Sunday, May 29, 2016

A Teacher's YoYo Life: Preparing for A Slow Down

In less than a week, I will complete my fifteenth year as a classroom teacher. Every spring, as the school year winds down, I find myself feeling increasingly anxious about the impending shift that inevitably occurs between May and June. For the last nine months, I've operated at warp speed, and on June 3, the roller coaster ride abruptly lurches to a stop. There will be no more lessons to plan, no emails to send to parents, no papers to grade, and no urgent problems to solve. I'll be a teacher without a class.

As a perennial overachiever with neurotic DNA, this lack of purpose leaves me feeling listless and uncertain. Although I appreciate the distinct beginning and end to a school year, as summer approaches, I become restless and apprehensive. I worry, wonder, and fret about the blank days that lie ahead. I jot down to-do list. I research new hobbies. I build giant book stacks. You see, busy is my drug of choice, and during the summer months, I'm forced to detox. 

Some of these irrational fears stem from childhood summers full of instability and turmoil. From as far back as I can remember, I dreaded the final day of each school year. I often rode my bike to the playground on warm July nights, peeking in the windows of my elementary school and longing for the safety the classroom provided. From August to May, life was steady, predictable, and constant. Some of the most traumatizing memories of my youth occurred during the dog days of summer, so it's really no wonder I get a little antsy when the final bell rings and kids rush out the doors. 

Teachers live a yo-yo kind of life. There are so many ups and downs throughout the school year, and by the time June rolls around, we are wiped out and exhausted. The summer gives us an opportunity to recharge our depleted batteries. All of my non-educator friends often comment on how nice it must be to have the summer off, and I am quick to remind them that without this short sabbatical, most teachers would burn out faster than they already do. Despite my aversion to the languid pace of summer, I know I need it desperately. However, the looming slowdown still leaves me feeling shaky and insecure. By mid-June, all this anxiety will subside, and I will relax into a tranquil routine. In the meantime, as the yo-yo string jerks upward, I'll muddle my way through the messy middle.

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