I have been disappearing from the media circles for the past few weeks because it is currently summer. I am a teacher that will admit that summer, for me, is largely a vacation. Well, vacation probably isn’t the most apt word. Detox, that would be more accurate. I know there are teachers out their who spend their summers attending workshops and conferences, planning for next year, overhauling curriculum or classroom management plans, but I am not among them. I still think about school occasionally, but for the most part, I cut myself off for two and a half months.
I said my summer is detoxification time for me, and I mean that. The purpose of a detox is to cleanse the body of toxins and return it too normal. It’s not that teaching itself is toxic, but the summer is a way for me to cleanse myself of the baggage of the past school year.
For me teaching isn’t just a job, it is a passion that found a career. I have worked jobs in the past, Burger King, YMCA, Target, city street department, even hotel housekeeping. I really enjoyed my time at some (BK and Target) and absolutely hated one (housekeeping), but regardless of the specific occupation they all shared some key common traits. While they might have been physically demanding at times, they were rarely, if ever, mentally exhausting. There are some jobs that pay well, even ones that were entry level can become lucrative with proper advancement. And I understand the appeal of having a livelihood where work begins at 9:00 and ends at 5:00. I have known students for which getting a job is a goal.
But, when a job entails a passion, it just doesn’t pay the bills, it becomes all consuming. During the school year education almost never leaves my mind. There is a finite time that I physically teach in front of students, grade papers, write recommendation letters, read professional research, or plan activities, but the constant is that it education doesn’t leave my mind. I don’t just make a lesson plan, I make a plan that will impact 70 to 80 students. I need to be aware that students might be distracted with musical rehearsals, basketball practices, FFA field trips, or family strife. I don’t just grade papers, but I am acutely aware that GPAs have significant impacts on scholarships, that sometimes students form unhealthy relationships and obsessions with grades. Because I am fortunate to work in a school where I get to see the same students multiple years it makes impossible to proceed with any plan without thinking of individual student impacts first. It is with me over lunch, while watching football on Sunday, or while reading a book before bed.
Society loves to glorify the super human teachers, Ron Clark, Rafe Esquith, Erin Gruwell, or my personal hero Jaime Escalantie. However, teachers like these usually sacrifice anything resembling a hypothetical American Dream. During the school year I run the danger of turning into one of those teachers, willing to sacrifice my own family and interests to my profession.
Which is why I need my summer break. The summer allows me to be the passionate teacher during the school year, doing my token familial duties at home. Over the summer I get to be the passionate father, husband, gardener, Trekkie, financial analysts, or brewer while doing my token teacher duties. I am sure there are teachers out there who have found a way to achieve some sort of equilibrium throughout the entire year, but I have failed at that endeavor.