For teachers, Summer is Strange

August 20, 2013  |  Family, Teaching

Every year, teachers are awarded with a supposed summer of grandeur. Or, if you live in New York City, an 8 week intermission sans students. Most of us continue to brush up on our educational selves, attending some sorts of professional development weeks, going to a few planning sessions with our fellow teachers, or dun dun dunnhhhhh….teaching summer school. I like to think that we are kind of like NBA players, training and doing all kinds of weird sprints on beaches and tours in foreign countries all for the love of the game.

This summer will be the first summer I did not do anything for the love of the game. Zero sand sprints, no ice, no meetings in China with the sports ambassador. I am like Raymond Felton the summer he got fat and the Knicks traded him. Really, aside from a couple of meetings about the teacher rating systems, I checked out of school, and completely checked in to other aspects of my life.

It took seven summers for me to get to a place where I felt okay checking out of Bloomberg Ed policy, deleting my Gotham Schools email, ignoring the new Diane Ravitch blog, and reading novels instead of new curriculum. Basically, I temporarily deactivated my educator self.

For many of us, this is no easy task. Teaching is not just what we do, it is who we are.We eat, breathe, and sleep thinking about our students. They are the topic of our dinner conversation, the subject of our dreams. Watching Breaking Bad on Sundays is never done without some lesson planning accompaniment.

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So, what happens when you turn all this off? What part of your self is left?

Good question. After pouring so much of ourselves into our school communities, we often forget to build communities within other parts of our lives. Our individual selves, once molded and guided by our separate and distinct interests are replaced by the desire to give whatever it takes for our students to do well. NYC.gov reports that in NYC, 25% of teachers will quit within the first two years of teaching. All those Saturday field trips, after school tutoring sessions, even materials acquisition alone eat up the other components of our lives that would otherwise make us balanced human beings.

This is why teaching, especially in high need urban schools, has one of the highest burn out rates amongst all careers. The difference between teachers who teach 5+ years and the teachers who teach for two years are many, but namely-the teachers who have any chance at longevity or those who act on a life beyond their students.

For me, this means getting out the sewing machine, calling up old friends, and going to museums with Soleil without thinking about the field trip potential. So, do yourself a favor and dust of the Xbox. Throw that plan book underneath your bed. Clear out your iPad, and relax. Our kiddos will be fine without us, and will be better off with a more balanced human being in front of them when September 9 rolls around.

-Kass



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