Hey, Reality, We Need to Talk…

I hate it when people say that…we need to talk.  That’s as bad as getting a see me note in my mailbox.

Tomorrow, we are looking at getting a foot of snow. The girl-child in me is dancing with joy.  The only problem is that no matter how much I move around and change the angle, I still can’t see the snowflakes dancing in the lights in my neighbor’s porch.  And I’m a coward-bad-snow-driver.  I might have grown up in Germany.  I didn’t learn to drive in Germany.  My form of driving in the snow equals parking my car and leaving it there.

But this creates an interesting issue.  Snow days.  I’m a teacher for those of you who are new to my blog.  And in my section of the world, nobody knows how to drive in the snow unless they grew up in an area where snow falls constantly but no one really plows except the main roads but people know that slow and steady is better than “Oh my gosh…if I put the pedal to the metal, then I’ll get to where I need to be in double the time which will get me off the road which means that my logic makes this whole idea safe!”  I was thinking about hyphenating that entire thought…but that would take up too much time.  See…speed.

Not good in writing.

Very bad in snow-driving.

So, more than an inch of snow usually means that we have constant accidents, some of which are tragically fatal, and the schools are closed. Which is fine with me.  I get a paid-day-off that doesn’t count against me (for the most part).  I get a day to stay in my pajamas while my children grab their often-unused-sleds and hit the hills in the golf course in the subdivision just behind my house.

And then, I hear the incredible sounds of the complaints.

Why aren’t you in school?”

When I was your age, we went to school no matter what!”

Aren’t you teachers lucky!  You get to go home whereas we, who really work, have to go to work no matter what.”

Ah, yes.  I don’t work on snow days.  I curl up in a ball and do nothing.  Excuse me while I hack up a hairball of sarcasm.

Snow days mean that I get a chance to catch up on grading.  In the last ten days, I have taken up research papers averaging four to five pages each from all five of my classes.  That means I have about 130 papers waiting for me in my digital in-box.  This does not include the 130 outlines, rough drafts, and peer editing comments that I also need to grade.  Nor does this include the assorted classwork from all 130 students that also require my attention.


Finishing editing on my last National Board portfolio.

Am I complaining?  After all my posts about how much I love my job?

No.  But people need to be more aware of reality before they begin bitterly complaining to me that I “have it so easy.

I have a ninety-minute planning period daily.  However, during my planning period, I have to catch up on the emails that I didn’t read earlier because I was teaching.  You see, for me and many of my colleagues, we aren’t sitting behind our desks looking at our computers.  We are up, moving around the room, floating amongst our students to check for understanding, catch up on their lives, discuss reading, or keep fights from exploding because we are dealing with hormonal little human beings trapped in the bodies of nearly full-grown adults.

During my planning period, I photocopy, do the paperwork of the day, attend technology professional development trainings, and try to do some research on the books/literature I am teaching.  During my planning period, I sometimes write letters of recommendation (for colleges/universities, scholarships, and jobs).  I sometimes (but infrequently) grade.  Sometimes (rarely), I am covering another teacher’s class because the substitute didn’t show up or the teacher had an emergency and we didn’t have enough subs in the building.

Am I complaining?  In all honesty….no.  I’m not.  I love my job and these are elements or qualities within my job.  I merely become frustrated with the snide comments about how I must have prayed for the snow days (I did) so I could have a day off (to grade).

Most of the time, I grade at home because I just can’t get the work done at school during my contract hours. I could stay at school after contract hours, but this means that I will not have a chance to go to the gym, see my children, cook dinner, check up on their grades/homework, tutor a former student, or help with the various organizations my children belong to.


I have brought grading to the beach. I am not exaggerating or lying.

So, the grading follows me wherever I go, much like a stray puppy that I wish would follow me as opposed to the heavy “teacher-bag” that thumps against my thighs.  When my daughter is in Girl Scouts, I sit in a room with the other parents.  They gossip.  I write commentary on students’ papers.  When my children are washing the dishes or are playing on the video games, I am frequently in my recliner or in my office….grading.  Last October, my daughter asked me to take a day off of work.  And she didn’t mean my regular full-time job.  She meant from grading.

Because she wanted to spend time with me.

But I also know that my students need me to write commentary on their papers so they can learn from their mistakes, so they can see what they have done well, so they can grow as writers and readers and analysts of literature.  My students’ parents want to see the grades.  And every week, I read an email that reminds my colleagues and me to update our grades.

I have graded while on vacation in Florida.  I have graded in the car while my husband drove us to our property in West Virginia (my handwriting gets really interesting when we are on curvy-mountain roads).  I have graded on airplanes, at friend’s houses….friggin everywhere.

And that’s just grading.  We won’t touch reading, prepping, etc.

So, do I want a snow day?  Of course I do.  Because I won’t have to wake up at 5:25AM so I can leave my house at 6:40 so I can be at work by 7:00.  I love waking up at 7:30 and nursing a tall cup of coffee before donning my wool socks and curling up in my office-chair and opening the computer and getting started on the day’s grading.  I love that I don’t have to hold my aching, screaming bladder for thirty minutes until the bell rings so I can dart out of my classroom, dodge the students making-out, and pray that the line in the girls’ room is short or that all the girls are lined up at the mirror.  I love that pajamas are the norm because I’m not going anywhere anyhow.  Come on.  It’s snowing!

During Christmas Break, I wrote up five months of lesson plans for all three “preps” that I teach.  That is 15 months of lesson plans.  This last October, in reaction to a family member’s snide comment about how he “want[ed] three months off,” I counted how many hours I worked uncompensated.  75.  I donated 75 hours to my job. Last summer, I created a website, wrote up daily activities, and created syllabi for all three of my “preps” (In teach-ese, a prep is one type of class that I teach.  I teach five sections–five class periods–but two of them are the same.  Therefore, I have three preps).  I read books that I was teaching, constructed essay assignments with all the supplementary materials, and did research on student engagement.  I attended workshops and technology trainings.

I worked.

So, yeah.  Give me a snow day.  Let me catch up on the work that I can’t touch at night because I have a family whom I love.  But don’t get snide with me that I’ve prayed for this snow.

If you do…I’ll correct your grammar and judge you for the book you are reading.

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