Here is a constant struggle I have and I know I am not alone. I spend most of my waking life working. I hear so much about having a work/life balance so I try to make myself stop working. When I do that, I mostly get done the stuff I have to do at work but then don’t have as much time to the things I most enjoy doing at work. And what happens when your work is your life? I feel guilty that I’m not working because I know there is so much more I could be doing so I don’t really allow myself to enjoy the things I do when I make myself not work. What a Catch 22, eh?
As I was trying to catch up on emails I received while I was away this summer, I came across an email from a teacher who was requesting votes for a contest he had entered about the best-decorated classroom. I went to check out the site and saw all these different types of teachers who had put so much time and energy into creating inspiring classroom environments.
The teacher who had requested my vote is an art teacher who’s theme was “Dream Big” so he spent his summer creating giant sized art supplies: ruler (taller than he is), a pair of scissors, crayons, pencil and watercolor palette.
His entire classroom is color-coded to create a better organization so it looks like the inside of a crayon box – a really well-organized crayon box! (Although the voting period has ended you can still see pictures of his classroom and they are worth checking out.) I was so inspired by what it had to have taken him to create all those giant supplies – all to accentuate his theme of “Dream Big” for his students.
What if Work is your Life?
These inspired and inspiring teachers really made me think. That art teacher spent his summer making these pieces to decorate his classroom. He clearly LOVES what he does and loves his students enough to seek out extraordinary ways to encourage them.
Education is a serious business and it’s important to remember just how high the stakes are. But by the same token, because the stakes are so high, I cannot afford to let my ideas of how my life should look keep me from throwing myself into the things about my work that bring me joy. I’m sure those giant school supplies are not going to change the test scores of that art teacher’s students but they will likely impress his students, perhaps even inspire them, and they clearly brought joy to this art teacher.
There are things about my job I don’t like but I still need to make sure I stay on top of those things. There are serious goals I have and serious needs my students have that I need to be sure I keep in focus. Still, I need to allow myself to indulge in those parts of my job that give me joy and if that means I work later or work on weekends, it’s okay for me to make that choice because it’s about ‘work is your life’.
If in the end it feeds and inspires me and, therefore, is good for all those with whom I work – adults and students like – it’s actually a smart choice for me. In other words, if my work is your life, I need to be sure my work is adding to my life. And if it is, then so be it. If you are like me, then join me. This year, I choose to be inspired and become an inspiration!
Deirdre is a teaching artist and AI coach in the San Diego public schools dedicated to helping classroom teachers make arts an integral part of their teaching. Deirdre has an MEd in Arts Integration and over twenty years of classroom and performing arts teaching experience. Email Deirdre.