I whittled away the morning until it shaped into afternoon. Now I’m picking wood shavings out of my slippers (that’s right; I haven’t put on shoes yet), and inhaling the heady aroma of sawdust. Welcome to summer.
Non-teachers often justify low-paying teaching jobs with the handy phrase “oh but you get summers off.” As though I spend every summer morning whittling toward afternoon with a fresh cup of coffee, a cat in my lap, and a selection of poetry books and crap fiction on the coffee table.
The first week I spend at work. Why? Like any stressed-out, overworked, mad-scientist type (remember I teach high school… no embroidered Holiday sweaters here… think crazy hair and attitude) the mess of unfinished experiments piles up- especially in that last month of toothy deadlines and dubious student gifts (I sneezed on your keyboard; I made you sugar-infested-treats-to-crash-what-little-energy-and-sanity-you-have-left and now I stand by your desk expectantly waiting for you to try one; I show my gratefulness by requesting a seven-page-letter-of-recommendation-in-MLA-format-with-footnotes).
So weep all ye who imagine Mai-Tai’s on the beach as my first week of summer. I say Bah to you! And Pffft! I spit hairballs in your morning cereal!
No, the first week of summer I spend at work on organizational mapping (teacherspeak for cleaning my room). The second week of summer is spent on curriculum improvement (teacherspeak for how do I revamp that unit that went abysmally wrong? the one where poor Joey in the back row caught on fire…). And in the afternoons “(but you’re done by 3pm!” the non-teachers scoff), I go on company tours and attend the workshops and meetings I didn’t have time to attend during the year. And on the rare summer day when I’m not at work by eight, (aka today) I spend on housework and chores and paperwork at home, and even then I wallow in a guilt-ridden midden heap of the –should-be-at-school-working-jitters.
But I can say I love my job. And summer. And after the first week of room cleaning, and the second week of curriculum, and the third week of curriculum I didn’t finish the previous week, and the fourth week of technical conferences, and the fifth week of lab setup and computer imaging, and the next two weeks of feeling depressed and lost and confused without the manic pressure of teaching, I will have a couple weeks that actually feel like summer before it’s time to starting setting up my books for the next year. And those couple weeks of sleek hair and late mornings (oh wait I have kids), I Will Have Earned. Because I work my butt off, summer and winter. And loving what I do doesn’t negate the effort I put in, or the 580 student brains I’ve Vulcan-mind-melded with over just the last five years.
So there, Guilt! Sprawling on the rug; moping by the garden wall, passing your mournful eyes over my late breakfast (7am). So there. I deserve a break. And now I had one. So off to work I go. It’s June. The day -a mixture of Spring breezes and floral scents (we have an amazing crop of flowering weeds this year)- couldn’t be more inviting. But geometric dimensioning and tolerancing vocabulary lists await me, and, like any professional, there’s always more to do.