June 11, 2015 / Simpson's Summer Blog Series
In my opinion, one of the most important activities for teachers is the deliberate effort to take a break from school and your students over the weekend. I am not saying an effective teacher never brings school work home. Teachers always have to grade those essays or exams over the weekend, but this does not happen every weekend. Use the weekend to pursue activities you enjoy that will take your mind off issues with your students at school.
The weekend is the time to focus on your family. My precious daughter, Jennifer, was born on November 5, 1972, and I completed student teaching during the 1973 spring semester. I was hired to teach in the same school the next fall. I remember bringing school work home too often. One evening I was at the kitchen table in our apartment, and Jennifer, as a toddler, made her way to the table. Her little fingers barely reached the table, and her eyes were just over the edge of the table. I looked up, and she was desperately trying to make eye contact with me. I never felt so guilty in all my life. I realized at that point I cannot neglect my own child for my students at school. However, I have constantly fought this battle. I can remember coming home after dealing with 130 eighth graders all day, and Jennifer would meet me at the door ready to spend time with me. I would have to take 30 minutes or so to unwind from school before I could give her all my attention.
Many of our graduates at Maryville College are very involved in their respective faith communities. If you teach eighth grade at the middle school, why not teach eighth graders in Sunday School (beloved church leaders might ask)? No! No! No! Several years ago I shared this warning with our student teachers. Two of those student teachers, who would be married after graduation, planned to teach high school and work with the youth in their church. They were shocked that I warned them not to work with youth in their church if they taught teens in school. I think it was two years after their graduation that they found me at Homecoming. Their first statement was, “You were right!” Instead of working with the youth in church, one was working in the nursery and the other was teaching a Sunday School class for the oldest men in the church.
Being a teacher, especially an effective teacher, is intense and stressful. If you cannot walk away from your school and students to find much needed rest, you are setting yourself up for becoming a burned-out teacher. We need you in the classroom, and your students need you at your best every day.
As I write this blog, I am well aware that I have trouble practicing what I have just encouraged you to do. A few years ago, Maryville College started administering a series of tests to incoming first year students to help them clearly understand their strengths and weaknesses in order to plan and prepare for their futures. They invited faculty to drop by the Learning Center and take the same tests. I said to myself, “Why not?” I was classified as an introverted workaholic. I go home and tell my wife, “Baby, I just finished a series of tests at the College, and I now know who I am. I am an introverted workaholic!” She glared at me with fire in her eyes and responded, “You didn’t have to take a damn test for me to know that!” She was right and she usually is.
Bless you my children,
Terry L. Simpson