Teachers, It’s OK To Not Miss Your Kids
My friends often ask me, as a teacher, if I miss my kids. I don’t.
I tell my friends that I don’t and that I’m actually doing quite well not having to go into the classroom, and there’s an awkward pause, usually, when my friends don’t know how to respond. I have written about how part of me is grateful that the Coronavirus, and wonder whether it makes me a bad person that I’ve been doing better than usual. I wonder whether it makes me a bad teacher that I don’t miss my kids, although I’ll still do my due diligence in calling parents, making assignments, and communicating with kids.
But no matter what I have to do contractually, I don’t miss my kids. It makes me feel bad because teachers all over social media have posted about how much they miss their kids, and will go to extremes like how they can’t even go to sleep at night without their kids. Some of my teacher friends post about is how much they miss their kids, and I feel bad for not feeling the same way as a teacher.
Am I a bad teacher?
Am I cut out for this?
Am I being selfish?
Well, it seems like, from my discussions with other teachers, a lot of other teachers don’t miss their kids either. They’re taking time to attend to their self-care and attend to their mental health. They don’t miss their kids because they have their own lives, their family, kids, and whatever hobbies they might have. They have firm boundaries between work and life and gave up romantic perceptions of teaching a very long time ago.
Look, as noble the work of being a teacher is, the fact is that teachers are not the most important parts of their student lives. We might come 5th or 6th at best, but we’re definitely not the most important thing for our children, and they will live without us, and we will live without them.
Not missing my kids may also be a sign that I was being overworked, constantly overwhelmed, and just needed a break. It doesn’t matter whether the break comes at the expense of a global, deadly pandemic. The fact is that teachers are perpetually overworked while being underpaid while also being very maligned by society.
As a teacher, part of you needs to accept that everything is your fault. When the kids aren’t engaged, it’s your fault. When your kids would rather stay home and play Fortnite than come to school, it’s your fault. When there are major behavioral problems and incidents that compromise the safety of students, it’s your fault. When your kids fail, it’s your fault.
The mindset isn’t necessarily a very healthy one, but I hold it deep in my heart that a good teacher does not blame the kids. There can be frustration with other adults or administration, but the moment I find myself getting mad or blaming the kids for their problems, I have to stop myself. What could I have done better? What did I do wrong? Was there anything I could have done better?
My mindset is the necessary one of someone who is extremely dedicated to and wants the best for his students. But it’s just so exhausting sometimes. Dealing with my kids’ behavioral problems or lack of resources, or the 3-hour bus commute to get to school often feels like a lot of these things are out of my control. I have to make myself believe, at least a little bit, that it is in my control, not in the sense that I can save my kids, but more so in the sense that I can make my classroom a safe place and productive learning environment my kids can feel welcomed in every day.
Not missing my kids doesn’t mean I don’t love my kids. During the school year, I used to go to my kids’ churches and talk to their grandmothers when I couldn’t reach them through the phone. I used to stay in the building and chaperone field trips where I wouldn’t get home until 11 p.m., waiting for the students’ transportation to bring them home. Even now, my students and I interact on assignments and discuss how we feel during the quarantine.
One of my kids expressed how tormented she felt that the coronavirus changed her life. Not being able to leave the house, she was spending all day at home. Her brother and sister were getting on her nerves. She missed her friends and her teachers and she prayed that the virus would just go away and stop killing people.
As touching as her journal entry may have been, I don’t have the same eagerness to go back to the school building. I am taking this time to care for myself and reset.
So it’s okay that I don’t miss my kids, and it’s okay that you don’t either.
Originally published on April 26, 2020 on Age of Awareness.