Thursday, August 14, 2014

Are You Ready?

“Are you ready?”  This time of year, I hear it all the time.  Ready to go back to work, ready to meet my new class, ready for the first day of school…. ready for summer to be over.   We teachers are the recipients of a highly coveted job perk in experiencing this thing we call summer break.  The general public can’t wait to hear how we feel as it draws to a close. 

Sometimes I think we let this sentiment creep too far into our core.  We can’t seem to escape the idea that the end of summer is to be dreaded and NOW is when real life starts kicking us in the butt just like it does everyone else 365 days a year... {Insert evil laugh from the last person who asked, “Are you ready?”}  It’s easy to feel momentary dread, but let’s try not to let it take hold.

Don’t get me wrong; I love summer break and I’m always a little sad to see it end.  But it’s not the only way to LIVE.  We don’t have to spend the other ten months of the year going through the motions, waiting on next summer to roll around, the way too many people go through the motions just waiting to retire.  Every time I start counting down at the end of the school year, “20 more days!” my husband snaps back, “20 more years!” (until retires).  But what about today?  This year?  Now?  There is life to be lived at 22, 42, 62, and 82, just like there is life to be lived in July, September, November, and even those bleak days in February when spring break feels like a distant oasis. 

My husband is doing a good bit of work-related travel in the next 30 days, and it made me wonder if he planned it that way on purpose, to escape cohabitating with the lesson planning, classroom décor making, paper grading, website updating, number crunching, calendar drafting freak I tend to morph into throughout September.  I will admit when I heard his schedule, I breathed a little sigh of relief that I wouldn’t have to feel guilty working past 9:00 pm, when I should be cuddled up with him on the couch watching TV.  And I’m sure with him gone, I will spend plenty of nights on the clock, ensuring that I would make minimum wage if it was all divided out.  But his physical absence makes me ponder the mental leave I tend to take from our marriage this time of year. 

Your life doesn’t end with the first day of school.  If you have kids, neither should your kids’.  I always emphasize to the parents of the students I teach that homework should not rule their home life.  If it does, I want them to call me and we’ll work something out.  I’m not saying I don’t want them to do their homework; I’m saying I want it done painlessly in an hour or less so they can have the rest of the night to LIVE.  What if I followed my own advice?  I’m not sure it’s realistic for the beginning of school to think that I could spend only an hour at home on school-related activities each night, but it’s a good goal to have in mind to at least create awareness. 

What if we didn’t put away the novels we were actually reading for FUN this summer?  (I feel like I’m in a race against the calendar right now to finish the 400 page novel I started last weekend because if I don’t get it done I won’t know how it ends until Christmas break.)  What if we picked one night a week to leave the school bag AT SCHOOL and focus solely on our families and/or friends?  What if we packed our weekend plans with fun instead of just paper grading and planning for the next week? 

The first couple of years I taught, these “what-ifs” were overwhelming to me.  I felt like if I didn’t devote every moment I could to my classroom, it would fall apart.  As time went on, I found out some days it falls apart no many how many hours you’ve devoted to it, and some of the days you feel the least prepared come off the most flawlessly.  It’s called LIFE and it was waiting there for me to realize that I can’t control every aspect of it.  All I can do is LIVE it…every aspect of it, not just the realm in which I’m called “teacher.”  It’s all those other moments, year-round, morning and night, weekends and afternoons, that make me who I am, the best person I can be- for myself and for those twenty-some kids who call me “Mrs. Jones” from 8 am til 3:00. 

There’s another school year looming just around the corner.  But it’s so much more than summer’s end.  It’s a chance to keep working toward that balance where we learn to truly LIVE.  Are you ready?

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