I am absolutely passionate about teaching. I love September, once it hits. I thrive on the energy that comes from students and colleagues. And in the inevitable tough times that follow September occurring at regular intervals during the school year, I ask myself if I would change any of the major choices of my life if I could – my job, my marriage, my children – and the answer is an easy “no.”
So, I have been reflecting on why I dread the end of summer, if I enjoy my job so much. I realize it is about addition, subtraction, and balance. With the addition of teaching, lesson planning, grading, and meetings to the professional reading I continue throughout the summer, I will have to subtract some things to fit my life into the constraints of a 24 hour day. There is no simple answer about what gets cut. In fact, the decisions happen on a weekly, if not daily, even hourly basis. It is an ongoing process. Will I sacrifice sleep to grade a set of papers? Will I need to skip running because of a meeting scheduled too close to soccer practice? Will I choose to play a game with my children rather than refine a lesson plan? Will I get up early to peruse my news and information sites for the articles I love to read? Will I fall asleep before I read more than a few pages of my book at night? Will I order carryout again because I can’t stand the thought of the two hour commitment that the family dinner entails (from cook prep through clean up)?
The answer to each of those questions sets a balance in my life, if only at that moment. Sometimes choices that tip the scale too far away from work, need to be compensated by ones that prioritize it. I start each year thinking that this will be the year I figure out how to balance everything well, how to juggle effectively without dropping any balls. I know I cannot have it all, but I hope I can keep most of the best of every aspect of my life. I do the same this year, although I realize that realistically, it is a battle I will not win.
Lots of people face this 50 weeks a year, without time to realize what a slower, more reflective pace looks like. I think that may be one of the reasons that teachers feel this challenge so acutely. We spend most of the year trying to squeeze blood out of a stone as we look for ways to do our work better and still have time for our families. Then, we get the gift of summer – the chance to squander an hour, a day, or longer without the guilt, the regret, the loss that we feel during the school year sometimes. Now, it is time to go get breakfast for my son, who just apologized for interrupting my work.