It’s throwing me off to be writing my piece on Saturday. I usually mull over the topic all weekend, and then sit down Sunday after lunch to write my thoughts. This Sunday, however, I will be driving a bus to Missouri. Fifty-three of my students and parents and I will be traveling to view the total eclipse. Gotta have all my homework done prior to driving and cooking and fellow shipping and “ooooo-ing” and “ahhhing.”
It’s not foreign to me to spend the weekend at work. One of our very first posts on this site dealt with then-President Obama’s decision to pay salaried workers overtime. I was alarmed because the knee-jerk reaction by all employers of salaried workers was to immediately remove any opportunities for overtime. Keys were taken up and time clocks put into place. I couldn’t imagine how any extra-curricular activity could survive this ultimatum. Thankfully, the decision-makers decided that lawyers, doctors, and teachers were exempt from this decree. First time my profession was ever grouped with the likes of lawyers and doctors!
The truth is that a teacher doing his/her job correctly HAS to work overtime. Time with the students is spent (are you ready for it?) teaching. Planning and grading and conferences and meetings all have to take place outside of the teaching time. Sure, some get a planning period once a day. One hour a day of planning period would only make my day end at 10:00 p.m. instead of 11:00. I’m not complaining, though. I get bored when things aren’t happening. Any free time the government would require would just turn me into a subversive!
My husband and I watched a very thought-provoking movie the other night. It received a 17% rating – not something with which I’d usually waste my time – but it starred Emma Watson and Tom Hanks. Those are not two names usually associated with failures. It was called The Circle, and it was easy to see that it was satirizing Google or some other such large corporation. Emma’s character was not required to join in on socialization opportunities offered by the corporation during her off hours, but her lack of participation seriously “worried” her supervisors. I asked my Business Communications class the next day if our school was like this corporation. They were quick to say “no.” Playing the Devil’s Advocate, I asked if our solar eclipse trip did not, in fact, belong in the same category. It led to a really good discussion, and by the end, the students had learned that bonding opportunities should be made available to employees, but not required, or strongly suggested, as was the case in the movie.
This is an age-old issue in any organization. Early in our marriage, my husband would make me aware of “opportunities” for the spouses of soldiers to meet each other and fellowship. When he became a battery commander, I learned that being the commander’s wife meant that I needed to provide funds for the young enlisted wife who didn’t have enough for diapers, a practice that ended almost as quickly as it started. By my husband’s deployment to Desert Storm, we young wives had learned to reach out to each other for support because our husbands were in the same location – war. This camaraderie was so successful that the military made it regulation. They called it Family Readiness Groups. Now what we had done naturally in a time of high-stress became mandatory for all the leadership wives. I remember rushing home from work to quickly feed my husband and son, and then rushing to an FRG meeting… where we sat and talked about why more people didn’t come. (Frowny face emoji goes here…but I don’t have one on Word!)
Overtime – whether it be for more work or to build camaraderie – HAS to be the decision of the employee… or student, if you will. The student or employee who enjoys his work will volunteer extra time to it simply because he enjoys it. That’s my life. I absolutely love “building” this program. The employee or student who cannot wait to leave work or school will be just as miserable in overtime… whether he is paid time-and-a-half or not (or in the student’s case: gets extra credit or not).
Okay. Employee has to enjoy it. Got it. This is where all the “extra-curricular activities at work” idea originates with employers. Those employers are forgetting one key factor: enjoying work and enjoying your work mates are two different things. I enjoy my students, my fellow teachers, and my parents during the work week. When I work overtime, I don’t want to be with anyone or anything but my work. I need that time to think… to produce… to catch-up and to ready myself for the week ahead. Sure, I plan events like this solar eclipse trip, during which I will be spending 48 hours with the aforementioned. I will have already spent fifteen hours of alone prep-time on Saturday, though. I’m counting the trip as a super-long Monday, and as such, I think it will be a blast! Some of my students and most of my parents are not going; the ones who are, want to be there, as do I. We’ll have a great time together.
My points are these: as parents, we have to understand that lessons and teams and civic organizations and church are all overtime to our students. The child who wants to be there will blossom and flourish. The child made to do these will make you as miserable as he is. As employers, we need to know that the event we’re all going to together after work to promote camaraderie is not promoting camaraderie with those who don’t want to be there. It’s stressing them… and quite possibly their wallet, as well. As individuals, we have to stand up to those who would dictate our free-time activities. It may not be listed in the “inalienable rights,” but it is just as precious to us.