Teacher: Wo is me! I get paid nothing to do a very difficult job. Such is life. I will gladly bear this burden for the future of mankind. (Okay, that's a bit thick...)
Random Person: At least you get summers off!
If you teach, you've heard this exchange more than once. If you don't teach, you've still heard it. In fact, you've probably been Random Person.
I am going to anger many members of my profession here, but I am officially voicing my distaste for such a long break. I know, I know... I'm a traitor. But for me, this isn't good. I don't know what to do with myself. I go nuts. Literally.
This may come as a shock to some, but I don't trust myself alone with my thoughts. I have not always carried the most optimistic of outlooks. In truth, sometimes I am prone to find corners of my brain that should remain locked. I'll leave you to imagine the details of what that means. Too much detail defies logic.
I am planning some for next year. I have relaxed. I am anxious. I'm ready to go back. Not prepared... just ready.
There are research-based reasons too. Much of it suggests that a break of longer than 3 or 4 weeks creates a gap in student learning, and a significant regression of basic skills.
I've done this long enough to get it. We hammer literacy and mathematics. Hammer it deader than a Route 66 skunk lying next to a Route 66 ghost town. I'm not going to spin off on a rant about what we should be teaching - I'm just that for all the hammering, it sure is hard to concentrate on valid learning.
Speaking of learning experiences, I just returned from Albuquerque, where I was visiting my Grandmother and helping her to get some things in order.
I helped her buy a new Macbook, which I sufficiently covered with drool. I helped her take a bunch of stuff to recycling. Mainly, I just provided companionship. She needs that more and more these days.
While there, we were called to the VA hospital where my Grandpa is being treated for a serious infection in his foot. Weeks ago, the podiatrists said they needed to amputate, but that he wouldn't survive the surgery. Then they started pumping an armada of antibiotics in, but to no real avail. The purpose of this visit, though, was to meet with the ethics team. I didn't know such a thing existed, but knowing now what they do, I am glad they are there.
They sat us down and told us that treatment was failing. That no matter what they could do, he was likely to expire. They had very calm voices. They were very good teachers. They told us how each road would ultimately lead to the end.
But the real issue was that my Grandma had to give them permission to end all treatment and put him in hospice.
You see these sorts of things on the telly. I have watched a boatload of ER. But actually being there and seeing that happen... that was an experience. The rest of the week, I feel like I helped my Grandma come to terms with it. She is a very religious woman, and she felt as if she was playing God. I used my logical brain to convince her that in purely technical terms, playing God would be to keep him alive when the Universe was so obviously ready to receive him. Really, I just think his clock is out of juice. She is coming to peace with that. Still - my mind has been heavy with the questions of life and death and the ethics of each for a week or so now - and that's not always the easiest mouthful to swallow.
It's hard to think that maybe I am just entering that segment of life when this pops up more frequently. When you're a child and you lose a friend, it's pure tragedy. My friend Brian killed himself almost a decade ago - and it felt different then. When Nick passed, I felt as if my mind was more ready to accept that. Does each death we experience serve to prepare us for our own? It seems as if that is a side-effect of the cycle of life. If we continually live in fear of our terminus, then we are not free to accomplish much. The more you see it, the more ready to accept it as natural? I don't know. I think of soldiers in Iraq. My cousin is there now. They surely see their share - but does the fear leave them? Can it?
I can say with certainty that numbness never comes. The death of my Poppa hurt me. The death of my friend Brian hurt me. Nick, Father-in-law, unborn child... hurt, hurt, hurt. Without fail.
Our friend Ron was diagnosed this past week with Adult Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Prognosis is not great.
See what I mean? If I was teaching right now, I'd have no time to write this.
31 years old next week. Who'd'a thunk?
Fall birthday craft project
6 months ago