A lame joke: What are the two best things about being a teacher?
July and August.
I don’t know who made that joke, but I would bet he or she was a burnt out teacher.
Don’t get me wrong. Every teacher I know circles the final day of the school year on their calendar either mentally or physically.
I certainly am guilty of this though I can just see my mom wagging her finger in front of me saying stop rushing the time away.
Despite this warning, I was counting up the school days in September anxious to get to 180. I said it was in solidarity with my nephew who was anxious to complete his senior year (he graduated the other day – congratulations DS), but it was not 100% true. I wanted summer and freedom. Well, I lost count around day 30. I restarted when there were 30 days left.
Yesterday was the last day of regular instruction for my students.
And I felt a tinge of sadness and nostalgia when I said goodbye to my seniors (not so much with the sophomores). I always feel this to an extent but yesterday was more so. I took a picture with them, made a farewell speech, and they clapped.
Maybe, the nostalgia was due to having the entire class (save for two changes) since September where normally we switch up at the end of January. We bonded. Maybe, it was the trip a bunch of us took a few weeks ago to see the Jackie Robinson biopic (https://larrydbernstein.com/a-real-hero/).
Yes, it’s natural to bond with the students and that is a quality of a good teacher. However, I don’t want to feel too connected. Don’t scratch your heads. Let me explain.
You all have colleagues whom you see on a regular basis. Well sometimes those colleagues enter a different realm. He/she becomes someone you have lunch with or you talk about last night’s game or laugh about a movie you both saw. This someone is no longer merely a colleague but is a friend.
My students are my colleagues. I see them every day. We talk, laugh, and learn (I hope). Yet, I cannot be friends with them – that is inappropriate and a bit odd. I certainly care about them and wish them well.
During my first year of teaching, I was consumed with the profession. I would talk about my challenges and the students all the time. Every conversation came around to teaching. It was consuming. I realized then, with the help of some more veteran colleagues and friends who were in the profession, that if I wanted to stay in the job, I would have to allow myself some distance.
It was sage advice. Each year I have gotten better at separating life and work. This separation makes me a better teacher, father, and husband. I still think about the students and lessons but now, I am not consumed by the thought of work.
It’s not always easy. I remember my 5th year of teaching. The first class I worked with as freshmen (and taught many of them in their later years) were no longer in the building. I was walking the halls and looking for Nicole, Wesley, Diana, etc. even though they had graduated the past June. It was a tough transition.
So, I miss my students. I wish them well as they move on. Next year, I will have a whole new set of colleagues. Bring them on. First, I will enjoy July and August.