We Need to Stop Judging Teachers Who Leave Right After the Students


We Need to Stop Judging Teachers Who Leave Right After the Students

We Need to Stop Judging Teachers Who Leave Right After the Students_Watching other teachers leave at 3:00 meme

A meme about teachers who leave school right after the students has been popping up in educator Facebook groups. The meme features Michael Phelps with a sour expression on his face and says, “Watching other teachers leave at 3:00.”

Here’s the thing: we all have our own reasons for the time we do or don’t spend at school outside of teacher contract hours. We don’t know the full situation of anyone else, even those we consider our teacher besties.

Teacher contract hours ending means other obligations are beginning.

Jennifer, a Georgia teacher shared she often gets comments from her colleagues like, “it must be nice to leave as soon as school ends.” Teaching is just one part of Jennifer’s life. She has to rush out to pick up her baby from the childcare center so she can breastfeed. She doesn’t have a comfortable place to pump at school, so leaving ASAP to nurse is important. Then she has therapy appointments for her older child who has special needs most days of the week. She’s also the caretaker for her chronically ill mother.

”I wish my coworkers weren’t jealous I leave school right away. Between an infant, special needs tween, and sick mother, I’m fried by the time I start tucking them in. However, I force myself to stay up well past midnight doing work my teammates knock out at school before they head home.” 

Teachers who already have a ton on their plate dealing with really stressful situations often feel the need to explain themselves and justify leaving school. Then they worry they’re being pitied or judged. It can fester into feeling like a toxic work environment very quickly.

Many leave right after teacher contract hours to get to their other jobs. 

Nearly 1 in 5 public school teachers have second and even third jobs to make ends meet. It can be really hard for single parents, in particular, to get by on their teacher salary alone. Many have to rush to jobs at Starbucks, hotel reception desks, grocery stores, driving for Uber, etc as soon as the bell rings. They literally can’t afford to stay beyond teacher contract hours because it means missing out on money from other jobs. 

Those who leave right after teacher contract hours might have started their school day at the crack of dawn. 

Some teachers stay late, but some come in way before school starts. These teachers have already worked hours before most other staff start their days. Of course, they’re ready to pick up their keys and head home as soon as that bell rings. Many teachers are also at school for different hours each day. “Sometimes I leave at 3:30, but other days I’m there until 8:30. It all evens out in the end,” Andrea, a Florida teacher shared with Bored Teachers.

Some teachers have health problems that require them to leave school ASAP.

Many teachers struggle with health issues. They are exhausted, weak, and in pain by the end of the day. They might need to go home to treat their conditions, nap, put up their swollen legs, take medication, or go to doctor appointments. Ashley, a Tennessee math teacher, deals with several invisible illnesses. She says, “Administration knows about my health issues, but it’s something I try to keep private, even though I know some think I’m lazy. I just don’t have the energy to stay after school. I’m so tired and have such a difficult time moving at the end of the day I’ve started paying a friend to pick me up and drive me home.”

No one is obligated to work beyond teacher contract hours.

The bottom line is, none of those reasons really matter. Staying late is a choice, not a requirement. Colleen, a Texas teacher says, “I am not a martyr, and there’s no requirement to work beyond my teacher contract hours. It’s not required to have something ‘better’ or ‘more important’ to do in order to leave school. You are off the clock. Do you, and I’m going to do me.”  No explanations needed.

Teacher burnout is a very real problem that brings issues including depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Let’s not make it harder for each other by throwing shade about how long we stay at school. Some of us are dealing with way more than we’ll ever share. And some of us have mastered the art of work/life balance. Instead of being jealous, we should congratulate them and ask for lessons!

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We Need to Stop Judging Teachers Who Leave Right After the Students

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Rachael Moshman
Rachael Moshman, M.Ed. is a mom, educator, writer, and advocate for self-confidence. She’s been a teacher in classrooms of infants through adult college students. She loves pizza, Netflix and yoga.
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