As my former colleagues enjoy the last day of school, I’m sure that many of my readers who are not teachers think that they are elated, full of anticipation of the famous reason we became educators: June, July and August. That is a small part of what we enjoy but certainly not the main reason. And one of those emotions is elation.
We went into this for many reasons, the least of which is summers off. It sounds trite and maybe a bit untrue. Certainly there are those who do, but most do it for the money. After all, after spending around $100,000 for an education, including interminable student loans in most cases, who wouldn’t anticipate an average first year salary of between $30,000 and $40,000 and a top rate of round $70,000 after 30 years? At that rate it will only take, oh say, the rest of your life to pay them off instead of going into engineering with an average first year salary of $80,000? The truth (obviously) is a small percentage of people. Most of the teachers I have known truly do it for the reward of making a difference in the lives of children. It is the mother of all professions. So, if you think most teachers are elated in June, you are only half right.
For sure that is a factor. I won’t deny that. Relief of the stress and demands of a teacher nowadays is a truly wonderful feeling. Lesson plans, unruly children, weekends spent grading papers, lack of support of administration and ineffective teacher evaluation that takes way too much time from the business of teaching are some of the major causes. The end of this, even for a short ten weeks, will create the ultimate happy dance. But there is also an empty feeling that you will actually MISS the relationships and many joys of making a difference in the lives of your students.
Over my many years of teaching, I’ve noticed an interesting pattern. Often, on the final day, my “naughtiest” students were the ones most likely to give me a hug or a heartfelt look of thank you or love, even tears, to show the verbally unexpressed “I’m gonna miss you.” Even though I wouldn’t miss their negative behaviors and disrespect, those feelings of frustration disappear. I often got a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. (I am a softie.) I knew that I had been a part of the place where they got a decent breakfast and lunch; where they felt love and caring and a feeling of safety. That is happening all over the country today.
Then August hits you in the face. Yes, there is a feeling of sadness because you will miss the beach days, the sleeping in, the time with your family and innumerable other pleasures of summer vacation. Even the college classes and workshops are a part of that mix. But there is also a feeling of elation and happiness because you have a brand new set of students for whom you know you’ll make difference.
I miss those feelings.