I just finished my first full week of the new school year. Whew! I'm tired! My Jefferson County teacher buddies started this past Tuesday. What ever happened to school starting after Labor Day? But, I suppose we didn't get Fall Breaks and Spring Breaks back then. August 6 still seems so very early to start the school year, though.
As the Library Media Specialist, I work 4 weeks during the summer to complete inventories and ordering and processing, etc. This summer I ended up with 4 weeks off, and one of those weeks was spent in professional development training. I guess 3 weeks summer vacation isn't all that bad. But when the non-education system public comments on teachers having those "cushy three month breaks every summer" I just want to hit something!
And now that I'm on a roll, those same uninformed folks often make comments like, "It must be nice to leave work everyday at 3:00." Well, the students walk through our doors at 7:15 a.m. Our official workday ends at 3:00 (as does our pay), but when I leave school between 5:30 and 6:00 every evening, I leave behind several other teachers still working away. The school is abuzz most weekends, too, with staff members catching up on paperwork and planning. Teachers work long, long hours -- many work 50-60 hours each week. They get paid for only 190 days a year, for less than 8 hours a day. So, those extra weekend days and summer days and Fall Break days and time after the 3:00 bell rings are all "freebies." Oh, and in Kentucky, teachers do not pay into the social security system, so there's no social security check to help out after retirement.
So, this all begs the question, "Why would anyone do that?" Ask any teacher whose been teaching for the long haul, and he or she is bound to say, "I love kids. I love helping students become lifelong learners. It's what I was meant to do."
And me? I can't imagine doing much else. After 18 years of teaching elementary students (and a brief stint with middle schoolers -- yikes!), I know that I am doing what I was meant to do. Will I always be a teacher? I think in some way, shape, or form, yes. My job might not always be as an elementary library media specialist, but I know that my love of school and my love of learning will keep me tied to the field of education. And I am hard pressed to think of a worthier career choice.