Teacher Guilt

I have felt guilty about my job since the first year that I started teaching.  I have always felt that I did not do enough, didn’t contact parents enough, didn’t make it fun enough, didn’t write down observations or assessments enough, didn’t do enough intervention with those struggling readers, writers, mathematicians, didn’t do all of the wonderful Pinterest extras, didn’t go above and beyond enough, didn’t volunteer for enough extra curricular activities, didn’t give enough timely critical feedback, didn’t document behaviour enough, didn’t post enough on Seesaw and the big one is not feeling like I get enough work done on the weekend.  When I told a colleague about this recently he said, “If you were only doing half of the things that you do, you would still be working harder than me and a whole bunch of your colleagues!” I thought to myself, “Really?  I thought everyone else was working harder and doing more than I was and seemed to have it all together.”  The truth of it is though, most of us feel like I do and we feel the same way about our colleagues.   Rationally, I know that we can’t “do” it all.  However, I somehow feel that I might if I just keep trying!  Crazy, right?

I lamented to a friend recently that I don’t get enough done on a weekend and always feel guilty on Sunday night.  “I have 48 hours every weekend.  You’d think I’d be able to get something done! I manage to watch Netflix and read my book.  Why do I feel like such a lazy teacher every Sunday night?”   Her wise answer was this, “You think you have 48 hours to do work?  I suggest you write down what you do in a weekend, write everything down from sleeping to eating to doing the laundry and driving your son around.  You’ll see you don’t have 48 hours to do work.  You also need to balance with family time and self care.  Reading your book or watching Netflix is not being a lazy teacher.  It is practicing self care.”  So, I did it.  I wrote down everything I did in a weekend.  Guess what?  I had precisely 3-4 hours to do some teacher type work which is on average the amount of work I do practically every weekend.

Social media keeps me connected with friends and family all over the world.  Sometimes, however, it also becomes a land mine for guilt.  I find myself thinking, “I should be doing that or what a great idea!”  I used to send home a hand painted pumpkin at Halloween and hand painted Christmas decorations for every student every year. When I stopped doing it, no one said a word. That is not what the students remember me for years later.  They remember the connection and the relationship.  They remember my quirky sense of humour and the hand puppet named Butch who is a little irreverent and likes to use the word underwear in whatever song it will fit.  I have discovered that I’m not the Pinterest teacher and I have to be okay with that.

After20+ years of teaching I still struggle in thinking that I haven’t done enough but I’m trying to look at all of the things that we have accomplished this year rather than all of the “great ideas” on the many lists that I didn’t accomplish.  I will cut myself some slack.  I will look at self care as a positive and necessary thing and not a lazy one.  On the lists I make now I will put family time first, accompanied by good sleeping habits and good eating habits.  Keeping me healthy makes me a better teacher and a better person.  So if you struggle like I do, here is a video that a friend suggested to me to help me get through those negative self-talk times when I feel that I am not enough.

Stop It.

You won’t regret watching it.  I promise it will make you smile.

Updated: May 31, 2018 — 10:24 pm

The Author

Michelle Fenn

I am a teacher with the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board and I have been teaching for over 20 years. I am an Instructional Leadership Consultant with the portfolios of Innovations and NTIP. I have the privilege of working with new teachers and their mentors as well as helping teachers develop 21st Century learning competencies with their students. When I grow up I want to be Ms. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus.


Add a Comment
  1. Deb Weston says:

    Because i work so hard during the week, I still need the weekends to recharge!

    So tired I cannot even capitalize my i’s 🙂

    1. Michelle Fenn says:

      The weekends are the perfect time to recharge. I just wish there weren’t so many life chores that had to be done on the weekend. Thanks for reading and for leaving a comment!

  2. Carol Morgan says:

    Just simply – love your article!
    Now stop it (to be both of us)!

    1. Michelle Fenn says:

      I know right? It seems so simple-just those words but they work when applied! Thanks for reading and for leaving a comment!

  3. Suma Das says:

    I also feels the same sometime.When I did my first LTO.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts

    1. Michelle Fenn says:

      Thanks for responding. It is always nice to know that we are not alone. Supporting one another is so important in our struggle to survive and thrive in the teaching profession.

  4. Heidi Buck says:

    Thanks for sharing. It’s nice to know, I’m not alone.
    I can totally relate. Mostly I feel guilty that I didn’t do enough in terms of advocating for my kids with learning disabilities.
    Happy Solstice and Aboriginal Day!

    1. Michelle Fenn says:

      Thanks Heidi,
      This article in particular seemed to touch a nerve with a lot of teachers. There is always more that we can do. We just need to make sure that we take care of ourselves before we try to do it!

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