Today is my last official day of summer vacation. Starting tomorrow I head back to work for two weeks of professional development before the kids come in. Usually that means lots of
- Ice breakers
- Discussions of procedures
- Discussions of curriculum
- Setting up classrooms
But sometimes it can vary a bit. While I’m excited to start the school year fresh, with a new group of students, there’s always a little sadness at the end of summer. I think that’s true of teachers as much as students.
In some ways teaching is a great “day job” for a writer, because it provides you with lots of inspiration. No two days are ever the same. You can never predict what a kid will say. I love hearing their points of view, because they often see things in different ways than adults do. I also think that I pass on some of my love of reading and writing to my students. They start to see it as something they choose to do, rather than something they have to do. Or maybe a better way to put that, is to say that they know they have to do it, but it’s not as much of a chore because they see the fun in it.
In other ways though, teaching can be a very challenging “day job”. Because it doesn’t end when the kids leave. When the kids go home I need to get everything organized and prepare for the next day. I need to:
- think about what I need to photocopy
- think about what supplies I need for whatever we’re doing the next day
- answer parent emails
- write lesson plans
- grade assignments that they students did during the day….
There are also things that people don’t think about teachers doing. For example, if you’re doing an activity involving various materials, you need to think about how and when you’re going to distribute the materials and direct your students to use them. You need to think about providing points of access for different kinds of learners. Where will pictures and diagrams help visual learners? What manipulatives will help kinesthetic learners? There’s a lot of thought that goes into preparing for each day, and that’s having already spent an entire day teaching.
I know that a lot of people see teaching as an easy job. One evening, I had just got home from work, and I stopped at my mailbox to pick up my mail. One of my neighbors was doing the same and we said a quick hello. He mentioned that I looked stressed and I told him that I’d had a rough day. He asked what I did and I told him that I taught primary school. He said “but that must be such a fun, easy job! You sing songs, and read stories and play with kids all day.” On that particular day,
- One student had vomited on my shoes
- There had been a bitter playground dispute over a game, so that when the kids came in after recess, there were tears and hurt feelings to sort through. Not to mention calling parents.
- I was trying to get through my students’ reading evaluations, which is very tedious and time consuming.
- One of the copy machines was broken, meaning that the line to use the other machine was about 3 miles long.
- After work I’d had a long staff meeting.
So when my neighbor said that, I kind of wanted to throw my mail at him! (I didn’t actually do it, but I wanted to!)
Please people: be aware that your teachers (or your children’s teachers) work hard! They care about you/ your kids. They’re not perfect, but they’re doing their best. Yes there are a few bad apples, but the vast majority of teachers want to do their jobs well. Be kind!
People in all jobs have days like the one I just described. Well maybe not exactly like that, but everyone has long, tiring days sometimes. In teaching there are a lot of days that do go well. Where a lesson goes better than you ever imagined. Where a kid who has been struggling, has a break through. When you see how much progress your students have made. When you see them showing kindness to others.
Having a creative outlet outside of work can be a great way to distance yourself from the rough days a bit. It can help to see myself as something other than just my job. Last year, while I was working the later drafts of my Beautiful manuscript, it was really nice to escape into a fantasy world after those rough days.
Now I’m gearing up to release it though. Hopefully I’ll have an official release day soon! It’ll be the first time I’ve ever published a novel. That’s scary. Exciting. A dream come true. But scary. So I find myself wondering if writing will be the refuge that it’s been in the past. Fortunately I am working on a follow up novel and some shorter fiction, so hopefully that will give me something to run away to as I comb the Beautiful manuscript for typos and try to format it as an ebook. It’ll be interesting to see how all that goes as I’m working full time. And of course trying to make time for other things too!
Here’s hoping this is the beginning of a great year!