I love teaching. I love it. I truly enjoy the satisfaction I get when I watch the lightbulb appear over an adolescent head when they finally get the difference between irony and sarcasm. It thrills me when they start to love a work of literature that  I love.

But, there’s something else I love more.

Here’s a hint:

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that I’m ready to give up on teaching (even though we spend more time doing paperwork and sitting in data meetings than teaching now). It’s just that I’ve started looking at things a little differently.

I have friends who have held the distinguished title of “Teacher of the Year,” and it’s a great honor. I’m proud of them. But, it’s an honor I will probably never have. When I look at my desk, covered in forms that I still need to fill out, papers that need to be graded, and the phone numbers of parents who need to be called, I know it would be easy to take it all home and do it. It would make sense and earn me some kudos to stay at school until 6pm every day, just to get my head above water – just like all the other teachers do. (It’s true. Your kid’s teacher doesn’t saunter in at 8 am and go home to take a nap at 3 pm. They usually get there some time before 7 and leave around 5 or 6. Surprise!)

And, there are teachers who have spouses and kids, and still put in those hours. They’re the ones who arrive at 6:30 am, stay until dark, volunteer for every menial task, take care of fundraising, lead SGA, and write the morning announcements. They put so much effort and pride into their work, and they do it all for the students and they are AWESOME!! It really takes a lot of dedication to do all of that for kids who aren’t even yours.

But, what about the kids who are yours? How many times have I seen kids sitting around their parent’s classrooms, coloring (or making mischief out of sheer boredom), and wondered if they would rather be home, doing their homework at the kitchen table while having a snack with Mom or Dad?

I have a theory that if I don’t put my marriage before my career, it will turn out like:

And, if I don’t put my child before other people’s children, Madeline will become one of those kids we teachers talk about at the lunch table. (Surprised again? Yep. We’re not perfect. If your kid sleeps in class, doesn’t work, has a smart mouth, or skips class often, we talk about him/her. Regularly.) I want more for her than that.

I want her to have a good work ethic, impeccable manners, and a strong moral compass. How is she going to get that if her mom is too busy to teach her those values?

OK, so I won’t be teacher of the year. I think I can stand the disappointment.