Some years are great. Some years start out well and drift into personal anarchy. Some years start with a multitude of difficulties and you either deal with them successfully or you deal with them all year long. Over time we learn how to deal with all the same problems more efficiently or with the help of medication or you get out and move onto something new.
I’ve learned a lot over twenty-plus years of teaching. I still have a lot to learn.
For the first time ever I took advantage of my personal days to take a long weekend and visit family. I got a chance to see my grandmother in her fancy new digs (a nice little retirement community where she is obviously thriving), the Milwaukie branch of the family (my cousins have cute kids), my folks for a couple of days, my brother and his family (also adorable kids–I am not biased), and my TD family. It was really nice to get a chance to visit with so much of my family. It was great to go for a walk with my dad and the dog. It was nice to have some sit-down time with my mom.
I came back home feeling a lot less stressed out and drained.
I’m on a ten-month contract (as are all public school teachers) and we have negotiated with our districts to have our pay split over twelve months instead of ten. I don’t get paid for Winter Break, Spring Break, or Summer Break even though I still get paychecks. And, I don’t mind the way this is set up or the way it works. I have always felt like I am adequately compensated for the (minimum) six weeks worth of work I put in outside of my contract time. I’m a teacher, because I know my job doesn’t stop at 15:30 or start at 7:30—I actually love planning units, tweaking my notes and assignments, figuring out how to do a better job of making sure my students are solid communicators and critical thinkers. I’m lucky that a decent health plan has long been a part of public school contracts. I don’t take for granted the ways I am compensated.
But no matter what way it is sliced or at what level a teacher works, this job is stressful and draining. I chose English which means I chose essays—essays written by high schoolers; essays written in fifteen minutes; essays written by people who hate school and/or English. Those are some painful essays to read, because the worse the essay is the more time it takes to grade. I can’t just not mark the problems I see; although, some kids only get fifteen versions of the same comment even though they have numerous other problems (don’t want to totally make them cry). I’ve also started building in a second draft that is for points, because the process of rewriting or revising is important.
Maybe if more people took a breath between what they write and what they post (myself included), there would be fewer genuinely stupid or stupidly thoughtless things on social media. Sometimes that I applies to my outside voice in any format.
I plan on teaching for a full forty years. Taking a much needed break when I was at my most stressed out helped me so much. I came back with more patience for the drama, trauma, and bs of my students (and others associated with public schools). I came back feeling like I could breath again. When I really think about the fact that I am able to do something like this once a year, I think about all the people who can’t. A lot of my students’ parents are working their butts off at low-wage jobs just to make ends meet–they don’t have the luxury of taking a long weekend once a year when they really need it. Or the parents who run businesses which means they work insane hours to keep the business going strong and to provide for their children. My job is to provide their children with a skill set that will help them out in the future, one possible outlet for the things in their heads, an understanding of how information is shared/used/misused, and, sometimes, my job is to listen.
I appreciate Winter Break, Spring Break, and Summer Break. I appreciate even the students that cause me the most stress. I like students that have given me every reason to loathe them (through their attitude and actions). I like seeing kids improve. I live for epiphanies. I love it when they realize that everything (and I mean everything) I teach is connected.
I really appreciate having times when I can be a person or dig into becoming a better teacher.