Sunday night sadness has plagued me since I was in middle school. The dread, the worry, the fear. And I’m not the only one. This very night many of you sit on the couch wondering where the weekend went and how much work will be thrown your way tomorrow. Work that is in addition to the to-do list you didn’t complete last week.
But on this glorious Sunday, I have very little angst for the week ahead. (I always have some angst; I am me after all.) Tonight the work demons rest because I am on summer break. Summer break is glorious, and I’m not afraid to say it.
Well, I’m a little afraid because it makes you hate me.
Summer break is the deal-breaker when people try to have sympathy for teachers. They get so close–low pay, no respect, being forced to teach to the test–but then they can’t shake that one perk–having all summer off. But it’s not really a full three months we yell! I do professional development during the summer! It’s not a time for me to put my feet up and chill!
Except it is.
But you know why I deserve it? I deserve it because every year I take on upwards of 130 new souls. Every year I meet over 130 new students. But it’s not just that I meet them. It is my sincere goal to get to know all of them. To give them as personalized an education as one woman can give 130 different minds. To give them chance after chance to do their best. To bring out the writer hiding inside them. To combat a previous teacher who told them they weren’t good enough. To show them how awesome the power of words is.
Yes, I chose this job, and yes, I knew it would be a lot of work. Having loved so many teachers in my school years, I knew what it would take to be a good one. What it takes is a passion for the subject. It takes expertise in the teacher’s chosen subject. The teachers who do the job with success want students to get just a small spark of the fire of knowledge. All it takes for a good teacher is a tiny flame. That teacher can turn that into a fire before the kid even knows what hits them. Real teachers want students to feel noticed. Their actions tell each and every kid, “I see you. You matter.”
And this kind of dedication takes its toll on a person. I feel the hearts of 130 kids join my heartbeat every year. I worry about them when I get home. I ask other teachers for advice on how to get through to them. I frantically change lesson plans before class starts knowing after grading yesterday’s work that they need something other than what I planned.
I don’t dump these kids after the school year either. I hold them in my heart, and they still take up space in my worry cabinet (okay, it’s a whole room, a room of worries). Once you’re one of my kids, you’re one of my kids.
Listen, I’m not saying my job is the hardest one in the world. I think what I face is a concern for anyone whose ‘product’ is people. (Remind me later to rant and cuss about people who compare business practices to teaching practices.) Caring for people requires so much energy that sometimes I don’t believe I can do it. Sometimes I want to just not care, but I can’t. It’s not who I am as a teacher.
Yeah, I get summers off, and tonight is the least stressful one I’ve had in months. But trust me, you want me to get this rest. You want me ready to take on the new souls who need me next year because every school year ends with me spent, empty of my gift.
But summer, glorious summer, fills me up again, makes me want to take on my new challenges. So please, let me have this time. It’s more important than you can ever know.