I've been thinking about this a lot lately, because not only do I hear people counting down the days until their next day off at school, but I also see it a lot on social media- memes about teachers waiting for their next vacation, dreading going back to school on Sunday night, hanging onto their sanity for dear life before a break... I get it. Teaching is HARD. Like, really hard. And it's only getting worse. The demands put on us by politicians, administrators, and society in general are often just straight-up out of control. Budgets are tighter, and so are our schedules. And I know I'm not the first one to say that it seems like each kindergarten class that enters, the kids are a little less prepared for school, a little less respectful of authority, a little less caring about their success at school, and a little more able to make us lose our minds trying to get them to just. sit. still.
I get it. There have been days when I've closed the door to my classroom and just cried. Last year I ended a choir rehearsal early for the first time in my career to try to get the kids out before the tears started flowing. I didn't quite make it. There have been days this year when I've gotten so upset with a class that I could feel my heart pounding in my chest.
But here's the thing: I really think we need to change our mindset. Stop always telling ourselves that if we can just make it through a few more hours, we can get to the fun part of our lives. Stop telling ourselves that we just have to survive a few more weeks of torture and then we can relax. The more we find our comfort only in our lives outside of school, the less we find comfort within our walls. The more we tell ourselves to just survive a few more days, the less we expect of ourselves and our students in those days.
Don't we want to make our schools a place where students want to come? Then why would we publicly announce that we don't want to be there ourselves? And what are we communicating to our students about our relationship with them when we talk eagerly about our next time away from them? It seems to me we are presenting the subtle message that we don't enjoy being around them, and we in fact prefer our time away from them.
I'm a firm believer that words have power. When teachers and students always hear people talking about how much they look forward to leaving school, it changes our attitudes. Instead of counting down the days until the we can leave, I'd rather we spent more time talking about what's happening in the present moment, right there in our classrooms. And if we're talking about the future, let's look ahead to where we hope our students will be in 10 years. Let's find out what our students want to do when they graduate from college. Let's talk to our colleagues about how we can teach that unit in a more exciting way next year.
I'm not saying we shouldn't need time to decompress. I'm not saying that we shouldn't be able to vent our frustrations. But I am making a commitment to talk about what I love about school, about my classes, and about my students, not about all of the reasons I can't wait to leave the building, get away from my students, and take a break from my work. I think the more we can talk about reasons we want to be in school instead of out, the less trapped we'll all feel and the more we can actually look forward to coming to school each morning.
I hope you'll consider joining me. No more countdowns.