Laborer vs Teacher?: Who gets home more tired at the end of the day?

During the remodel of the property just purchased, as I was throwing debris onto the back of my van, I reflected on how much physical work I put into the remodel. Especially this pass week where I put in 10 hours daily of hard labor from demolition, to painting, to electrical work, to loading and unloading material, plus more…During the first days my body got sore but by the end of the week my body became accustomed to the work. And this was not the first time in my life I have done hard labor for a long period of time. There was one summer I spent as a landscape helper and another as an HVAC installer.

In landscaping I remember the long hours in 100 degree plus weather mowing lawns, pulling weeds, cutting branches under the hot sun. In HVAC you were not under the sun but in 110-120 degree attics among insulation and tight places. Both were intense jobs and when I would get home my body would be tired but my brain would still be alive to focus on other tasks in my life.

My stint as a full time middle school teacher lasted 6 years. I was 22 years old and full of false bravado that got me nowhere in my new occupation. By the end of the month I was sitting on the toilet with my hands clasped against my face…crying. It was too much, disrespectful students, dismissive administration, meetings, supervising duties. I remember getting home depressed and exhausted. The exhaustion was so severe at times that I could not stay awake on my 20 minute drive home. The following year I improved as a teacher, especially with discipline and organization. My students became very well behaved but it was a catch-22 because I had to work very hard to maintain that discipline and organization, which tired me out just the same. Although I blossomed into a way better teacher, it did not solve the problem of me getting home tired. I left teaching after 6 years and worked in the non-profit industry, at a bank, as a realtor, also did stints of construction work, yet no other work was a able to duplicate the deep exhaustion caused by teaching.


One of the reasons I got into teaching was for the vacation days, shorter work days, and holidays where I didn’t have to work. Then I found myself working during those times that I naively believed I would have time to relax. My brain would always be thinking about my job…it never stopped. I would try not to think about my job while at home and only found that it made me a bad teacher…good teachers have to think about their jobs constantly to solve problems meaning that exhaustion is a requirement for being a “good teacher.”

Last year, my wife saw some guy doing custodial/janitor work and commented “poor guy, he must get home exhausted.” I laughed and told her to not feel sorry for that guy,”your a teacher, remember.” She acknowledged the truth of the statement. A few months later she left her job when the school year ended.

To sum up…who gets more tired at the end of the day…laborer or teacher? I vote teacher. How about you?


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