Settled stomachs and big plans | Mark’s Remarks


I once wrote a column called “Warm Stomachs” in which I talked about how the Christmas season feels.  Summer vacation looms as I write this, and that good feeling in the stomach is there again.

I lose some people here, because they work jobs in which they only have a little vacation time. They look at my profession, at times, as a cake walk. I won’t spend time being all bitter and silly about the opinion of the general public. I will never truly educate the masses on how tough a career in teaching can be, so why bother? 

Doesn’t matter anyway.

So, I’m thinking I have some teachers reading this who are on my side. Even after we have a year with the best class, the most improvement and the best highlights of our career, we welcome the nine or so weeks off for a rejuvenating and much-needed break.

I’ve told you before that a teaching career involves little to no down time; heck, we even spend lunch time solving problems or catching a student up on something. Our lunch “hour” lasts about 20 minutes, if that. We have learned to eat quickly.

Summer means an extra cup of coffee. A morning walk, perhaps. A chance to watch the news. A chance to sleep late, or get up early with no place to rush to.  Summer means catching up on things that we’ve neglected all year. Tasks, relationships, things we need to “get to.”

All of it is possible in summer.

For many of us, we make big, ambitious plans for the summer, thinking in our heads that it is about 4-5 weeks longer than it really is. It goes by quickly, and invariably, we all return to school in August saying “It was nice, but I didn’t get nearly the amount finished I needed to.”

I’ve always wondered why teachers didn’t get together and set up some kind of bartering system or network group. We could all pitch in and help with childcare, housecleaning, yard work and the like.  We could help one another clean out our garages and paint the porch. If we all pitched in and worked together, we might get all our summer tasks completed by the end of June and have the month of July to relax.

You say it won’t work?  Oh well, it’s something to dream about for a few minutes.

One of my colleagues put it bluntly: not only are we tired of kids, we are a bit tired of each other.  That may be true.  As colleagues, we live together seven hours or more a day and we need a break from one another as much as we need a break from students.  

Yep, maybe so.

Still, I think we ought to check in with one another a little over the summer so that we don’t have to utter that much detested (by me, anyway) “How was your summer?” phrase. I really don’t know why I hate it so, but I do. Perhaps it’s my complete disdain for small talk, which I will write about later.

Next year, I will begin my 30th year of teaching.  When I start to think of all the things I’ve done 30 times, I begin to laugh a little. You would think I would have mastered a few things in this career by now, but in many cases, I feel as clueless about things as I did on my first day. Still, I would have to admit some stuff comes naturally now, and some of it can be done with my eyes closed.

Ah, reflections on the end of yet another year.  Looking ahead to a few weeks of rest, a few weeks of contemplation, and contrary to what most people think, a few weeks of planning for next year. Yep.  We do that.

And our stomachs are settled. We don’t have to make as many decisions per minute, at least for a few weeks. We don’t have to rush through our lunch or pull together make-up work quickly; we don’t have to leave several tasks undone because something else is looming. 

Enjoy your time, teacher friends.

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