Everyone in North America knows that January is one of the most painstaking months of the year because of its longevity. So much so, that I’ve often wondered who it is that we can blame for secretly adding numbers to its already full calendar page. Part of that feeling comes from the ridiculously cold weather which often ensues and the other part is the let-down of the holiday season prior when everything seems so much more dark and bland. It’s a bleary few weeks with the odd bright spot for me in being able to celebrate family birthdays. Let’s just say that February is always a welcome sight when it finally does come around.
Now, if you are an educator like me, September and June, are also incredibly long months. What many people might not know unless they’ve spent a year in charge of a classroom is that those two months are equatable to the efforts required in the opening and closing of a business. While I personally hate relating education to business, they are sadly more intertwined than I once thought. Regardless, there is a LOT of behind the scenes work that needs to be done before my young ones find themselves sitting in their carefully placed desks on the first day of school, and just as much or more that needs doing as their year of learning comes to close and I strive to ready them as best I can for their next grade. For the record, I first aim to help them become happy, healthy, successful human beings.
This past June, the end of a pandemic year, was especially challenging as you might imagine. The additional worries of health and safety (as in a deadly disease wiping out over four million people) and pivoting back and forth with online and in-person learning, in my specific case, left most of us feeling burnt-out long before June even seemed a possibility. Our usual go-to’s of iced coffees and chocolate to keep our weary eyes open and our bodies/minds on alert were scantily doing the trick. Sleep was first and foremost on our minds and we looked the part. Thankfully, there was the prospect of July around the corner.
Here in Canada, July and August usually signifies summer break (which we do NOT get paid for) unless you happen to be employed at a year-round school with vacation periods strewn throughout. When that final day of June comes, there is usually a feeling of elation mixed with sadness. Sad to say good-bye to our little classroom families (because that’s what we become), but happy to be done with the mounds of paperwork and clean-up demands beyond our usual teaching load. Yes, June is a month of very long days and nights, even weekends, spent ‘wrapping things up’. Until our friend, July, comes into the picture when a sense of normalcy is hopefully resumed.
For us educators, July is first welcomed with two things: Sleep and recovery. This year, it’s been sleep. Period. Recovery hasn’t even begun yet for most of us who still feel bruised and battered from the year-long battle of COVID-19 and trying to keep everyone safe while our list of usual duties grew and supports/funding were cut even further. Yes, as an aside, our particular government believes that cutting healthcare and education is fiscally more important than anything else, including the invasion of the coronavirus and its beastly variants on our population. BUT, that’s a whole other kettle of fish which I simply do not have the energy to fry quite yet, so… back to the subject at hand. July. Ahhh… July. Except that July isn’t one bit like January, June or September in that July whizzes on by whereas the others seem to stand still, or worse yet, go backward at times. I mean, how is it that *the* month that one looks forward to the most is on speed dial?! Logically speaking, I’m sure it is because it’s so revered that the time ends up going so quickly. Of course, our inner dialogue constantly reminds us of that fact, as per the break down of thinking about July’s dates as outlined below. In case you weren’t aware, for teachers, July has three common phases:
July 1 – 9= “Yay! I made it. I really, truly made it! And I still have the whole summer ahead. This is going to be awesome. 😃. After I sleep (if family situations allow for it), I’ll get so much done and it’ll be so fun!”
July 10 – 19= “Don’t worry, ___(Sue)____. It’s still early. July has a lot of days left and while I haven’t really gotten much done so far, there’s tons of time to catch-up. It’s so nice to live out unscheduled days where the bell does not dictate my lunch and washroom breaks. And, no homework or late nights at work. Super Yay! This is so great.”.
July 20 – 31= “Umm… hey, what’s happening here? Where did the first three weeks go? What day is it again? Oh good. Okay, it’ll be okay. After all, it’s still July. July is good despite the annoying and unnecessary back-to-school ads on TV. July means I’m still officially on holidays, even though I’ve already bought a few things for the classroom which I’ve hidden out of sight for now. C’mon, focus and savour it _____(Sue)_______.! Savour these lazy days of summer and anything that I can get done before…. before August hits and the reality of re-opening day means I have to go in and begin preparing things mid-month. But, it’s not August yet. So get it out of mind and relax. Yes, just relax. It’s all good.”.
While each professional likely experiences the aforementioned a bit differently given our personal circumstances, I have a feeling that many of the sentiments which I shared are the same. To clarify, wanting to preserve our summer DOESN’T mean that we don’t value our jobs or the children that we teach any less. It’s just that we like to have a life too—a life outside of school which usually dominates a good chunk of our personal time when it’s in operation. Also, a reminder that if any of what I said above sounds enticing to you in that we, educators, are SO fortunate to have such time off, four short years of University is all that it takes to earn your degree and teach alongside us. Less time if you already have a degree of sorts. Never say never, right? 😉