Requiem for Responsibility

One of the appeals of teaching is the cyclical nature of the year. The excitement is tangible at the beginning, wanes like the moon, and sets when you, and all the kids alike, need it. It’s not dissimilar to the same feeling you had as a student growing up. You go at the end of summer to collect your sparkly, new school supplies; get everything settled and perfect; don your best teacher garb with freshly manicured nails, in your magazine-worthy, teacher glory; actually style your hair in the mornings and carefully apply makeup. Basically, you have it all together. The first day of school is nerve-wracking, yet hopeful and somewhat exhilarating.

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It’s around Halloween when the tailspin begins. The new school supplies have either disappeared into the dark abyss or been chewed up, sometimes literally rather than figuratively. Your classroom begins to collect clutter; stacks of papers to be graded; sweet, yet sloppy, notes from students; the occasional phallic symbol on student desks. Your daily wardrobe transforms from the runway to the runaway, complete with frazzled hair, talons on your fingers and toes, clown makeup painted on in a dark room (or no makeup, some days). The tailspin continues throughout the year, the aforementioned giving of yourself in every way.

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Needless to say, the last day of school feels like every Christmas morning you have ever experienced all wrapped in one. When you get the last signature on that end-of-year list, your classroom is bare, and you march out of the door, the heavens open, angels descend, the sweet nectar of the Gods rains from the skies. (wine. I’m talking about wine.) Life is good.

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The first few days of summer are absolute bliss; the sense of freedom allows you to indulge in anything (or nothing) guilt-free. It is like the Friday and Saturday night of the summer.

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Around the week mark, your “to-do” list begins to peek around the corner and wave at you with a sick grin on its face. You try to ignore it, but under the surface you remember that there are things you must accomplish during this window of opportunity that are simply not fun at all. You begin to subconsciously realize the weeks you have left and feel overwhelmed with your free time. To relax, or not to relax? That is the question – and the difference between student summers and teacher summers.

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I’m no stranger to the imminent doom that is the summer chore list, but I also think it’s irresponsible to forget that summer is not simply time to play catch up. It is the overtime pay of the teaching world. It is the gold medal of surviving the parent meetings gone awry. It is the pat on the back for helping that one student progress or not blaming yourself entirely when that other one didn’t. It is the time to recharge yourself, so that, come August, you can be that perfect teacher once more, energized and ready for the new year. Give yourself one goal to achieve per day, then spend the rest of the time doing whatever you want. Seriously.

Indulge in your summer. Go on those trips. Sleep in. Lounge around. Do whatever you want. You have earned it.

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