“Charly, we’d love for you to work on our youth-outreach program!”
“Charly, would you mind helping out at our youth fundraising event?”
“Ms. Marlowe, we’ve got a wonderful opportunity for you to work with underprivileged youth as a mentor. You were recommended specifically to us.”
Do you see a theme here? If not, it’s usually my name and the word “youth.” If you’re a K-12 teacher, you get asked to volunteer at all sorts of “youth” events and activities, and I’m not talking about doing it for the school outside of the school day. People assume that since you work with kids all day, you’d be thrilled to spend more free time with them.
Listen closely to me when I say this: No, I wouldn’t. And no, I won’t.
Do I like teens? Sure, for the most part. I care deeply about education and making sure kids have a fair shot of getting the knowledge and skills required so they can function as adults. I want all kids to do well, and I’m willing to help them out to get what they need.
But I don’t want to spend my free time with them. I already spend about 10 hours a day with them during the week. That’s quite enough.
I get asked a lot to volunteer at book fairs, tutor the neighbor's kid in my "free" time, or teach in youth Sunday School classes at church. And my answer is always a smile and a “no, thanks.” The requester always seemed baffled by that. “But I thought you’d be happy to do this!” they sometimes remark.
Well, you thought wrong. Or you thought you found a sucker.
Look, kids are exhausting. I know the subject I teach pretty well, and I know how to teach that. I spend most of my day keeping my students in line and trying to impart knowledge to them as best I can. But at the end of the day, I’M DONE.
Ask any parent out there. You love your kid, but that doesn’t mean you want to spend even more of your time -what little you have - in a preschool or daycare. No parent thinks, “If I’m not spending time parenting my own child, I’ll spend time parenting someone else’s!” Okay, maybe some people think that, but they’re insane. Kids take a lot out of an adult. That’s why we raise them to grow up and move away. Being a teacher is no different. Your job is to give them what they need so they can go on and use it somewhere else.
It’s just not fair to assume a teacher wants to spend every spare minute with kids. We want adult conversation and beverages in our free time. We don’t want to referee intramural events (okay, I don’t) and organize community clean ups for the teens in the neighborhood. We (I mean me) want to lie on the couch, eating Oreos and watching Downton Abbey in peace and quiet.
By the way, saying, “But you’re so good at working with kids!” won't convince me. Does an accountant want to spend all of his time doing taxes for everyone in the neighborhood for free? He may be good at it, but it’s rude to ask, just like it’s rude to ask a teacher to do more teaching when he or she isn’t at work. Let’s face it, you’re asking the teacher to corral the kids because you don’t want to do it and you think she’ll be less likely to say no, or complain about it if she says yes.
Handle your own kids, or learn to handle other people’s. Not only will you gain a better understanding of what she has to deal with, you might end up enjoying it and turning into one of those adults who’s known for “being so great with kids!”