The Selfless Teacher

This month's article is asking you to question why teachers are labelled heroes and essential workers only when they're putting their health at risk, yet outside of this time there is still a largely negative opinion about our profession in the eyes of the general public and media.

The most harmful idea for teachers is that we should all strive to be the most selfless version of ourselves; striving to be the teacher who is praised for repeatedly sacrificing money, time and health to benefit the needs of others. This "perfect teacher" is then held up as a standard for others. Does this teacher exist?

The fact is that teachers already sacrifice their money, time and health. It is happening at all types of schools, whether they be in the public or private system, and it is happening to those who are at the beginning, middle and end of their careers. Burnout is a common reality for any teacher who is striving to be selfless.

The worst part?

There is still criticism. There is still the demand and the expectation that more should be doneThe expectation that we should be willing to sacrifice more in exchange for less. This idea that every teacher should be more selfless is setting a dangerous precedent that we cannot continue to meet.

"More than nine out of ten public school teachers use their own money to purchase supplies for their school or students, according to the 2018 State of our Schools survey."
Australian Education Union, VIC

We need to stop lighting ourselves on fire to keep others warm. It's not beneficial for us to work until we are burned out, nor is it helping our students to see us leading an unhealthy and unattainable lifestyle.

This may sound like a broken record, but it's time for all teachers to find a balance.

  • Join the union and be aware of your rights, in particular with how many hours of non-contact you should be receiving. This is particularly important for graduate teachers who are entitled to more planning time in most states.
  • If you must work on weekends or after school, set a timer for however long is needed. When the timer rings out, stop. Put your work away and prioritise your wellbeing by taking a break.
  • Ask for help when needed. If you don't get it from the first person you ask, find another person and ask again. Repeat as many times as necessary.

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