We put our daughters in camp this week and next, mostly because my wife's job starts up well before the school year. Last summer was her first in the new position and we didn't do this and I almost went nuts from having to wrangle two hyper and bored four year olds by myself for three weeks. This camp time has been nothing short of blissful. Today I sat on the back porch with a book and a cup of coffee, listening to Tusk as the leaves rustled in the gentle breeze. Earlier I started cranking out an essay for publication. In my relaxed state this week I had already written two others. I don't want these days to end.
But soon they will. For teachers August is the Sunday of months, a mix of relaxation and dread.
Those jerkoffs who always think teachers have their summers "off" never understand that our work is akin to being front line soldiers. Without leave we would lose our minds and the ability to keep fighting. Summer feels less like a break than a rotation out of the trenches. Like a World War I soldier, I am keenly aware when I am away that I will have to go back.
This is not meant to be a complaint. I love my current job more than any other job I've had. This year, as in the others, there were hugs and tears at graduation, and the kind of gratitude that warms my heart like nothing else. But getting to that point requires a truly monumental expense of mental, emotional, and physical energy. In my case I dread not the demands of teaching as much as my commute. It's an hour each way if everything goes right, which would be bad enough, but lately that hasn't been the case. Just getting to the train on time each morning requires a ritual of clockwork precision which includes walking the dog, preparing breakfast for my children, and getting a couple of headstrong toddlers out of bed and out the door before the sun comes up. I am usually worn out even before I get to my train, a train so crowded that half the time I do not even get to sit down.
Between my work, commute, and child care responsibilities on an average work day I get about two hours of free time if I am lucky. Some days it's none. I used to expand that time by staying up too late, but that had a lot of bad side effects, from fatigue to crankiness. Last year I resolved to get seven hours of sleep a night, and I mostly held to that. (Watching the World Series made that difficult, though.)
Soon the cycle will start all over again. As much as I am feeling the dread, I know that on that first day of class that I will answer the bell and will be full of energy and enthusiasm. At the end of the day, that's what you have to do if you want to be a teacher, and why so few people make it past their first few years, even with their "summer off."