Recently I went to a Teach for America professional development. There was a very nice opening ‘ceremony’ where TFA corps members past and present as well as TFA staff gathered together. While the first years were trudging in with our mid-October “glow” (more like rolling eyes, messy hair and exhausted body) there was still a positive energy in the air. I dread TFA PD just as much as anyone, but it is also nice and refreshing to be around hundreds of people who (kind of) understand what you are going through. (Although, there are really only 5 other TFA people who get what I am going through at my school…you all know who you are.) All the corps members and our respective cliques found our seats and settled in. Admittedly, I was grading papers and others around me were playing temple run on their phone or texting.
As I listened, I started to become intrigued by the common theme of the speakers. They all shared stories of success and inspiring moments when they knew they were making a difference…but what’s more…they all mentioned how much they hated breaks (i.e. weekends, holidays, vacations, PD days). Just to put this in perspective, this PD was taking place at the end of October (also called Doomtober, Darktober, etc) when we had not had a day off (unless it was a personal day) since Labor Day. October is also the month where the honeymoon phases with students, if you are lucky enough to have one, ends. The kids are cray. And here I was sitting in the back row of a school auditorium listening to transformational teachers (3rd, 4th, 5th….8th year teachers) are telling me that they hate weekends. ”It stops progress toward our big goal” they claimed. For a moment I felt guilty. On Monday I think forward to Friday at 4pm when my students get on the bus. I am consistently counting down to vacations, not because I hate my job, but because it gives me something to look forward to. A reason to keep trucking. And here, my role models, are making me feel badly for doing so. I want to be like them, so I guess I should start hating breaks.
Then I thought harder. No matter how much I love or hate my job, no matter where I am, no matter how old I am I should not be deprived of the wondrous feeling of a Friday afternoon. In high school, Fridays meant high school cross country races and football games. In college, Fridays were a party. Now, Fridays are a long run down St. Charles, happy hour and date night. I am a teacher, but I am also a human. We have weekends for a reason. We, as humanity, need a break. We need to recharge. Whether we are the student or the teacher, we need a break.
So no. I will not strive to hate breaks. No matter how good or bad of a teacher I am. No matter how angelic or demonic my students are. We have a break for a reason. We have vacations for a reason. We get vacation time and personal days for a reason. I give my students brain breaks throughout the day. I should get one too. After having to be “on it” from 6:30am until 6:30pm from Monday through Friday I deserve two and a half days to relax. I will not be sorry for that. I will not feel like a bad teacher because on Wednesday at 11am I may let a thought about Friday creep into my head.
In the words of a good college friend of mine, “Sorry, I’m not sorry.”