One of my goals for 2014 is to be grateful more and to complain less, so I’ve really been trying. This one, though, I just can’t help. It’s been going through my head for awhile, and I’ve got to get it out.
I get incredibly, perhaps irrationally, irritated any time I hear people make snide remarks about “all the time” that teachers get “off.” I hear it about Christmas vacation and spring break. Must be nice. I wish I had the whole week off. I hear it all summer long. Most of us still have to WORK during the summer. And lately I’ve heard it when school has been canceled for snow. I wish I just got a day off any time it snowed.
These comments rub me the wrong way for several reasons, but mostly because of the insinuation that the person complaining is working harder than I am, or at least more hours than I am, when I know this simply isn’t true. I work a lot. A LOT. Saying, “I work a lot” is an incredible understatement. I am at school every weekday from 7 a.m. through 4 p.m., and many days even later. For anyone who wants to say that teachers don’t work a full day, please come check the parking lot at my school. Several teachers leave at 2:45 when our contract day is officially over, but most of us are still at school, trying to get ready for the next day.
Once I get home, I imagine I am doing what most working parents are doing: picking up the kids, fixing dinner, helping the girls eat dinner, getting the daycare bag ready for tomorrow, giving baths, brushing teeth, reading stories, walking the dog. If I’m incredibly lucky, the girls are in bed at 8. Most nights it is later, sometimes much later, until they are actually asleep.
Now, let me ask all of the non-teachers out there. When your kids are finally in bed, what do you do every night? Relax? Sit on the couch and watch TV? Read Facebook and Twitter or play games on your phone? Talk to your spouse? Or even do chores like dishes or laundry? This “leisure” time doesn’t exist for me. Almost every night, regardless of whether it’s a weeknight or a weekend, from 8 – 10 p.m. I am either grading papers or planning for the next day. Most weekends it’s more like 8-11 or midnight. This wasn’t always true before we had kids. I had a lot more flexibility then. But since it is currently my only time I can sit and work, mostly uninterrupted, I am getting as much done for school as I possibly can during these 14 hours every week.
Let’s do the math. School typically runs 40 weeks out of the year. This means most weeks I am working 40 hours (7-4 every weekday) plus 14 hours in the evenings (8-10 p.m. every stinking night) to equal 54 hours a week. If we times this by 40 weeks, that equals 2,160 hours per year. If we say a person working a “regular” full-time job works 40 hours per week, 50 weeks per year, that equals 2,000 hours per year. So let’s say I skip an evening or two, or 10, I AM STILL WORKING WAY MORE FREAKING HOURS THAN YOU ARE, SO STOP MAKING YOUR CUTTING REMARKS ABOUT HOW MY DAYS OFF MUST BE SO “NICE.”
This doesn’t account for the two weeks every summer I spend cleaning up my classroom and then getting it ready to go in the fall. This doesn’t account for the extra trainings I go to most summers. This doesn’t account for the time I spend reading the novels we study in class, or the weekends I have my girls stay with their relatives so I can do a 16-hour grading “marathon,” or the fact that if we DO get school canceled for snow, I spend a lot of that time grading, and then we make up the school day later in the year.
Yes, it’s “nice” to have the summer “off,” but I feel like it is hard-earned compensation for the time I give up during the rest of the year. It makes me angry that people resent teachers for this time. I shouldn’t have to feel guilty because I can FINALLY get 8 hours of sleep in a night for 8 weeks. (I don’t count all 10 because I’m actually working the first and last week of the summer, remember.)
So if you find yourself feeling jealous of me (or another teacher in your life) on a snow day, remember that I will be working a day to make up for it in June. Remember that while you (probably) have time in the evening to do something that you would like to do, I am reading an essay, or writing discussion questions, or emailing parents, and if for some rare exception I’m not, that I deserve to have a life too.