Sure, teachers get a lot of time off, Carl Bosch writes, but it’s all well deserved.
Teachers and students have all just returned from a long holiday vacation. Outfitted with new clothes and notebooks, the youngsters appear to be ready to get down to the work of learning. Better yet, there seems to be a re-awakened spirit, a bit more jump in the step and a renewed vigor, and now I’m speaking about the teachers.
I’m not trying to take the role of an apologist for the vacations that teachers receive. Of course, that’s one of the major knocks against us, both individually and collectively: “Hell, you’ve got all summer off!” We hear that refrain often enough. And that’s true. But we need it and deserve it, and so do the kids.
If done right, there’s an emotional tone to teaching that is taxing beyond belief. A teacher is often called to be an educated entertainer, trying to meet the demands of an audience that is eager or disinterested, attentive or half asleep, skilled or lacking, brilliant or less so. It takes an alert energy that is slowly drained by the end of the day, the week, the month, the marking period. One needs to keep his wits about him, be personable, demanding yet supportive, comforting and direct—all at the same time. Throw in the fact that each pupil in your care has their own set of personal situations, problems, and difficulties, and you have a professional that needs to be part priest, part mentor, part diplomat, part general.
Weekends are wonderful but it’s like charging your phone for teachers. It’s a short-term solution, and it only lasts a brief moment. A little fun, a little family, some schoolwork, and you’re back at it on Monday. But week-long vacations, whether at the holidays to close the year, a winter break, or a spring vacation, actually allow teachers to step away for awhile. Days roll out, and teachers don’t even have books, lesson plans, students, or schedules pass through their minds. It’s an elixir that heals. Summer is that to the max.
Sometimes my friends will ask me to go away for a vacation in October or May. I ask them if they’re a little crazy. I’m a teacher. One thing about our vacations: we don’t get to choose when they are. Never. Again, I’m not saying that we need more, and I’m well aware that there are other incredibly stressful and demanding jobs, but don’t doubt that those vacations are necessary balms to tired souls and psyches. I’m sure we could add a couple more weeks of school and still have an extended break during July and August. I also suppose in some future decade we’ll be going to school even more than the average 180 days throughout the U.S. It’s possible we’ll end up like Korea and Japan with over 220 days in school per year. But just remember that those countries send their students and professionals to the U.S. both for advanced study and to find the heart of creativity, something woefully lacking under their systems.
So don’t be too jealous of a teacher’s time off throughout the year. We’re all just back from vacation and ready to work through the long winter ahead with your sons and daughters. If you think it’s easy and teachers don’t have the express need to shut the batteries off, gear down, and get away sometimes … go run a classroom yourself, then come back and see me.
Let’s see if you’ll be hoping for a snow day.
10,043 days down, 112 left.