Teaching Profession Opinion

Can Educators Do It All?

By Ariel Sacks — January 26, 2018 3 min read
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This year, I took an exciting and scary plunge into the world of education outside the classroom. Not that I’d never been there before, but I’d always juggled writing, presenting, and other leadership roles beyond the classroom with a full time teaching position. You can imagine (or you know firsthand) how that looks--nonstop work.

When I had my daughter, I kept teaching, but found I needed my evenings and weekends to spend time with her. My frantic work-life rhythm had to change.

I became very efficient with my discretionary time at school, and I developed some feedback practices with students that lessened the huge piles of papers to read and grade. I would stay after school to grade or attend meetings a few days a week, but I almost completely stopped bringing school work home.

I found a pretty satisfying balance between teaching students, contributing to my school community through leadership roles there, and spending time with my family. However, my education writing and leadership work beyond my school had to slow way down.

I began to have an idea for a second book, but I could not imagine how I would find the time to write it.

The following school year (2016-2017), I arranged to work .8 of fulltime at my school, which means 80% of a full time schedule. I took a 20% pay cut, but maintained my full benefits. My purpose in making this change was to carve out some time during my regular workweek--that wouldn’t cut into family time--to write and continue to develop my capacity as an instructional leader.

I loved the idea that I would finally get what I had recommended that schools create for all teachers back in 2010 in the book Teaching 2030--20% time for teachers, like Google employees, to pursue their own work-related ideas. (But of course, I was funding it myself.)

The extra time during school hours, in the form of two early release days per week, certainly helped me to maintain the diversity of work that I value. I was able to write this blog, and I had some more availability to work with teachers and schools to implement whole novel studies.

But this arrangement was still nowhere near the number of hours I had put into writing in the past, and which I would need in order to write another book. I still taught classes at my school every day. I forced myself to leave at the appointed time on my early days, rather than stay and handle the endless possible items that might beg my attention. But the daily teaching schedule limited my flexibility to spend time in other schools.

Last spring, my husband and I figured out an arrangement that would allow me to come out of the classroom completely--to write the book I needed to write, to take on more consulting and coaching work, and to consider what the next phase of my career could and should look like.

It’s been a monumental shift, and somewhat more disorienting than I expected. I am doing what I set out to do, and it is rewarding, but I miss teaching and being a part of a school community. It comes as no surprise.

Now that I’ve settled in a bit, I’m back to asking the eternal question: can I somehow do it all? Teach, write, lead, parent...and live? The difference is that I used to ask it with the underlying attitude of, “Of course I can!” and then spread myself too thin. Now I ask the same question from a place of, “Probably not, and that’s okay; we all have to make choices, but I’ll keep asking.” This has the feel more of a puzzle than a wall: like when you think you are close to solving a Rubik’s Cube, but then you have to actually undo that path in order to see a different one. I don’t mind that.

[Photo by Hans-Peter Gauster on Unsplash]

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