School’s back in session in Arizona. For people with kids, that means back to school shopping, scheduling pick-ups and drop-offs, and going to parent night and spot meetings. For kids, it means seeing friends you haven’t seen all summer, wondering how hard you classes are going to be this year, guessing who’s still dating whom, and finding out if your new teachers are cool or hard. For teacher’s, it’s a slightly different set of worries, problems, and even relief.
Yes, I have a summer vacation. And yes, I enjoyed my summer vacation. It’s the perk of my job. Some people get to travel. Some people get expense accounts. Teacher get summer breaks. But there are also negatives to having 2 1/2 months off. I’m completely out of my daily routine. I just spent 2 1/2 months sleeping in, reading, swimming and hanging out with friends (I’m aware that this does not sound like that much of a negative). I’m out of sorts. Ever taken a week away from work and it takes you a few days to get back in the swing of things? It’s like that. Except I don’t have a few days to get back in the swing of things. Students are back in the class on Wednesday at my school and I have to be completely ready to greet them with a smile and a plan.
Well, they’re screwed.
To get teachers back into their grove, most schools have back to school teacher days two to three days before students began wondering the halls. Teacher days sound nice. In reality, it’s two to three days of none stop meetings where the administration talk about the vision of the school (hasn’t change since last year), the discipline policies (haven’t changed since last year), the various new (not really) services that are offered to staff and students to help students achieve better scores on AIMS and other standard tests. It’s computer training (where the computers don’t work) and BBP training (same video as last year) and making sure everyone has their schedules and knows when all the other meetings throughout the year are. Then it’s department time, making sure you’re aligned with other teachers who teach the same subject in your department, getting the department goals from the department head, and discussing (arguing) over the merits of a point based grade or a weighted grade. This leaves me exactly 2 hours during Freshman orientation (cause I don’t teach Freshman) and 3 hours before students fill the too many desks of my classroom to prepare my room, make copies, tweak any first day things I need to tweak, fix my pre- and post- tests, making sure I have the correct pre- and post- tests, and going over my rooster to ensure that all the students have met the prerequisites for the class.
For some teachers, there’s also a bit of anxiety involved in first day shenanigans. Will the kids behave? Will I have any huge behavior problems? Will my lessons work and be effective? Will I meet my goal? Will I have enough time to cover all of the material that I need to cover in a semester?
But it’s not all worries and problems. I am very relieved to be back at work. For one thing, I get a paycheck again (that’s right I have summer’s off and don’t get paid for them. Most public school teachers are only paid for 184-190 days). Seeing some money coming in makes me happy. Of course I’m not teaching for the money. No one teaches for the money. I’m teaching because I truly enjoy the profession. I enjoy the kids (yes, even the pains in the you-know-what), I enjoy my subjects, and I enjoy spreading science knowledge to the next group (really, I do).
So here’s to the 2013-2014 school year. It’ll be difficult (I’m re-writing two classes…again). It’ll be fun (new labs always make me happy). It’ll be long days and longer nights of planning and writing and grading.