Work is Like a Gas

Chemistry 1965

Work is like a gas.

It expands to fill its allotted space.

As a teacher, I have fixed hours: 8:30-4:30 M-F. That time is entirely consumed with meetings, conferences, tutoring and, let’s not forget, instruction. That means that I have to find time outside of that window to prepare lessons, write materials and grade papers.

In my old life, I let that work expand unbounded into all areas of my life. I showed up at work at 7:00 when the custodians were the only other life in the building.  I worked in the evenings, grading papers while watching a movie with my husband. Half of my Saturday would be spent in front of the computer, planning lessons and writing materials. Even vacations weren’t sacred – I would frequently have a bag of work by my feet as we drove off to some destination.

During the divorce, I realized that I needed to set boundaries. I still came into school early, but I refused to take work home. I liked that morning time – it was bound by the bell that started the day. Much to my surprise, I found that I could still get done much of what I needed to. The lessons weren’t as fleshed out, but my years of experience had long since made that unneccessary. The activities weren’t as neat and typo-free, but it turns out that 8th graders don’t really care (or even notice) and a type doesn’t limit learning. Occasionally, I felt rushed or unprepared when something came up unexpectedly at the last moment. But that happened when I worked all of the time, too.

Last year, when I started my 28 day mediation challenge, I pushed my start time back to 7:30 so that I a few precious moments in the morning where I could meditate without having to get up at an even more ridiculous time. It was heaven. I arrived at work rested and calm. The centered mind more than made up for the missing half hour.

This year, I told myself that I would start the year by going in at 7:00 to allow time for the added workload of the beginning of the school year. I promised myself that I would move that back to 7:30 by the end of the 1st quarter.

It’s now the 3rd quarter and I’ve only walked through the doors after 7:00 a handful of times. In fact, it’s been closer to 6:45 on most mornings.

What went wrong? Why am I allowing this time? Do I really need it or am I just afraid that I will fall behind if I do not allow that extra half hour? I’ve been feeling unbalanced with work this year – it’s taking more energy and causing more stress than I would like.

What would happen if I narrow its container? Bound it with walls that restrict its flow? Would that found time restore balance?

I intend to find out.

Beginning today.

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6 thoughts on “Work is Like a Gas

  1. Theres nothing better than a teacher that takes her job seriously. You may not be tokd this a lot, but I appreciate all your hard work and dedication. All my volunteering is for my kids school, and some for schools they dont even attend. If anyone else went to work one day and their boss pulled them in and said, hey we’re going to add more to work load and we’re going to ensure you have work to take home, and there are days where we will have events that you will be required to attend after hours, and I am going to give you stricter guidelines oh, AND I am going to do this and NOT pay you anything more.. Have fun! Any other person would quit or throw a fit.. I love the teachers that chose this profession for the right reasons and not just the hours, you know who they are because without thinking they are their for their kids, tutoring and taking work home and doing their best so the kids will do their best. Its not an easy job, but thank you for all the personal time you put in. The PTA’s in our district try to have copy moms, so teachers will put what they need in a basket for the copy mom to do in the middle school. This is tough to recruit other moms to start doing, but my argument is always– I dont care if they work on plans in their “free” period, drive to lunch, take a nap, or call their boyfriend or husband for the hour, they will be that much more refreshed or just relieved they wont be standing for hours waiting for one of two copiers once their work day is done. — Sometimes I spend up to 5 hours at the middle school trying to catch up on the copies. I hope your school has this, if not suggest to your PTA if have one. Utilizing this could help you some, and others..
    ps. thanks for giving me something else to think about besides my messed up life. Volunteering at the schools is a huge thing for me, and it infuriates me at the middle school level how little parents get involved,

    1. Wow. That is one of the most understanding responses I have ever heard about teaching from a non-teacher. I love my job. But it is not an easy one. Sometimes I get frustrated because everyone seems to think they know what it’s like (since everyone has been in a classroom at some time), but you have to be there as an adult to really get it, I think.

      That’s a great idea about the copies. I spend several hours a week in from of that blasted machine!

      Thanks:)

  2. From someone else who obsesses more than she should about typos, I was wondering what a “mediation challenge” was and if that was a test to see how many people actually notice typos:P I find anytime I mention my OCD in a post there is inevitably a typo in the next paragraph.

    It’s hard because we all let time fill up with things we don’t necessarily want to fill it up with and then feel guilty about not spending that time in more meaningful ways. The problem with filling it with work outside work hours is setting the bar and having to maintain that extra time. I had a boss get seriously mad that my work productivity was dropping except it still exceeded my paid hours just not by as much as it had been. Instead of her seeing my working weekends and taking work home as bonus it became the standard expectation. That motivated me to learn to say no when she gave me more work than I could do during work hours or at least to highlight how much work was done outside work hours and demand it be recognized as such.

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