Monday, May 11, 2015

Conclusion and Commencement

The only drawback to the lovely long weekend I had between the end of classes last Thursday and finals tomorrow is the false sense of vacation it created. I took advantage of the brief hiatus between the two to step back, do some writing and socializing, and enjoy the calm before the storm, and as a result, had a wonderful weekend.

But today is Monday. Time to blow the dust off the end-of-semester to-do list and start checking things off, while simultaneously beginning the tasks that will lead me to the opening of fall semester in September.

Such is life in the world of education. Endings and beginnings collide and overlap, and time off is just prep time in flip flops. Conclusion and commencement run together, as evidenced by the terminology used at every graduation; there's always something to add or re-structure, create or revise, not just in collegiate education, but in every part of the field, from preschool on. That's what keeps teachers fresh and on-target and what keeps kids engaged and achieving.

Fortunately for me, as for most educators, I love what I do. I especially enjoy creating new activities and finding new ways to approach old topics. This summer, I'm excited to finalize the readings for a course I'll be teaching in the fall and to flesh out the scribblings that currently constitute my lesson plans for that new class. 

Education is not alone in its cycles. Every business has its seasons, whether time is measured in marking periods or financial quarters, semesters or fiscal years. But for some reason, education seems to be the one field where everyone feels entitled to an opinion, perhaps because our cycles of conclusion and commencement directly impact the lives of our constituents.
Photo: jmiltenburg via Morguefile

I have chosen this field, and I love what I do -- so much so, that when I retired from public education, I didn't leave the classroom, but merely changed locations. I can't imagine not teaching -- an insight that revealed itself only when I retired from my elementary school position three years ago. I'd always thought of myself as a counselor first and an educator second, but as it turns out, the roles are so intertwined that one cannot be separated from the other.

And this is true of all good educators everywhere, regardless of their specific training or the grade or subject they teach. They love what they do and accept that in order to do it well, it's a year-round job, regardless of what the academic calendars say. Time outside of the classroom is rarely downtime; the wheels are always turning. Personal renewal coincides with professional growth and the myth of June, July and August as unfettered vacation is just that -- a myth. And when politicians and  armchair quarterbacks naysay and nitpick, the personal renewal and professional growth so necessary to the well-being of the students we all have in common is compromised.

So, when you see a teacher this summer, resist the urge to tell them how nice it must be to have three months off and instead imagine taking your job with you everywhere you go. Not such a bad deal when you love what you do, but worthy of respect nevertheless.

Photo: JessicaGale via Morguefile

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