To the general public and the media, it seems that teachers get regular vacations. People in office jobs and such start off with a total of 3 weeks vacation time, those in retail get less, and I don’t know what doctors do, according to t.v. they live like superman – never sleeping and never taking a day off.
But vacation is really a misnomer. A vacation elicits notions of relaxation, of living out some moment of fantasy, of staring out into a beautiful landscape. Vacations are something that can be bought at a travel agency. What teachers take is recovery. It ought to bring to mind ideas of rehab. Rehab, like it takes days for us to reconnect with our own humanity. It takes dozens of hours for us to feel like our time is our own. We relish the little things like being able to drink as much water as we want without concern for the next time we can escape to the restrooms and eating when we are hungry, not when it fits in.
We recover from the constant demands of young people at the peek of their intellectual development. My shrink asked me in what ways I could imagine changing my classroom so that I do not give so much of myself. But I realized it is those times that I get to really delve into a question, into the consequences of a historical moment, or explore a new way of viewing something that teaching feels like teaching ought to feel. It is just impossible to do that four times in a row without coming out of it exhausted.
Teaching involves many emotions and actions that regular people reserve for their closest friends and family. Teachers celebrate others’ accomplishments, comfort their struggles, encourage their dreams, give advice, worry about their choices and how the choices of others affect them. Teachers answer any and every question, without shaming nor disregarding the person. I fall asleep and wake up more often with thoughts about how the course of the day will impact my students much more often to then how the day will be my own.
After a week of recovery, I am now ready for one of those vacations. But instead I will return to the stead of my ship.