Confession: every year, I think about leaving teaching, usually right after retuning after Spring break when the whiff of despair that there are STILL SIX WEEKS left before the sweet release of summer permeates the building. I spend time updating my resume and spinning my teaching experience into something resembling professional marketing/writing/editing/whatever skills. It never works, and by the end of the year I have to slog through the diplomatically worded rejection e-mails telling me that "while your skill set is impressive, we've gone with another candidate at this time."
Then the last day comes. The 6-page research papers are graded. The yearbook is pretty much done and edited. The students rebound from their own despair. The sun blazes and we can conduct class in the park with suspect "educational purpose." Joie de vivre replaces ennui, and I realize I don't want to leave teaching after all, especially when people with "real" jobs have to wake up the day after school gets out and go to some dreadful office as I sleep in - sometimes until 8:00.
The first day of summer vacation is sublime. Ten weeks to loll about and the potential for a tan (though who are we kidding - this pasty skin hasn't seen a tan ever, only lobster-like searing). Stacks of books wait to be read poolside. Quality time with my children. Time reflecting on how I can be a better teacher next school year. I wonder why I ever thought about leaving teaching.
One week into break this year, and I know why I'm tempted to cut and run every year. It's not the kids. It's not the teaching. It's the constant message from administrators and politicians that I'm not doing a good job. That teachers are the bottom-dwellers of the professional world. That no matter how hard I work - how many hours outside the school day, on weekends, and over that precious summer break - I'll be seen as someone who can't "do," therefore I teach.
To boost my own morale, I created a list of #teacherperks to combat the dominant paradigm in this country which says that teachers are lazy union hacks who only work 9 months of the year:
1. The KIDS - I get to spend my days with the future of our country, helping them find out who they are and who they will become.
2. The TEACHING - Being a huge nerd, I love planning and executing lessons that engage kids and make them see how their 13 years of compulsory schooling are relevant.
3. The OTHER TEACHERS - Contrary to popular opinion, the teachers I've had the privilege of knowing are some of the hardest working, creative, kind, hilarious, inappropriate (when off-duty, of course), divergent thinkers I've met. They sharpen me, and I hope I sharpen them.
4. The SUMMER - Although I'll spend many hours each week and many days in professional development meetings getting ready for my first day (July 31 this year - egads!), it is a huge #teacherperk to have this time to refresh, reflect, and refine my teaching practice. Also, I get to spend time with my three wonderful kids, who are now teenagers and planning their own futures, which involve leaving home. This is exciting and devastating at the same time. I catch up with friends who I don't see during the school year. I purge my stuff and soak up Vitamin D.
5. The AMNESIA - By the time break is over, the sun will have baked all my negative thoughts away. I'll have forgotten the administrators and politicians who make teachers feel less than (to be clear - not ALL admins and politicians are like this, but enough that I've been soured somewhat). And I'll start the year with all the feels as I look out over the shining faces of the kids who also benefit from some time apart, optimistic that the year will be the most marvelous of them all.
Courtney is a most fabulous writer and teacher of gifted middle school students. She is the author of two novels - see the "Cate Books" page of this site for information! Watch for updates about future books that need to be part of your personal library. In the meanwhile, enjoy her pithy life observations.