This is the time of year, as a teacher, when every well-meaning acquaintance mentions how lucky you are to have the summer “off.” Although we teachers certainly do anticipate this break, this is one of the most annoying things you can say this time of year. In my mind, I think that they are imagining me excitedly making plans for travel to places where I will spend lazy days sleeping in hammocks with the cool breeze drifting over me, and when I wake, I stroll through the sand and take a quick dip in the deep blue of the South Pacific before spending an evening in a cozy eatery, bursting with the aroma of Caribbean recipes and the rhythms of live authentic local music. But alas, this is not the reality of my summers. My May to-do lists do not include making any sort of travel plans with the exception of an overnight trip to my nephew’s wedding or booking an overnight hotel for a required teacher training in Denver, where instead of sleeping in a hammock, I will be sleeping in a hard plastic elementary-school style chair with the impression of the keyboard of my laptop embossed into the side of my face and eating college cafeteria food for dinner. Truthfully, by the time I get through my May to-do list, I am far too haggard to plan a trip to the store, let alone to an island get-away. “What’s so tiring about May?” you ask. “Testing is over, right?” Well, here is a typical end-of the-year to-do list for a high school teacher.
- Collect 250 final essays (You planned ahead and told the students that there would be no late work allowed after this date, so that you would have plenty of time to give detailed feedback before final exams.)
- Instead of grading your papers during plan, go to six IEP and 504 exit meetings.
- Instead of grading your papers during plan, stand in the parking lot during a fire drill.
- Instead of grading your papers during plan, upload proof to the state that you taught them how to write the papers you collected.
- Instead of grading your papers during plan, email 48 parents whose children did not turn in the final paper.
- Instead of grading your papers during plan, answer phone messages from parents asking you to take late papers from students who would do nothing but play on their phones during class.
- Print out awards for next week’s nighttime award ceremony for those students who make your life worth living.
- Rummage through your closet for a dress to wear to the prom you have to chaperone. None of them fit because you haven’t had time to eat anything but fast food for three weeks.
- Go to prom instead of grading your final papers on Saturday night.
- Finish writing your final exams and modify them for the SPED department, print them, copy them, and send a copy to both the SPED department and to your administrator.
- Notice the typos and do it again.
- Attend the award ceremony, hug your students, shake hands with their parents. Today is a good day to be a teacher. You’re happy.
- Wake up late the next day and leave with a mismatched pair of shoes on because you’re exhausted from staying late the night before.
- Plan logistics of the graduation ceremony, sunrise breakfast, and senior bonfire. Why did you ever agree to be a senior sponsor?
- Feel like a big mean jerk as you tell six crying students you can’t take their late papers because you are preparing them for their future heartless college professors. You break down and take them anyway.
- Call in sick to grade 256 papers and get your oil changed before your car blows up. By the way, you really are sick too.
- Race through the end of the unit and review all units before the end of the semester.
- Go to your evaluation meeting and find out that you weren’t working nearly hard enough. Maybe you can cut out watching TV on Sunday nights.
- Supervise three nighttime senior events and go to the drama play your students begged you to attend.
- Show up to first period the next day in mismatched clothes and notice your shirt is on inside out.
- Meet with four angry parents who want their students to pass your class even though they only attended it six times the entire semester. You are too tired to argue about it.
- Grade senior final exams and finalize grades before graduation.
- Attend two bridal showers, a baby shower, and a wedding over the weekend.
- Administer final exams to the non-seniors and then control their wild end-of-the-year behavior while grading 190 final exams.
- Make a casserole to feed thirty people for the potluck that is supposed to save you time during finals by freeing you from making one peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
- Finish grading final exams and more late work.
- Spend Saturday attending the graduation ceremony. Cry as you hug and say goodbye to students you taught for four years. This is a bittersweet day.
- Spend Sunday doing the laundry you haven’t had time to do for three weeks.
- Finalize end-of-year grades while answering 32 emails from parents who would not previously return your calls for two months.
- Grade late finals of students who went on vacations during final exams and came back to take them late.
- Turn in grades, file 1,000 handouts to re-use next year, clean desks, remove posters from walls (as if they were going to paint), remove everything from bookshelves, stack desks, chairs, inventory the room, and get 37 signatures from people you cannot find in order to check out.
- Go to a staff meeting and find out that everything will be different next year, so over the summer you will need to re-write all of your unit plans, attend a training, and read two new textbooks.
So, while I am sure I will enjoy the overnight trip to my nephew’s wedding in the mountains, I don’t think there will be any hammock naps in the Caribbean this summer. I might take a week off to sleep before starting those new unit plans. I might take a day to work on my résumé and fantasize about getting an easier job. Maybe I could do something less stressful like be a cop, a corporate executive, or a surgeon. It’s just a pipe dream, though. By the end of the summer, after re-writing these units and reading these new texts, I’ll be excited to start it all over again. Well, maybe excited is too strong a word, but you get the picture.—Christina Knowles