Have you learned to turn the professional-private switch on and off?

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Tessa, 4/5/95-28/12/12

We all know that since internet our professional life as teachers invades our private life – but what about the other way round? Do you answer private mails, tweets, Whatsapp at work? Do you always turn on the professional switch and turn off the private switch when in front of the class?

What a year! 2012 has been a weird, uncomfortable year for me. I took on a new (second) job as the promised hours in my main job never materialised. This meant having to cut back on other things in my life, such as my work for a national committee for primary school teacher trainers. In June we discussed looking for someone to fill my shoes, in August I realised I ‘was’ the committee as my good friend and chairman of the board had been involved in a tragic ferry accident during a trip from Zanzibar to Tanzania and had drowned, together with her husband.

My new job started in September – back in front of a class of teenagers at secondary school. It is a perfect combination with the teacher training I do. Though it is also not an easy combination as two jobs in education more or less mean three jobs – we all know that teaching is not simply 9-5! Anyway, I’m starting to get back into the flow, have sort of worked out the organisation, and was looking forward to the two week Christmas break in order to get some planning and preparation done so that I could have less stress over the coming weeks. Planning and preparation ≠ holiday!

We all know what happens with plans. Already a little more than a week into the two week break and I can already say that I have done nothing more than the marking I did on December 27th. Why? Well the other major disaster of 2012 has upset things. In the afternoon of December 28th 2012, a date our family will never forget, we got a call from our sister-in-law to say that our beautiful 17-year-old niece had had an epileptic fit and drowned in the hot tub where she was later found by her father. I am unable to concentrate and focus and need to spend time looking after my children who were incredibly close to their cousin.

Enough gritty details – this post is not about self pity.

I know from prior experience (following the death of my mother and then my father-in-law and more recently my friend who drowned in the summer) that work provides a healing distraction for me and I am able to block out my personal issues when helping others. I’m hoping that this time will be no different. My way of dealing with things is by not informing my colleagues who will then be able to treat me as normal and have the usual high requirements. This helps me. Everybody deals with things differently.

  • But how do you deal with issues in your private life, which, without it being intentional, ooze into your professional life?
  • How do you deal with the fact that you’re not a robot, just a mere human?
  • What about the other way round – how do you deal with family and guilt when you’re pre-occupied with a work-related issue?
  • Does your ‘private you’ actually complete your ‘professional you’?

Have you learned to turn the professional-private switch on and off?

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3 thoughts on “Have you learned to turn the professional-private switch on and off?

  1. Without trying to say one thing or another (which I know from personal experience does not really help change the way you feel), I can say that your post right now speaks to me for reasons not wholly dissimilar to yours. This last month has really shown me that no matter how hard I try to keep going the same way I had, things are just different. That human side, that personal side, has affected everything I do, think and see. It has made me realise that I can be affected emotionally–not something I admit I’m yet comfortable with. Where it has proven to me is that my work isn’t my whole life.

    My colleagues, however, do know about my loss. I am thankful for that because they have been incredibly supportive, moreso than I had expected. I don’t think I could keep major change from them. I spend the majority of my day with them and many I call friends.

    Of course, almost a month has now passed since my loss, and with the Christmas break nearly over, it is time to go back to work, where I know things will be easier. I went in last week, and though only a skeleton crew was there, I felt tinges of normalcy where I hadn’t for several weeks now. Seeing that your work gives you some healing power too, I’m hopeful it’ll have similar effects for you.

    In the end, I appreciate what you’ve revealed here is hard to have done and know that there are people, even from your professional life, who can relate.

    1. Thanks for your reply, Tyson. Most adults have had situations which have caused a certain emotional response which no doubt pervades their professional life but I often wonder how we deal with it in a world where it’s normal to have your professional life invading your private space but the other way round is often frowned upon (depending on the situation, of course). My direct colleagues, who know me particularly well, could of course ‘sense’ there was something wrong before we’d even spoken, so they were duly informed – however I feel my secondary school classes do not need to know (many of them have enough issues of their own).
      But do you answer private whattsapp messages or private tweets at work? I certainly wouldn’t, yet am happy to sit down and reply to work emails whilst ‘watching’ telly with my husband….. Weird world or weird Louise?
      I hope things’ll start looking up for you again soon.

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