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Bringing Red Pens Beachside?

Bronx Classroom Tales

Bringing Red Pens Beachside?I don't know about you, but I'll be bringing my red pen beachside this spring break.  

As I was leaving work on Friday for NYC schools spring break, I overheard a phrase which is not uncommon right before vacations – “I’m not touching a thing this week.” By “a thing,” he was referring to work. Teacher work. He’s a teacher and he’s not doing an ounce of teacher work all week. 

 

Before I get myself in trouble, I’m well aware that teachers work very hard and that everyone deserves a vacation away from the daily grind. I’m also aware of the argument that says if you don’t take care of yourself personally, you won’t be successful professionally. But let’s think of some professionals - I’ll give you a second to imagine someone in your mind. Most of these professionals we are thinking of would most likely have to think of their jobs at some point during a week away from work.

Perhaps that’s the fault of America’s workaholic mentality, but it’s true. Therefore, if we teachers want to be considered professionals – get paid more, get less “oh, that´s nice,” when we disclose our occupations – then we need to step up our professionalism and that means, yes, getting in a the vicinity of some lesson planning, some grading, maybe even a little item analysis, during our time off.

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Setting an Example for Students

At my school, teachers often grumble over the holiday packets we are required to give students. A majority of the work we spend time designing, never comes back. How are we to expect students to stay busy and learning over a week off, if we won´t do the same. I´m not saying teachers should spend their entire vacations nuzzling up with curriculum but rather that they should not feel so entitled to do nothing.

 

The Catch-22 of Teaching

I´m a literature teacher and I´m not afraid to admit that I misuse the allusion to Catch-22 as often as a junior in high school who just went to e-notes, but here it goes: I´m imagining that teachers in “hard to staff” schools like mine feel they need escapes from work more than the average teacher, and yet, these are the school communities which need the most effort put in. A classroom which exhausts you with its range of student capacities from functionally illiterate to president of the Shakespeare club, is the classroom which needs the most preparation put in to ensure that every student is enhancing literacy skills and increasing content knowledge. A Catch 22? Maybe just a difficult circumstance.

 

If You Work Harder, They'll Work Harder

Just as students at my school will have to work X number of times harder because they’re working from a deficit (due to any number of reasons that at the very least, started out beyond their control), teachers at my school have to work harder if we want to work at that deficit. That’s why it bothers me to hear my colleague say he’s not touching a thing over break and that´s why I commend all the teachers who happily bring a stack of essays to the beach.

What's your work attitutude toward spring break? Share in the comments section!