So here’s the situation:
You’ve been teaching for quite a while. You’ve pretty much gotten a handle on classroom management, paperwork, classroom rules, and any number of the other day-to-day tasks we encounter. But how many of these teaching vices do you struggle with? I know I’m not guiltless in these areas. In fact, I’ve had run-ins with most of these. Not all of them, of course.
- Luxuria (extravagance or lust)
While most people think of lust in a sexual kind of way, in the original context, it essentially meant excessive love of others. Even so, some teachers take this one quite literally and end up losing their jobs over abusive relationships with their students.
- Gula (gluttony)
Gluttony is typically viewed in the sense of overeating, but it can be any overindulgence. Do you spend too much time doing one thing? I know that I had to delete Facebook from my iPhone because it can become such a distraction at work. I’m leaning toward deleting Twitter apps also.
- Avaritia (greed)
As teachers, we often pride ourselves in the fact that we don’t have high salaries, and so we can quickly get deceived into thinking that we are exempt from the struggles of greed that many people have. Quite the contrary, do you find yourself spending your next paycheck weeks before you even get it? Do you have too much month left at the end of the money each month?
- Acedia (sloth)
Do you work hard when you’re at work? I put in 10-hour days most of the time. It’s easy for me to sit down and just zone out. Or go back to the aforementioned Facebook or Twitter apps. I have to fight hard to work the whole time I’m at work. It’s a struggle. Especially when I am much more organized than I was in the early years.
- Ira (wrath)
When something doesn’t go my way, I get frustrated. When this year’s students don’t learn something as well as last year’s, and definitely not as well as the ones I had five years ago, it can be oh so aggravating. Oh yeah, did I mention that I find myself working with middle school kids every day? Isn’t that excuse enough to lash out in anger? Or maybe I’m the only one…
- Invidia (envy)
“Wow, Mr. So-and-so has much better students than me.”
“If I had only taken that extra class over the summer, I’d be getting the same $500 stipend she is!”
“You only say that because your husband is an attorney.”
“Why won’t the administration ever suspend this kid and get him out of my class?”
Need I say more?
- Superbia (pride)
I used to be a really bad teacher, but now I find myself shocked when other teachers do the same things I used to. I would never do it like that! And yet I did it like that for years. My students never misbehave. A lot of the time I catch other teachers (or myself) bragging on my students, it’s really more of an attempt to fish for compliments.
So how are you doing in fighting these sins? They just might be your downfall if you’re not careful! Below are the Christian virtues that correlate with each of the sins and ways that I have had success in resisting some of the above sins.
Band directors and coaches tend to spend more time outside of the school day with students and therefore run the risk of allegations of indiscretion with students. As a result, I make every possible effort to avoid being in a close one-on-one situation with a student. If they stay after school to work on music, I try to have other people around. If everyone else is gone, I am at my desk listening but not real close. If they are the last one picked up, I get in my truck and wait. Even an unfounded allegation of impropriety can sabotage any teacher’s career.
Sometimes ya just gotta say no. Happy birthday, but don’t be offended that I’m not eating a piece of cake today. When was the last time you really unplugged from all of the over-connectedness that we experience in the world? Try it for a day and see what happens. As I said before, I’ve deleted Facebook from my iPhone and will be drastically minimizing the amount of time I spend online in the near future. Pretty much from now till the end of March (when my band goes to UIL Concert & Sight-Reading), I will be under the radar. I need to reclaim my focus and trimming the attention sails (the term stuck with me almost three years after I first read it, so I figure it’s an effective headline).
Practice delayed gratification. Plan purchases out long-term. Get on a budget. Don’t go (any further) into debt. Listen to Dave Ramsey. Embrace the words “no” and “later”.
Hard work is the key to winning at anything long-term. I started running for the first time in over a decade at the beginning of this year. It’s hard work. Really hard. Each day I have to force myself to get up and go out to run. I don’t win every day, but the battle rages on. At work, I actually teach 4 completely different classes and work with small groups of students in 1-3 other classes each day. Plus after-school sectionals. I have a whole lot of prep work to do. But I must force myself to do it, or else the students will lag behind. And at this point in the year, I can’t blame the band directors from last year. It’s all my fault now!
This is the area in which I struggle the most. Outbursts of wrath (or course the good ol’ occasional planned fit). If I’m trying to create a safe atmosphere in the classroom, I really should avoid yelling. Even if it’s just me trying to convey my passion for the music or whatever, it’s out of place. Maybe I should just invest in some ice packs or Orajel and get used to biting my tongue…
Kindness is the flip-side of envy? Yes! Essentially, whether the other person knows about it or not, envy is rudeness. It’s me saying that they don’t deserve what they got. It’s also intertwined with pride in that by saying they don’t deserve it, I am also saying that I somehow do. If I actually LIKE the person, I will have a hard time discrediting their character. Ouch.
Humility is tough. Especially as I do become better at teaching. But people pick up on it pretty quickly. Each one of the above virtues is more powerful when seasoned with humility.
Sometimes I wish I could go back to the days when I struggled to come to school and didn’t have time to worry about what else I was doing wrong. Ignorance indeed was bliss…