It happens every year. I hear it in the grocery store, at church, on the street, even from my friends and extended family: “It must be great to be winding down!” BAM. My back goes up and I want to ask, “Are you freakin’ serious?” But I push down the sarcasm, smile and say, as nicely as I can at that moment, “Sure is.”
The question always comes from the most well-intentioned person, one who is happy for me that summer is at last within reach. However it’s one that makes me crazy, because it shows, once again, that so many people Just. Don’t. Get. It.
The reality is that during the last month of high school we are actually winding up to one of the most pressure-filled times of the year. The clock is ticking very loudly in our ears and we are trying the best we can to get everything covered, at a time when our students are tired, excited about summer and completely uninterested in what we are trying to do. It’s also a time when teachers are tired, excited about summer and completely uninterested in what we are trying to do. Not a good combination. We are setting exams and marking them. We are racing to meet impossible deadlines set by our administration who think it’s ok to ask for marks the day after an exam is written. It’s a time when we spend evenings and weekends at our dining room tables, surrounded by paper, while our neighbours are frolicking outdoors. It’s a time when we are filling in report cards and organizing graduations and cleaning up a year’s worth of mess in our classrooms.
It’s also a time when we are trying our darndest to motivate some of our students to get enough marks to pass and/or graduate. We are pushing and pulling and rooting for them to rise to the occasion, feeling joy when they do, and grief if they don’t. We are dealing with angry phone calls and emails from parents telling us we have ruined their child’s life because they did nothing all year and we had the unmitigated gall to hold them accountable for that. Dodging the blades of the helicopter parent is a one of the biggest hazards in this profession, especially in June.
But we can handle the work and the stress. That’s actually the easy part of June. What’s really hard is that we have to let go and say goodbye. Students who have become “our kids” are leaving our classrooms and our lives. We have spent the semester–or even the last three years–building relationships with them and then it’s over. They are with us for a short moment and, no matter how much we have meant to each other, it always comes to an end. It’s bittersweet, but it’s part of the job. We just hug them, smile proudly and move on, knowing that in September, the room just won’t feel right for a while.
So, the next time you see a teacher in the dying days of a school year, resist the urge to utter that sentence. Instead, put a supportive arm around him or her and say, “Hang in there. Summer’s coming!”