I'm Convinced That My Students Don't Want an Over-Committed Teacher

Ask any teacher about the amount of hours they work each week, and I bet on average they are devoting AT LEAST 3-4 hours each day above their contract hours. Not to mention at some point during the weekend, just about every teacher is doing something. While I realize working beyond your contract time isn't abnormal to many jobs, I think education is one of the only professions where you are expected, and almost shamed if you don't, to pour in boundless time freely. Now, in my 8th year of education, I'm so incredibly self-aware and know, for myself, I'm not my best self when I'm over-committed. I'm 100% certain, no one wants me as an over-committed teacher.
Why I'm Convinced My Students Don't Want an Over-Committed Teacher

I'm not the best Me I can be when I'm OVER-committed.
I'm embarrassed to admit that for years I judged other people for leaving right as school ended. I judged them as terrible, undedicated teachers because I stayed at work all night long, and they didn't. I even convinced myself that I was superior for spending countless hours pouring into my classroom, my lessons, etc. What I didn't realize was that while I judged them, I was the one losing. Losing out on time with family, losing out on time to invest in my physical health, losing out on time to pursue my walk with God for sustenance, and losing out on the ability to pursue other fulfilling hobbies.

Now I look at those teachers who leave immediately after school to get home to their families, rush to the gym, commit to attending events with friends, etc., and I get it. #balance They are committed, just not over-committed. Commitment is reasonable service. It's expected. To me, now, commitment IS loyalty and dedication, over-commitment is negligence because long-term detrimental effects will be inevitable. Commitment is saying, "I love this job AND within the confines of my expected hours, I'm going hard, and I'll get the job done, BUT this job does not own me and my life." Over-commitment is borderline idolatrous and reckless. You see, yes- the "early bird gets the worm," but Matthew 6:26 asserts that every bird gets a meal, so why over-exert myself to get something when I can rest in God to meet all of my needs?

Some days I grab my bag at 3:45 and feel guilty for leaving on time. My past ways of thinking have me struggling, but I remind myself,
"You can't be your best 'you' over-committed. You are incredibly loyal and dedicated to this job, and your loyalty is not dependent on over-extending yourself and living without boundaries."

When I choose to carry stress from being over-committed, I'm subconsciously asking my students, or someone else in my life, to bear the brunt of it, and they didn't ask to carry that burden.

Over-commitment typically breeds chronic stress and an unhealthy lifestyle. For 5 years as a classroom teacher, I had a sporadic relationship with the gym, and the late nights at work every week meant inhaling fast food at least 3 nights a week. Many nights, I got home after most of my family was in bed OR I was so exhausted that I collapsed on my bed as soon as I walked through the door. Over-commitment often, unintentionally, results in neglecting one's mental, emotional, physical, and/or social health. None of which are beneficial, especially in the long run. Your body really cannot sustain prolonged over-commitment. Eventually, it will let you know that it's had enough. For me, it's been (pre) anxiety attacks, hyperventilating, weight loss, weight gain, and hair loss. All of this even led to, at times, resentment towards my job and my students. The whole point of teaching is connecting with students but I've found that when I'm over-committed, it actually creates distance between me and my students. How counterproductive! Working with people really requires the Fruit of the (Holy)Spirit, but when I'm stressed, I'm less dependent on God and more dependent on my flesh, so I am the opposite of peaceful, kind, patient, gentle... and incredibly short tempered. I have had times where I was so stressed that I said something I regretted and even called a kid's house after school to apologize to them. That's not fair to the people in my life.

 I cannot sustain doing my best work over-committed. 
In whatever I'm involved in, I give at least 150% percent. God has blessed me with gifts in organization and logistics, so I love working on projects and seeing them come to fruition. I find myself volunteering to do an abundant amount of tasks, but I have unrealistic views of time that it will require. Since I bite off more than I can chew, as deadlines approach, I start rationalizing what I'm actually going to do meaning, the things I volunteered to do, with good intentions, I start to just throw together. Not only is this contrary to my preferred work ethic, I know it doesn't honor God. Instead of delivering a seamless, engaging, well-thought out lesson, I may settle for basically, improv. Instead of a highly structured meeting with my teachers, I again settle for improv; rambling or coming off unclear, frazzled, and grumpy. Wouldn't it be so much better to bite off what you can actually chew, instead of filling up a plate with items that you already know you don't have the capacity to stomach? As a teacher, those kids get ONE year in the grade level, and I'm curious... how many of our students are only receiving a thrown-together class experience because the teacher is unintentionally over-committed?

Relationships typically take a back seat when I'm over-committed.
By default, I am a task-oriented person. I like to GET. THINGS. DONE. Being relational and I know God has specifically called me to be a healthy blend of both task-oriented and relational. I care just as much about how my students and teachers are doing mentally, spiritually, and emotionally, as I do about mastery of an academic concept I want them to learn. That all goes out the window when I'm stressed from taking on too much.
checking in on how people are doing is new for me. My current position as an Instructional Coach (training teachers) warrants being relational. When I'm over-committed and get stressed, I become more focused on just getting items off my To Do List, more than I care about the people I work with, unfortunately. I find myself retreating to my office more and avoiding people so I can focus on getting tasks completed. I'm less likely to check on students and teachers, engage in small talk, ask what's going on their lives, etc., when I have tunnel vision to just complete tasks.

Far beyond what you've done for someone, they'll remember the time you spent with them and how you treated them. You may not be a classroom teacher with students, but whatever your situation is, someone is depending on you for something. It may be your family members, close friends, office colleagues, employees, etc., but be honest- would they want you over-committed?

  • If you aren't your best "YOU," when you've taken on too much... they wouldn't want you over-committed.
  • If they didn't ask to carry your stress or for you to project it on them, they wouldn't want you over-committed.
  • If you cannot sustain your best work and a thorough work ethic, they wouldn't want you over-committed.
  • If you start to devalue or underfocus on human interaction and relationship-building, they wouldn't want you over-committed.
More and more, I see people (myself included) struggling to live life without personal boundaries, and they almost ALWAYS reach a breaking point. Let's be intentional to shift our perspective, have self-control in what we commit to, so that those who need us at our best aren't forced to experience us always at our worst.

Grabbing my bags at 3:45,

Dear God, Thank you for the opportunity to do what you've called us to do in life. While we typically have good intentions, so often, we find ourselves saying YES too much and it takes a toll on us. God, we're exhausted. We're stressed out. We love what You've called us to, but God, we're tired. Most of us know we can't sustain our over-commitment, but we just feel trapped. HELP! Shift our perspectives so that we understand over-commitment is actually under-commitment to self-control. We need to be able to restrain ourselves from taking on too much so that we can prioritize exactly what you need us to focus on in all facets of our lives. Our families need us focused. Our friends need us focused. Our co-workers and students need us focused. You need us focused. Strengthen us and empower us to focus on priorities over everyone's emergencies. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.

Jonathan McReynolds- Make Room