O is for It’s OK to tip the WORK/LIFE balance scales in favour of LIFE.

Really? Nearly 2 years? Not a word? I don’t phone, I don’t write. I have no excuse. But here is something that got my muse moving. I wrote this after coming across a link sent to me by a friend. It’s a topic I’ve been musing on since I found myself in a new work environment that has made an enormous positive impact on my teaching career yet has also meant that I am working harder than I have ever done.

Heavily inspired by an article written by KATIE BERLIN DVM (March 28, 2016 For Pet Lovers)

I have a confession to make:
Teaching English to high schoolers is not my favourite thing to do.

It’s hard sometimes, being surrounded by people who say things like “It’s my calling” and “I’ve never wanted to do anything else” and “I can’t imagine my life if I were not a teacher.” I don’t feel that way at all. I was a “non-traditional” education student with a certificate in vet nursing, some work as a vet nurse and a few years of post-University life under my belt. I did everything from studying industrial furniture design, mobile dog washing, to fish and chip short order cooking, to just playing around with an English Literature degree that had Japanese as it’s minor (unsuccessful). I needed to find a profession that would keep me interested and challenged for the rest of my working life. I loved English and reading and writing and I enjoyed gaining my teaching degree and have been largely very lucky in the jobs I’ve had as a high school teaching practitioner. I enjoy my work, feel I’m reasonably good at it, and have a very strong drive to get better, learn more, and be the best I can be at what I’m expected to do every day.

But I’m that way with pretty much everything I do. It’s still just a job to me.

It’s a good job. I love the feeling when things go well. I like to see kids light up about words. I like seeing teenagers and young children grow and learn and think critically about their world. I love our motivated, compassionate teaching colleagues and admin staff and the parents who have more than one child come through my classes because they can’t imagine having their child learn in any other school. But if something happened where I couldn’t be a teacher anymore, I’d be sad for a while, but I have no doubt that I’d find something else to do and have a similar drive to be good at that too.

There are about a million things I’m interested in. I can’t remember ever being bored – ever. There is never enough time to do everything I want to do. But for several years I was really unhappy. Work burned me out, and I started to become a person I didn’t like very much. I was making decisions that didn’t reflect the person I really was. I threw myself into this sport that I just did as a hobby on weekends. I started travelling to learn from international masters of the sport. I read and read and read some more. I emailed and conversed about the intricate details of the art of agility and training dogs. I competed locally, nationally and eventually internationally. I saw how the sport was run in four different countries overseas.

I went to a gym to get stronger and faster, and stayed there learning to do things like Turkish squats and rowing. I discovered I can leg press a significant amount of weight. I rode a bike, taught my dogs to run with me. I got certified to teach other teachers how to teach in my profession and it just kind of trickled and seeped down into my sport. Now I teach agility to individuals, small groups and I have a regular Tuesday night class that nothing at work that day can keep me from. I read – everything from novels to history to social psychology. I love podcasts and Ted Ex videos and listen ALL the time – I’m constantly inspired.

I’ve become an agility junkie and a sponge for all the different approaches and strategies to get the most positive response from my dogs and my students. I’ve turned out to be one of our English department’s biggest advocates for any and all methods (conventional or otherwise) that gets reluctant readers reading and kids engaged with being inquisitive about their world. I’m supportive of any innovative ideas that create spaces where kids feel safe to take risks and speak their minds, where teachers feel safe to try things out and can expand the world views of their students and blow their minds with the amazing things that go on in this world. I’m all for reducing compassion fatigue (teacher burn out is a very real and unpleasant fact of this profession), and using social media to encourage more collegiality, real support and a sense of school being our community. My actual job, teaching proper grammar, expanding vocabularies, marking and commenting on papers, reporting, talking to parents, promoting reading and critical thinking, is fine. I like it. In fact I love it. Most of the time. I get positive feelings from doing it well. But it’s not who I am. It’s not what lights my fire and gets me out of bed in the morning. Four furry black and white faces who are thrilled their human is up and about to take them somewhere on a magical adventure to sniff and run and pee and do fantastically exciting things with them like agility is what that spark is all about. All the other stuff is what does that. And because that fire is lit, I am happier and better at work.

In our profession, as in many others, it often seems understood that we are to live and breathe our jobs and that we took them on because we felt we barely had a choice.

We were MEANT to do what we do. Maybe that’s the case for some people, but I don’t envy them. I love that I have so many passions and have made peace with the fact that dealing with the joys of adolescents, assessing, marking and reporting is not one of them. It does not lessen my skill or my compassion, or make me any less a teacher than the person who hasn’t considered another career since she was 6 years old.

So, to the prac student- teachers, new grads, recent grads in the 5-year slump, and veterans who keep thinking, “Is this all there is? When do I get a break?” – I’m telling you. It’s OK to do other things, and to love them, and to love them more than your job. At the end of your life you will not wish you were more obsessed with work. You will wonder what you could have done if you had been less obsessed, or if you had let go of the expectation of obsession. Life is short. Choose joy. Live what you love – whatever that is.

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