This morning, my husband was flipping through the television stations and a local channel’s news station was advertising its newest in-depth report: teachers skipping school. At taxpayers’ expense.
*Insert dramatic music here*
Every year, about this point, we are exhausted. Teaching is a stamina-demanding job; I would love to classify it was physically draining, but it doesn’t burn enough calories for me to call it that. Trust me…look at my mid-riff. It’s not that physically-demanding.
But the energy I expel is huge. I don’t sit behind a desk, all day, reading emails and giving students work to do and then read more emails or grade while they do the assigned work. I am walking around the classroom, working with students; standing at my podium leading a class discussion or presenting a lecture; or moving from student to student, answering questions. I am not idle. This is when having [undiagnosed] adult ADD helps. I enjoy the constant movement because it keeps me active and my crazy brain happy because of the constant stimulation.
The result, though, is that when the day is done, I am worn out. At the end of the week, Friday is lovingly referred to as “drool day” because I get to go home and drool on myself.
So, yeah, sometimes I want to “skip school” and take a day off for myself when I don’t have any major obligations or people trying to get me to do something.
Now, this is not intended to complain. But let’s look at my schedule. And, if you think this is crazy, you have no idea what other teachers do. One of my colleagues is an athletic coach in addition to sponsoring at least two high-functioning clubs in addition to working with gifted-and-talented kids (and their parents).
So, here’s a walk through an average day of life…..
5:25: Wake-up. Make breakfast for me; coffee for the Boy, the Husband, and me; make my lunch
5:45: Let out the dog while the Boy awakens and takes a shower
6:19: Get dressed for school
6:35: Try to get the Boy ready to leave
6:40: Fume in the car while the Boy is abstractedly running around the house as opposed to getting in the car so we can leave.
6:45-ish: Leave and control my temper because the Boy has made me late yet again. But that’s okay. I love the Boy (at least that is what I tell myself).
7:00: Drop off Boy without, hopefully, having an argument about how difficult his life isn’t.
7:05: Arrive at work feeling nervous because I feel like I am late.
7:20: Begin school day
7:20-11:25: Work, check email, teach, help students with their tragedies and miseries and needs and concerns, listen to people talk loudly over the intercom, do some more teaching, grade if I can, photocopy, prepare for classes, meet with parents or teachers or administrators (oh my!), answer emails, attend professional development workshops, cover other teachers’ classes, collaborate on projects, learn about new technology, drink enough water to sink the Titanic, rush to the bathroom with crossed-eyes and a cheerful expression before my bladder explodes, etc.
11:50: Return to teaching and the list above
1:45: Say good-bye to the students
1:45-2:30: Work with students, meet with clubs, work with colleagues, etc.
2:35: Pick up Boy at school or freak out that he hasn’t shown up in my classroom yet.
2:50ish: Arrive at gym and work-out
4:10ish: Leave gym feeling like sweaty, nasty putty and go home while doing my best not to get mad at aggressive drivers.
4:25: Arrive at home, start dinner, take shower (see above statement about sweatiness and nastiness), do some minor cleaning chores, check in with the Girl and see how she is doing with homework, take care of pets, stare at computer screen for a second to see what is happening in the world, possibly eat dinner, monitor children doing chores, prevent the Boy and the Girl from killing one another, talk with the Husband (if he isn’t working), chat with my parents
6:30: Take people to whatever activity is needed to be completed that night
Now, depending on the night, I may or may not be shipping children off to various evening activities or I am going to my own activities or I am grading and grading and grading some more. Or I am answering more emails. Or I am reading books in preparation for teaching. Or I am actually relaxing. Because I like to relax. Every now and then.
Monday night: Boy Scouts night/Writers’ Group night
Tuesday night: Girl Scouts night (anyone need any cookies? The Girl is selling)
Wednesday night: Tutoring night
Thursday night: House-cleaning night
Friday night: Drool night
Saturday night: Church night
Sunday night: Get ready for the week night
Now, in comparison to the “real world” (professional, business), I know that my schedule is really not that bad. When I taught at Strayer University, I had a student who would pull out two computers and a smart phone before I started my lectures. One computer was his personal computer so he could take notes. The other computer was his work computer so he could be logged into his work’s network and resolve IT problems as they arose. And the phone was his work phone since he was technically on-call…24-7.
I don’t have that. I don’t have to travel all over the world and never get to experience the world because of my job. I don’t have uniforms or cell phones attached to my hip.
But, like the rest of the working world, I am tired sometimes and I want a break. You see, like many other professionals, I don’t get a lot of down time for myself. When I am home, the kids are with me. And, if you can’t tell from my other posts, I kind of like my kids….just a little. And, depending on the Husband’s schedule, he may or may not be at home. Regardless, I have no time to myself. So, if I want any modicum of alone time, I need to take a day off of work.
And, sometimes, I am just exhausted. Grading an essay isn’t a simple process of looking at spelling and grammar. I have to take into consideration each student’s individual writing ability; I have to be on constant alert for plagiarism. I have to consider what the student knows about the material and whether or not the student has grasped the writing skills I have recently taught him/her. Additionally, any grade I assign to the paper and/or comments I write upon the paper, I have to be ready to justify to the student, his/her parents, his/her guidance counselor, any administrator who might ask to see the papers, possibly my academic supervisor, etc. Therefore, I have to spend time justifying everything.
And that’s fine. Because my comments on a student’s paper is another vehicle towards teaching the student. Which is good.
So, yeah. Sometimes, I want a break that doesn’t include a sick day. Sometimes, it’s just nice to walk outside and listen to the birds sing and not feel like I have to rush to one place or another and do a certain activity that will justify my existence to taxpayers or the local media company who thinks I am cheating taxpayers of their money.
I’m human. Just like the taxpayers which, ironically, I happen to be as well. So if “skipping school” means that I’m cheating the taxpayers, then I guess I’m cheating myself.
For sixteen years of service with a master’s degree, a National Board certification, and two Advanced Placement endorsements, I earn just over $50,000. Sorry (not sorry) if that makes you uncomfortable, but that’s the way it is. My county’s population is 327,000 residents, of whom are roughly 52,000 children. Therefore, deduct the kids from the population and I have 275,000 possible taxpayers. Now, if each person is an equal contributor to my salary, then each person gives 18cents (to infinity) to my salary. Okay, I’m a nice person. Let’s round this up to 20 cents.
If you feel cheated, come by and I’ll give you a refund. Only once, though. Because once a year, I might take a day off for me during which I will still get up early to take the Boy to school. And I’ll check my email at least two or three times so that I will not come back to any unpleasant surprises. And I will probably still grade something or, definitely, read something. Oh, and by the way, taking a day off involves so much advanced planning that it’s not even worth taking the day off. You would not believe how many teachers still come to school when they’re sick. It’s just easier to tough out the day than to take a day off of work.