Tuesday, July 22, 2014

"It must be nice to have summers off"

How many times have I heard this, "It must be nice to have the summers off!"

I can't believe that we still, as teachers, have to hear the same bullshit rhetoric from the very same people who entrust us to raise their kids!

You would think that I am either completely tired of hearing it and want to lose my marbles when I do OR that I've heard it so much that it no longer phases me.  I have to say that I am somewhere in the middle.  My reaction to the idea or the phrase or the ensuing conversation has changed recently and I'm not sure why.  Maybe I'm getting older and with age comes some perspective.

A couple of weeks ago I was out on a pontoon boat on one of Michigan's beautiful inland lakes drinking beer with some strangers.  They were the nicest people; 4 families who meet at the same place every year for a week in July and have been doing so for many years.

These people knew how to party.  We met them on a sandbar in this lake and they had already pulled out a long folding table and set up a beer pong game.  The competition was fierce!  Frankly the way they were "playing the wind" with their throws made me think about the physics involved in a way I shouldn't be while drinking that much beer!

I struck up a conversation with one of the 40 something adults and in true middle class fashion we asked each other what we did for a living.  I said that I was a teacher and immediately braced myself for what was coming.  Without missing a beat he said, "It must be nice..."  I use the ellipses here because I had stopped listening at that point.  Nonetheless, he went on telling me that he is an autoworker and he gets the first two weeks of July off every year and that was it for him and how jealous he was that we get like 9 straight weeks...

I didn't bother to correct him in that I was actually still working and would be for a few more weeks because his point was clear; teachers have it easy.

The most interesting part is that for those who don't know me I am quite confrontational.  With us in the conversation was an very good elementary school teacher I know and she was looking at me like,"Oh no, Don is going to blow!"  But I didn't make eye contact with her and let this guy go on with his opinions.

Why didn't I lose my shit on this guy?  Because it occurred to me recently that regardless of this guy's naive opinions of what we do or  even worse the disdain of much of the public for teachers, they still need us!  In fact, in this ever increasingly changing world, then need us more than ever!

For the past 5 years, after the school year is over, I have been running a 4 week, very intense workshop for physics teachers.  This job makes my teaching job look like a walk in the park.  I work with dedicated physics teachers and run this workshop like a physics teacher boot camp.  It is 8-4 every day for 15 straight days.  Each day is like a week of school year content and it exhausts me beyond belief.  During this time I don't get to see my wife or kids in a way that is meaningful.  But I do it because good teaching matters.

Earlier this week I was asked if I would be able to run two workshops next year.  I politely declined because my wife and I would really like to spend some time together (and with our kids) in the summer.

We sacrifice quality time during the school year knowing that we would make it up in the summer.

The educational professional who offered me the two workshops then quipped (rather passive-aggressively) "Oh, the rest of us have to work 12 months.  But you teachers..."  I let it slide because I knew he was joking but it was all I could do to NOT go through the phone and throttle him!

I know that some of your day jobs are just that, "day jobs".  That you get to leave it at work when you go home at night and on the weekends.  But when your job is raising the country's children; literally shaping the future of the nation, we, as teachers, take it very seriously and frankly need some time to regroup!  I know that every parent gets frustrated with their children - imagine dealing with 150 of them every day (or worse 25 for 8 hours each day).  Our job is serious and a couple extra weeks off in the summer is a necessary part of the job to do it effectively.

Maybe the problem is that too many of the general public aren't aware of what most teachers I know do with their summers.  Yes, we do take our kids to the pool.  And yes, we vacation.  However, many of us teach, all of us read the whole goal is to get better at the job.  I have a stack of summer reading and none of it involves vampires and all of it involves leadership.

My point is this - to the general public:  for our job raising your kids,don't you think we deserve a little extra time off just so that we can do that job effectively?

Oh and by the way - you're welcome.


Andrew Taylor said...

I too have learned to just let it go when someone asks what I'm doing with my summer off. I try to tell explain that I have many so things that I'm trying to learn each summer and apply to my craft, and the response is along the lines of, "but you don't have to go into work, right?"

Worse, your post reminds me of my mother, who when I tell her that in August I have about 10 days of meetings at school for various activities, she keeps saying, "if they are not paying you for it, why can't you just not go?"

Laura Sloma said...

My answer is always the same. They are still accepting teaching job applications, why don't you join us! I love the replies to that!