A colleague with the National Writing Project, in a network listserve posting, wished all the teachers well during these last days of the school year, as the year “winds down.”
Gosh, a flood of reminiscence rushed over me. Before moving to administration at the two-year college where I serve today, I put in ten years in the salt mines of public secondary education. A lot of the tribulations I endured in those years were rough, believe me. But no matter how vexatious and stressful that job could be between August and May, every year along about the Easter break, a euhporic sensation set in as the end of the school year loomed on the not-so-distant horizon: literally, the proverbial light shone “at the end of the tunnel.”
Thus, the year “wound down.” After turning in the classroom keys and the updated cumulative folders for the home room and putting the final report cards in the school mail outbox, I drove off to two and a half blissful months of freedom from stress, freedom from alarm clocks, freedom from any kind of a grind at all. Sure, I worked at little side jobs to make some extra money (the pay never was enough), but I controlled the pace. At least for the summer seasons, life was sweet!
And, strangely enough, by the end of summer, anticipation of the new school year with new classes and new students and new routines made going back to school exciting. It usually took the first two or three weeks of the school year for the new to wear off and the stressful, tedious grind to set in. But at least the beginning was exciting.
Alas, I compare those recollections to now and wonder if I have missed something. I trudge from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., twelve months a year. Semesters come and go, school years begin and end, but no project, no initiative, no assignment ever comes to fruition without two or three new ones springing up before the last one ends. We scurry through the clamor of each workday in a shrill state of tension as if racing, but never to the end of a term or a project, but only to the end of the day at 4:30 to walk away for the respite of a few quiet hours at home. The next day, we repeat the process. And again, and again, . . ad infinitum.
I wonder: Did I give up something almost eleven years ago when I left the public school? Like perhaps, did I give up the three best reasons to be a teacher? (1) June, (2) July, and (3) August?
LOL, or COL?
Really, I can’t seriously punish myself for making the career change, because like I noted earlier, the former job never paid enough (not that the present one does, either, but it’s an improvement). And, I do console myself in that the working conditions and the rewards are notably better at post-secondary, while I hear at the same time from friends still in the K-12 trenches that the conditions there, including the morale and attitudes of the staff as well as the students, are as wearying as ever.
But still, I long to “wind down.” I miss winding down, I suppose because that’s what my mind and body crave as a natural envie in the midst of trials.
Let me see . . . retirement is nine years and three months from now . . . hmmmm . . . . . . . When will the light appear at the end of the tunnel?
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