Teachers are never just teachers.

At different times throughout our teaching day we are mother or father, counselor, social worker, first aid attendant, driver, motivational speaker, law enforcer, healer, guide, activist, advocate, political player, lunch provider, snack provider, provider of jackets and shoes, shoe tying assistant, nurse, parent advisor, mediator, crisis manager, health advisor, fitness coach, life-coach, mentor, role-model, researcher, instructional leader, school-success visionary, curriculum expert, pedagogy specialist, fundraiser, event organizer, clean-up crew – and then we also plan, prep, teach, deliver and grade curriculum expectations to a classroom of students.

There’s an African proverb that says “it takes a village to raise a child”. True. But in our schools it seems that the responsibility of the villages rests with the teacher. Is this fair or realistic?

It’s not that teachers resent these roles, it’s that how do you maintain any sanity when so many roles are downloaded onto one person responsible for a minimum of 30 kids?

We just do it. We do it because we feel we must. We are responsible.

But are we responsible for everything? Or is this just what we tell ourselves?

Responsibility in the dictionary looks like this: blame, liability, accountability, job, duty, task, dependability, conscientiousness.

None of that sounds very inspiring or empowering.

Deepak Chopra, among others, has defined responsibility as the ability to respond.   Now that’s something. What are we responsible for? Not shouldering blame or guilt, but the power to use our ability to respond to situations that require our skills in ways that don’t wear us down. How can we use our power of response to make healthy choices for ourselves and our students? We could say:

“I choose to have this job and staff meetings are a part of the job description, therefore I choose to show up in a pleasant mood and to bring food to make it enjoyable.”

“I choose to use a ready-made activity, rather than create one so I can save 1 hour of time and use it to spend time with family.”

“I choose to drop one extra-curricular activity a week so I can have that time to do another important task on my long to-do list.”

“I choose not to become emotionally entangled in the problematic aspects of my students’ lives beyond that of my professional and ethical obligations, and refer them to competent counselors in trust.”

When we take back our ability to choose, responsibility is feels freeing, not burdensome. …and that is a step towards wellbeing.