Twelve school days until graduation. In four weeks from right now, I will be done for the school year. I will be sitting back, with my feet up, recovering from what has been one of the most exhausting years of my career.
I can’t wait.
This week, I am taking off Thursday for my final round of senior functions. With four classes of sophomores, every time I work a senior event (during school), someone has to cover my class. And though people are willing to do a lot for me out of the kindness of their hearts, I still feel horrible for asking so frequently. I imagine a point will arrive at which I can no longer ask and ask and ask. On Thursday, I will pretty much be out of my classroom for the entire day. There’s no point in me even asking someone to take on one of my classes. I might as well just take off the entire day. My department chair graciously offered to cover the expense for the substitute with professional money, which I accepted.
So, this week? Four-day work week.
Next week? Four-day work week thanks to Memorial Day.
The following week? Four-day work week. Technically, I am still working five, but the school is closed Thursday for graduation. So I have a day of sleeping in ahead of me.
The following week? Last week of school? I have no students. I will be working my tail into the ground. I will be packing my classroom, checking in books, cleaning up messes, showing the new senior class sponsors what to do and how to do it. I’ll be writing up plans and ideas for the following year.
I’ll finally be living.
I deal with snarky comments every year about how easy high school teachers have it the last week of school. I get it. I don’t have students but I’m still getting paid to come to school and do? In the eyes of the world..nothing.
But let’s correct that mis-assumption.
I’m covering classes. I’m working on the next year’s plans. I’m finishing off grading that escaped my notice and the millions of notes I have written for myself.
Over the year, I have donated countless hours to after school activities. And I only sponsored senior class. Yes, I helped direct the play and stayed for every rehearsal.
I have a colleague who coaches two sports in addition to sponsoring two year-round organizations that require hours of extra work. She will be at games, easily, until 9 or 9:30 at night. Ten hours later, she’s back in the classroom, challenging students’ minds.
I feel no guilt that I have an easy last week of school. At this point, given the hours and hours and hours of work that I have put in over the year, I think I’m allowed to find something that eases my life. I know that elementary school and middle school teachers put in tons of hours after school as well. Sure, I get it. I once had an incredible conversation with my daughter’s 1st grade teacher and learned a lot about the ins and outs of elementary school teaching.
I’m not going to say that one job is easier than the other. I would never trade places with a kindergarten teacher. I nearly ripped my face off trying to teach my own two children to read. Trying to teach a classroom filled with hyperactive children is enough for to consider retirement without setting foot in the room.
I’m going to stumble through my transition here so…here’s my awkward transition…
I am NOT going to compare my job to anyone else’s. I taught middle school for three years and loved it. But the middle school was 30 minutes from home and I had a brand new baby. The high schools were 2 miles from home. Do the math. I moved to the high schools and have never regretted it.
I currently teach 135 students; when I taught middle school, I might have had 90, tops. My longest “papers” from middle schoolers were five paragraphs each. This year, I had one student turn in a 20 page paper; she was assigned a two pager.
I write letters of recommendation throughout the year, starting with the collegiate letters of recommendation and then the scholarships and then the jobs. I edit college entry essays for the first three months. Morning and afternoon, I have students in my classroom, lined up for me to read their essays. Sometimes, I am even editing students who are not mine.
That’s okay. I love editing.
The longest book I taught to middle schoolers was And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. Because I loved the book so much, I read it out loud to the kids. Easy-peasy. Nowadays, I am teaching books at a much higher, critical-thinking scale. And these are books read outside of class so I have to be ready for anything which might come my way. I have to read the Sparknotes as well to predict what the students haven’t read. And the Book Rags. And Goodreads. And Gradesaver.
By the way, I also have hours of plagiarism checking to do.
Teaching high school means long hours after the classes have been dismissed. It means writing comments on papers and making sure that when the comments are read, they are not taken the wrong way. It means reading books and creating lesson plans and hoping to God that the lessons are appropriate for the classroom dynamic and the pacing and the state legislature.
Teaching high school means constantly being on guard for whatever might cause a student pain and then being available to comfort the student should he or she confess to the pain. Teaching high school means being a mother to 135 students who might not want me to be their mother but are still wanting me to heal their wounds.
I have so many other points to write about teaching high schoolers, but, at the same time, I don’t want to come across as whiney or abrasive. I have family who work in the business world and put in FAR more hours than I do on a weekly basis. And these family members don’t complain.
And I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining, because I’m really not trying to sound or act that way. I just don’t want people to think that the last week of school is “lounge around the building week.” It’s prepare for the following school year week. It’s catch your breath because this is the time to catch your breath week.
And, darn it, I’m okay with wanting to catch my breath. Recently, I feel like breathing hasn’t been too much of an option.