to be an awesome teacher for your students (who obviously are blessed to have you).