Perks

Yes, I get the summer off.

Yes, I get a trade day for conferences, which means I have a 3-day weekend this weekend.

Do I not have the right to complain about my job?

You could be a teacher if you wanted.  Then you could have your summers off.  And you could do parent-teacher conferences and get a trade day.  Be my guest.

I like the perks, but it doesn’t make this job easy.  How many times have you been kicked in the shins by a 6-year-old at your job?  How many times have you had a day where you didn’t have the opportunity to use the restroom from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.?  How many hundreds of dollars do you spend on things you need for your office, like paper and markers and tape?  And food for 20 kids that aren’t yours, whose parents don’t send them to school with a good breakfast in their stomachs?  How often do you get just two personal days in the span of nine months, to do anything from visiting the dentist to participating in a wedding to getting your car serviced?

How many times, at 2:30 in the afternoon, have you snapped at a child for using your stapler because you have given and given and given, all day long, and you have nothing left to give, not even generosity with your stapler?

Intuitive wisdom tells me that I should give and give until they have all that they need.  But there are 18 of them, and one of me.  And they need so much love and food and attention that I don’t have enough.  I have limited funds.  (I suppose I could stop paying rent and sleep in the classroom…like Callie on Grey’s Anatomy slept in the hospital for awhile…hmm…is there a shower at school somewhere?)  I have limited time with them…only 7 hours a day, divided by 18 kids, that’s not very much attention per kid.  And I only have so much of me that can be hugging and holding hands and being touched at any given moment.  They want to be near me to the point that I’m literally tripping over them in the classroom.  I can’t have a one-on-one conversation with anybody, because five other kids will notice that I’ve sat down, and will come over to listen and be close.  And I teach about personal space, and waiting your turn, and not interrupting…but I’m a fridge, and they are little magnets. 

I’m going to make a giant “Miss B.” in the shape of a fridge, and I’m going to make a little magnet with each of their faces to put on the fridge.  And I’m going to make a rule that there can only be two magnets on the fridge at a time.  🙂  I can handle a lot of physical closeness, and all the hugging and hand-holding and sitting on laps that little kids bring to the table doesn’t bother me at all.  If I could sit and cuddle and read books all day, I would.  (Hmm, I used to have a job like that…)  But when there are five or six kids all wanting to be within six inches of some part of my body, I can’t do anything!!!

It was easier in preschool because they were littler, and it was more like a limit of five magnets at a time.  🙂  And I could still go about my business, with three or four or five little shadows.  Six kids could hold my hands at one time.  (Really!  Think of two rows of three, with me in the middle.)  And a little cuddle went a long way.  And there were many opportunities for me to sit in one place for a little while, and let them gather around me, and somehow, there was enough of me to go around.  Oh, and snacks were provided by the preschool grant, and not by the teacher’s disposable income!

Somewhere between four and six years of age, and somewhere between 13 students and 18 students, and somewhere between open curriculum and progressive/traditional curriculum…there was a line.  Somewhere in there.  I used to be enough, and now I’m not.

You who are not a teacher…you like the idea of having your summer off, but you still wouldn’t do this, would you?  You think early childhood teachers might really just play legos and dolls all day, but you say you could never do this?  You think teachers might get to come at 8:00 and leave at 4:00…but you don’t want to give it a try?

Then leave my stinkin’ summers alone! 

If I didn’t get two to three months off between school years…I would have never lasted for more than two school years in a row.  I can only hold on because I know that soon, I will be free.  For a little while.  The perks, awesome as they may seem, are not the reason I do this job.  They are what allow me to continue.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have about an hour of essential paperwork, and two-ish hours of important but not essential paperwork, that I am far too sleepy to tackle right now.  So I will go to bed, and get up early to work on silly things like grades, report cards, running records, third quarter assessments, DDI quizzes…most likely with a highly caffeinated beverage by my side.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Betty
    Mar 12, 2010 @ 23:16:55

    I finally caught up on your blog again. I haven’t read the Twilight series yet but honestly it would be tough for it to be more entertaining than reading your blog.
    And here I go trying to solve problems again….is there some foodbank, church, or organization that would give you good nutritional “snacks” for your 18 little magnets? Are all of them that can have free breakfast going and getting it–are they making good choices in the breakfast line (honestly, there are some items in that line that should not be there). Could they allow you to go gather the breakfast items for your magnets and serve it in the room. keep up the good work–we need lots more teachers like you!

    Reply

    • Dawn
      Mar 14, 2010 @ 16:54:45

      The kids who qualify for free breakfast do usually go. It’s the kids who eat a pop-tart at 7:30 and they’re hungry by 9:30 because it’s just sugar and processed flour. Not that I’m not often guilty of having something high-sugar for breakfast, but they work so much harder during those hours if I give them something like fruit or a granola bar…something with fiber and/or protein. Some days I do, some days I don’t–it depends how “complainy” they are. But I like to have something on hand. Parents sometimes donate stuff, but mostly it’s all me.

      We have a partnership with a foodbank program to send a stash of food home with our homeless kids on Friday afternoons. I wonder if they’d be willing to donate some classroom snacks, since we have such a high percentage of homeless families compared to other elementary schools in the district. Thanks for the idea!

      Reply

  2. Joan
    Mar 13, 2010 @ 19:28:10

    You are a very good teacher. The fact that you care enough for it to bother you, shows the good in you. Teaching like you do will lead to less of the children needing the things they should be getting at home. I like Betty’s coment about how to provide some of these things. I am certain that the kids will like the (fridg) idea,

    Reply

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