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SALT LAKE CITY — In the coming days and weeks — if it hasn't happened already — students from all over the state of Utah will be taking a much-needed break from the daily grind of school. This break is, of course, affectionately known as summer vacation.
This is a time filled with late nights that turn into late mornings and feature plenty of sunshine in between. It is a time of playing with friends, taking family vacations and getting some awesome tan lines.
Don't get me wrong: I love school, but when I was younger, summer vacation was always on my mind and was often what got me through those grueling nine months of math, science and writing … oh, come to think of it, maybe I didn't mind the writing part so much.
As a child, I remember making countdowns, starting from the first day of school and going to the very last day. In my third-grade classroom, there was a number line that covered the entire space of two walls, with 180 numbers representing each day that we had in school. As part of our daily calendar, our teacher, Mrs. Anderson, would cross off a number each day. We would then write how many days we had been in school and how many we had left.
Mrs. Anderson did a great job of making this part of the routine more of a math lesson than a how-many-days-do-we-have-left-because-I-am-tired-and-need-a-break? message. Never in my entire 13 years of public schooling, did I ever once consider that teachers looked forward to this time too.
As far as I was concerned, teachers lived at school — because that is where I saw them — and each year as that final bell rang, that is where I left them. There was no way that a teacher had a life outside of school or, heaven forbid, would ever, ever want to have a break from us darling kids.
Fast forward four years, post high school graduation, and right after graduating college, I was now the teacher. Having taught in the public schools, as well as preschool from my home for a total of seven years, I now know that Mrs. Anderson may have had a slight ulterior motive in her posting of that timeline; it may just have been a small visual representation/reminder of how far she'd come — and yes, how much longer she had left.
Do I judge her for this? Absolutely not. Teachers — or at least the good ones, and there are many — work so hard during the school year.
There was a recent post made by a friend of mine, a former (and hopefully future) teacher of one of my children. In it she said:
“The next person who tells me I have it so easy because I'm a teacher and I have summers off is going to get an earful. Do I have more flexible hours? Absolutely. Do I have the entire summer off? Um, no. Curriculum doesn't write itself; classrooms don't magically appear ready for children; and I still go to meetings or professional development. Also, on average during the school year, I work WAY more than 40 hours a week to make sure everything goes as well as can be expected. I care about my students and I want to be a good teacher. Don't judge me until you've walked in my shoes.”
There was another teacher who I passed in the hallway during the last week of school. I asked her how she was doing, and she smiled and said, “I love my job, but I am excited to be able to work with my own kids for a while.” She went on to explain how she feels like sometimes she is spending so much time helping other people's kids (who she loves and cares about), that it was hard to help her own children do school work. She was looking forward to being able to do that.
As a teacher and teacher's wife, I can attest that summer vacations are not just for kids; teachers need the break just as much, if not more.
I wish all students and teachers a happy and safe summer vacation! May it be filled with fun and relaxation with family and friends, so that come August, you will be recharged and ready for another great school year.
*Arianne Brown is a graduate from Southern Utah University, mother to five young kids and an avid runner. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, go to he blog at runariran.wordpress.com or follow her on Twitter @arimom5.**