The 12 Days of Winter Break: Partridge in a Pear Tree

As winter break approached I saw all the usual teacher memes on social media. You might be familiar with them. There is the video of people dancing, “Teachers on the Friday be like…” There was also the ballet dance joyfully leaping into an elevator, “Teachers leaving school on the last day before winter break.” They’re funny, but I think sometimes they send the wrong message.

I know for me, come November, I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving and Winter Break. It is absolutely NOT because I don’t love my job and love spending time with kids each day. Watching kids work hard, struggling with rigorous text and thinking critically is the number one joy of teaching for me. But, as I tell my kids often, it exhausts me. They don’t wear me out because they are being bad; they wear me out because they are being wonderful!

As I check in with my students about their research papers, my mind has to switch from one topic to another to another. As we talk about their writing, my mind jumps from helping one student organize her evidence effectively, to another student struggling with maintaining tense, to another who is over using commas.

At the end of a day, I’m ready for a nap.

So last week, like a lot of teachers, I was looking forward to having these next two weeks off.

Vacation for teachers is a lot different than it is for students. I wonder if this is why so many people outside of the educational professions have an overly simplistic view of teacher work. I hear every year snide comments about teachers only working a seven-hour day and having loads of vacation time. When I hear these comments, I can’t help but think that these folks must imagine that teachers only work when students are in the building.  I’ve writing about how absurd that concept is before.

So, over this holiday break, in addition to preparing for next semester, I’m going to spend a little bit of time each day sharing with you about what this teacher does while on vacation. This isn’t going to be a woe is me, I work all the time kind of series. I’m definitely taking some down time. What I hope my non-teachers will see is that teaching is like every other profession: there is lots of work to do outside of the normal workday.

Day 1

My vacation started Friday night when I sat down in the theater to watch “The Force Awakens.” I was nostalgic and thrilled to get to see the new Star Wars movie. My brother’s birthday is May 25th and in 1977, as he was turning eight, my father took the two of us to see Star Wars. I was six and a half. I remember standing in a line that wrapped around the theater. I remember the thrill I got when the title music burst into the theater. I remember the awe I felt when Vader stepped on screen for the first time. My brother and I were hooked! Over the years, we watched all of the movies countless times in the theater and on Showtime and HBO. We played with all of the action figures, making up new adventures for Luke and Han as we waited for the next movie. Even as an adult, I’ve enjoyed reading the novels that explore the universe and characters created by George Lucas.

Sitting in the theater last night was like visiting dear friends whom I haven’t seen in years.

Watching the film got me home and into bed around midnight, which is a telltale sign of vacation for me. Even though it was Friday, I would never stay up so late if it had been just a weekend. I typically have too much to do Saturday and Sunday to have such a late Friday night. Knowing that laundry and floors can wait until Monday or Tuesday is one of the wonderful things I enjoy about vacation.

This morning, I’m not doing very much work: just writing this blog post. I have several rough drafts from my students sitting in my email, but I’m traveling today, so I told my kids on Friday that I wouldn’t be looking over their drafts until I return on Tuesday.

In a few hours, I hit the road. It’s about a four-hour drive to historic Williamsburg, Virginia. My girlfriend and I are spending three days looking at the colonial museums. Like I told my principal, it’ll be like an informal professional development conference for me, as I’ll take the cool things I learn there, and all of the photos I’ll snap, and turn them into a lesson for my American history class.

We’re also taking her son to Busch Gardens amusement park. No PD there! That will be just pure fun.

Tonight, I’ll answer some pending e-mails regarding some of the teacher-leadership jobs I hold, and that’s it. It will be a light workday for me. I imagine I’ll only spend about two hours working in total.

Only two hours of work? That definitely sounds like vacation to me!

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