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Teachers are Not Superheroes

In the words of Spider-Man, “What we believe we know may not be the truth.”


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Lisa Irving

3 years ago | 2 min read

In the words of Spider-Man, “What we believe we know may not be the truth.”

As a young teacher, especially a first-year teacher, saying no may feel like a sin.

The apprehension to say no, in my experience, comes from a common, and naïve, notion most new teachers have upon entering the profession: I have to give 100 percent of my time and energy to anything associated with my school, or else I am not being a good teacher. Saying ‘no’ is for teachers who no longer care about the kids. Saying ‘no’ is for wimps.

“I’m just going to take it one day at a time,” I whispered to Ms. Payne during one of several summer faculty meetings prior to my first day of teaching.

Ms. Payne was the quintessential veteran teacher; this was her eighteenth year in the building. To my “one day at a time” comment, she quickly replied, “They’re gonna ask you to do everything. Learn to say no.”

In my first year of teaching, I said yes to everything. If there was a school event in the evening that the administration encouraged teachers to attend, I was there.

If there was an optional planning meeting for a new initiative that may or may not have impacted my department, I was there. Needless to say, I spent my first year drowning.

We — and by “we” I mean teachers, administrators, college professors, parents, students, and the court of public opinion — must give teachers permission to feel content about taking on only what is reasonable for them.

I have witnessed baffling levels of judgment and resentment directed towards teachers who have refused to work Saturday school, sponsor a club, or coach a sport.

Teachers are human beings. With personal lives. And bodies. And emotions. As cliché as it may sound, teachers are people, too.

It is also important to stress that teachers are not a monolith.

There are indeed teachers who flawlessly take on several additional responsibilities. In the same way that some humans evolve into Olympic athletes or brilliant scientists, every teacher has to discover the level of work that fits his or her abilities.

I have worked with teachers who choose to coach volleyball, sponsor the junior class, and play piano at church while raising four children and maintaining a marriage.

Every teacher is not able to function like that, and that’s okay.

As much as I love superheroes, they are imaginary. Heroes are real. Heroes are exceptionally responsible, caring, and brave. Heroes don’t ask the outside world what they should do.

They think, feel, and know what they should do. Teachers, this is not to say you won’t increase or decrease what you do as a stakeholder in your school and community over time.

The important element here is that you are honest with yourself and, thereby, with your colleagues or administrators about what you are able to handle.

You will always hinder your instructional effectiveness when you take on too much else. Recognize the hero you already are.

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Lisa Irving

Writer. Woman. Wife. Debt-free life. Owner of FireCopy - www.thefirecopy.com | Twitter: @lisamarieirving


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