As a teacher, I live for breaks just as much, if not more, than the students. When the students are squirrelly and hanging from the ceiling, they are not a lot of fun to teach, regardless of their age (I teach high schoolers). And, of course, non-educators think that teaching is so easy because we have summers off. Well, today is the start of week three of summer break–not a vacation because I don’t travel for ten weeks–and I am sitting in a college classroom. I have taken a 13-day break from work, although I did go into the building this past Sunday to begin organizing the English department bookroom (a person can only move books for a short period of time in a non-air conditioned room).
This summer, like the past couple, I am a coach at the Eastern Illinois Writing Project. I am not earning college credit like the nine teachers who are participating as fellows; rather, this coaching position is both a job and an excellent source of professional development as I learn from the fellows and the other coaches. This course meets four days per week for four weeks from 10am-3:30pm. So, yes, I am not preparing daily lessons and, yes, I am not worried about behavior management, but, no, I am not on vacation or taking a break from the expectations of my job. I am just not teaching 118 freshmen and juniors like was three weeks ago.
So, do I really have a break from my students? If I lived in a large city, I probably would. When I lived in Topeka, Kansas, I never ran into my students even though I lived in the same district that I taught in. But I live in a town, a small town. 10,000 people according to the population sign once you subtract the 10,000 college students who live here from August through May. This morning I worked in the high school weight room; I chose a Tuesday because the football team uses it on MWF. About twenty minutes into the circuit training, in walks the soccer team! Fortunately, their warmup in the west gym lasted until I was done. On the mornings that I run, I use a trail around a local university that the high school cross country team also uses for its summer morning practices. A few years ago, I only walked when I cross paths with the students because they are training to run 7-minute miles and earn a varsity letter in running, while I feel that I look like a slug on a bad day and a turtle on a good day. But I decided a year ago that I’m a role model even to these athletes so they may as well see me running in all my sweaty glory.
I also run into my students at restaurants, and they are usually in charge of making my food. I recognized one young man’s voice over the drive-thru intercom the other day, so I addressed him by name. Of course, I didn’t mention that it was me, so he was particularly curious who was in the car when I drove up to the window. I’m even taking a course at the local university and ran into a former student at the drinking fountain today. We chatted for a couple minutes about his classes and his major. And now I have plans to attend Legion baseball games this evening; my son who should be playing is, instead, working the concession stand because a torn ACl and subsequent surgery ended his entire 2014 baseball season, but I miss the parents and I miss the players, who are, of course, students.
When I first moved to this town, halfway through my teaching career, I thought it would be incredibly awkward to run into students, especially if I didn’t have nice clothes and makeup on. But during my first year, a student told me that they didn’t care what I looked like when I saw them in public. It probably took me a couple more years to embrace that concept, but I believe it now. My students like to see me as human, and I like them to know that I am just as normal as they are.
Yes, I am enjoying my break from dress clothes, high heels, makeup, grading papers, and monitoring tardies, but I am also glad that I don’t have to take a break from my students for the entire summer.