Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The End: "Goodbye, Summer. I Hardly Knew, Yea!" One Teacher's Tale

This, dear readers, is the end.  The end of summer.-- a somber time for all teachers.

After less than a month, I have to march myself back to work and prepare for a new school year to begin.  Those of you who do not work in education are probably scowling at me right now, begrudging my seemingly "extended" paid vacation.  While I will admit that a month is an long time to have off for the average professional, teachers are not the average professional and I did not have an average 2011-2012 school year.

To begin with, due to a scheduling issue last year, and a righting of said issue this year, my summer vacation was shortened.  Our school started more than a month later than most schools last year and, as a result, ended the 2011-2012 school year in July.  As such, what would have otherwise have been an almost two month break was truncated for students and staff alike.  So, almost as quickly as we said goodbye to our students, we are welcoming them back.  Maudlin gal that I am, I always start to miss my students about two weeks into vacation, so it is heartening to know that I will have them back shortly . . . even though I lament the loss of my nine o'clock pug wake-up calls.  As whiny as this sounds-- getting a month off and fretting over not having another month--I would like to make a case for why teachers earn their extended vacations.

During the regular school year (approximately September-June), I work an average of sixty hours a week lesson planning (for five different subjects), preparing for instruction, grading assignments, attending meetings, preparing my classroom for students, acquiring instructional materials (sometimes at my own cost), counseling students, communicating with families, chaperoning student activities, coaching extra-curricular activities, collaborating with colleges, and working on administrative tasks.  On any given day, I have to make dozens of decisions, some major and some minor, and often in rapid succession.  There are many aspects to the teaching profession that extend beyond the time spent in front of students; balancing all of these responsibilities, while a rewarding challenge, can be exhausting.  I do not know a teacher, veteran or newcomer, who isn't staggering into the end of a semester, or the end of the school year.

My work is almost entirely interpersonal, leaving me very little downtime during the workday.  Since I work with young people, their well-being as well as their social and intellectual enrichment is my key concern; being so hyper-aware of the needs of others takes an emotional toll on a person.  Weekends often fail to provide the respite I need in order to recharge my proverbial "batteries."  Teaching, when it is done well, when it is done with the whole heart and deploys an educator's keen professional senses, isn't a job, or even a career-- it is a lifestyle, and an exhaustive one at that.

Yet, though the profession often wears me (and every other educator I have ever known) out, it is an extremely rewarding profession and one that I have been called to join.  Whatever my position may lack in compensation, I am rewarded in terms of personal satisfaction-- I know that the work I do on a daily basis is important and vital to the growth of my community.  My periodic exhaustion is a small price to pay for the rewards that society, not to mention myself, gain from my work.

So, why I may lament the ending of my summer, I ask that you consider a teacher's extended vacation not the perk of an over-compensated public servant, but the respite all altruistic people need in order to fight the good fight.



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