"Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop." -Ovid
Being a teacher, I get the whole "It must be nice to have summers off" comment a lot this time of year. It is usually meant in kind of a flippant, your job is such a cake-walk sort of way, but I always look at that person and tell them that it is. I can honestly say that being a teacher is the most demanding and exhausting job I have ever had, and I have had some pretty rough jobs. It is not that it is physically demanding like my time as a factory worker or the time I got paid to tear a barn down by myself (in the hottest part of the summer), but it is absolutely the most mentally draining job I can imagine. I try to explain it to people, but they rarely understand. Unlike most other jobs, you don't get a fifteen minute break every now and again. Every forty-five minutes another group of about twenty students comes storming through the door, and you have to perform. From 8:10 am until 3:20 pm, I am completely at the service of roughly 150 teenagers. Let me be clear, I'm not saying this as a bad thing. I actually really enjoy it. I love the feeling I get when a student comes to me uncertain of something and leaves confident that they understand. It is the most rewarding occupation I have ever had. I also like to point out that most of these critiques come from people whose job only exists in the span of a workday and in the space of their workplace. This is not so for the teacher. I also like to explain that the time I spend at school is not the whole of my work; instead it is the product of my work. The hard work happens outside of that time planning, creating, learning, and evaluating everything I need to be a professional educator.
Now, I don't write all of this as a way of saying, "Woe is me the pitiful teacher who has to work so hard". Again, I wouldn't want to be doing much of anything else (syndicated columnist would be cool). The reason I write all of this is because all of the things I'm doing as a teacher line up pretty closely with all of the things my students go through over the course of a school year. When you think about it, our students spend roughly eight hours a day going from room to room trying to become experts in a handful of different disciplines only to go home and be required to spend another few hours doing homework so they can be prepared to show up the next day and do it again. When you throw in the extra-curricular activities that many of them are involved in and part-time jobs, there are a lot of students who are putting in sixty hour weeks nine months out of the year.
For teachers and students, summer is not some frivolous vacation that has been adopted by a group of people who simply don't want to work as hard as everyone else; it is a time to rest, reflect, and recharge so that we can show up in the heat of August and do it all over again.
So, to my students, I hope you have a restful and rejuvenating summer, because when you come back in August, I will be waiting, and I'm going to make you work.