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Two Ways to Live the Teacher’s Life (and Our Need for Both of Them)

By Dave Stuart Jr.

I think there are two ways to live the teacher's life and that we need a bit of both of them.

The engaged teacher

This teacher engages with the life of the school, its staff, and its students. She participates in spirit days or sponsors a club; he lives within walking distance of the school or attends student sporting events and extracurricular activities.

I think this teacher gets all the good press: she's the hero in the movie; he's the one we can always count on.

The disengaged teacher

This teacher disengages with the life of the school for the sake of fully engaging with the life of other communities: family, faith groups, non-educator friends, clubs.

I think this teacher gets a bad rap: she must not care; he's burned out.

Why we need to be both

If you tend toward engagement, you run the risk of being desperate for acceptance or recognition. If we don't develop the habit of purposeful disengagement, I think we set our paths to stumbling: into burnout, into self-aggrandizement, into myopic foolishness. (Not that I would know.)

If you tend toward disengagement, you run the risk of forgetting why you teach and understanding where you teach. If we don't develop the habit of purposeful engagement, I think we set our paths to stumbling: into burnout, into self-deluding isolation, into “in just X more years, I can retire.”

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7 Responses to Two Ways to Live the Teacher’s Life (and Our Need for Both of Them)

  1. Jennifer Lynn Ringo October 10, 2015 at 8:52 am #

    Thank you, Dave. I work with a lot of new teachers, and it’s hard for them to understand that they MUST disengage at times or they will burn out quickly. What’s frustrating is watching admin and other teachers dump more and more responsibilities on these newbies, knowing that the increasing pressure may crush their spirits. It took me years to learn how to say “no” but that ability has served me well. I try to get my new teachers to understand how to say “no” respectfully and to mean it. I wonder if you have written a piece on the power of that little word?

  2. Jennifer Lynn Ringo October 10, 2015 at 8:52 am #

    I’m off to search your blog now… lol

  3. Kim October 10, 2015 at 5:42 pm #

    This is my second year teaching at a particular highschool, and I definitely would say that I am more of the disengaged teacher and do my best to avoid anything school-related. I feel like folks look at me as though I am strange, but the thing is I need to decompress every chance I get. I think as I get more years under my belt I will be able to slowly become a little more engaged with the school. Thanks for acknowledging both types of teachers! I am forever grateful for the teachers that are super engaged, that way I can lay low!

  4. hagertyenglish October 11, 2015 at 1:42 am #

    I give my students 110% at school daily. I need to disengage to recharge. Thanks for the reminder that not everyone understands.

  5. msdayvt October 11, 2015 at 3:56 am #

    Dave I love you. Now I’m leaving you. LOL. #metaphor

  6. Jennifer October 11, 2015 at 8:48 pm #

    I’ve been teaching for over 20 years and my engagement has ebbed and flowed. Working in a VERY small pre-K to Adult Ed district…everyone knows everyone. Sometimes engagement gets too personal and then painful. By that, I mean knowing a family, celebrating a birth, attending funerals, mourning suicide, and seeing former students incarcerated ar dead from any number of causes. This year is a big NO year. I leave at my dismissal time, because I have to or else I’d go bonkers!

  7. Tavia October 12, 2015 at 9:19 am #

    While I agree that teachers, like everyone else, need to be reflective. I find that this article is a bit too simplified. There are many more facets to a teacher’s life. Exploring engaging, out of school activities enhance the teaching life. Those experiences being depth and color to the classroom. They help the students understand how the knowledge applies. If teachers are so dedicated to the school life then they have no depth of experience to relate to the students. Students, especially those in high poverty areas need to see the world. Often, their teachers are the catalyst for curiosity and expansion. I am a supporter of work and life balance, always.

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