We’ve all seen the posts on Facebook. The posts about teachers ready for the summer –the pictures of crusty-eyed cats comparing us to just how tired teachers are this time of year or the videos of young children bursting gleefully through the doors of their campus, scattering this way and that way just to escape. Yes, teachers of America can empathize with this feeling.
Many of my students ask me, “Mrs. Frenes, do you enjoy your job? Why do you get the summers off? Is that why you teach?”
My response, of course, is quite direct. “Well, listen Jimmy, I love what I do. It is all I know and I enjoy the kids, my classroom, my colleagues. But would I wish this career on anyone else? No, and not for the reasons you would think.”
Veteran teachers (it will be my 20th year coming up) can say this and many will nod their heads – “We don’t know anything else other than teaching.” By this statement, I mean, we don’t sit around daily adding up the stress levels that almost make our heads want to explode, or wonder why we have knots the size of boulders in our shoulders from grading, nor do we over analyze the 170 essays that need to be graded before next week’s grading period ends. We just do what we need to do and that is our life. We have never known anything different than our teaching life.
Does it take a toll on our bodies? The answer is yes. Before I started teaching, I actually had a full head of hair. I’m not bald, mind you, but my daughters laugh when they see my hair in a ponytail and wonder where the rest of the strands are hiding. Yes, I used to have thick, shiny hair at the beginning of my career. Now, well, I’m lucky if I still have hair to trim when I go to the salon.
And our bodies? I have spent more money on a masseuse just to work out the knots in my neck that never quite go away from grading essays. Maybe other English teachers are stronger than I am in this area, but many I know feel the same pain that I do. English teachers will understand what I mean by this pain, because after spending hour after hour, night after night, trying to reach a deadline for a stack of essays, our arms are numb from commenting or grading, and our backs, necks, and shoulders have tensed to the point of no return. We just see the deadline we set for ourselves and keep plugging along. We don’t cry, we might whine, but we don’t stop. We just see the deadline.
As for the summers off, I have stated this before to students, “If teachers didn’t have the summers off, they most likely would go crazy. Not because of the work and not because of unruly students, but mainly because of the thousand little things given to us to do on top of all of the grading, teaching, etc.”
We are like a hamster on the spinning wheel racing along until someone stops the wheel, and says, “Here, take a break.” We, the hamsters (teachers), look in puzzlement, almost astonishment, at the person stopping the wheel, because we don’t know what to do with ourselves. Of course, once we do stop to rest, we get home and crash, sleep, nap, or start blankly at the television. It’s like a shock to our systems that we get a break.
Well, summer is almost here and teachers can rejoice as they see the numerous posts about the last day of school. We fantasize about what to do with all of the free time we will now have as summer approaches. We are just like our kids needing a break, running gleefully out of our doors until we return in August to get on the spinning wheel again.