Well, Spring Break ends today. Which means that tomorrow morning, my alarm will begin going off at 3:55 am. I will then hit the snooze button until my second alarm goes off at 4:02 am. Then my wake up call service will call me at 4:04 am, and my last alarm will follow up at 4:07 am. If I’m not standing up and putting on my clothes by 4:10 am then I have missed my ‘have time to work out, shower, get ready, and get to work on time’ window of opportunity. I hate people who are like, “Why torture yourself? Just work out after work!” (Hey jerkwads – IF I get to go straight home after work I won’t get home until about 6 pm. But since I’ve been SLAMMED with rich kid tutoring sessions for the past few weeks – I won’t be getting home until 8-10PM. At that point I’m emotionally and physically exhausted. There is no ‘after work’ for me.)
Several people that I know who have careers that aren’t education-related have felt my wrath on several occassions due to comments like, “You don’t really have to think about hard concepts. You’re teaching kids. How hard is the material. It’s not like its new to you. It should be pretty much autopilot”. This is wrong on several levels. First of all, it completely degrades the higher level thinking skills, pedagogy, and skill that it requires to teach someone a new concept. All of the concepts are essentially new to all of my students – so I’m basically starting from scratch. That’s not easy – to help someone create new understanding within their brain. But that’s the elitest, eductaor answer. The real answer is that from the INSANT that first alarm goes off in the morning, until the INSANT that I collape at night (9:45-10:15 if I want to get up on time), my mind is RACING with the obligations of my job. I have to worry about, “Is the lesson that I’m doing going to work? What’s plan B and C is it doesnt? I wonder if the copy machine is broken. Are any of my colleagues going to be out sick today? If so I’ll have to sub and won’t have time to make adjustments to my lesson. Will I have time to eat today? Should I pack a lunch AND a dinner – or will I be home at a reasonable time? I wonder if Jimmy copied that homework? Are these kids just totally asleep today or do I totally suck? Do I need to adjust my teaching style right now becaue the kids look bored? Last night on facebook Kid A called Kid B a bitch and there’s trouble brewing, I’d better email the dean while I’m taking attendance, setting up my projector, and passing out papers………” And those are just the thoughts going on in the background while you’re actually PERFORMING your job and your brain is still performing the necessary functions to live. So by the end of the day – your BRAIN is totally exhausted. It’s working at panic-attack speed ALL DAY LONG. So maybe my job isn’t physically draining the way that a construction worker’s is – and maybe I’m not performing rocket science – but the fact of the matter is both my brain and body are DEAD by the end of the day.
However, I’m not saying that all teachers are these insane heroes. That’s far from the truth. I’ve worked with imbeciles before at several schools. A good/great teacher thinks insanely quickly all day long and is constantly attempting to stay on top of things. There are mediocre/bad/horrifyingly bad teachers out there that are slackers. Just like there are slackers in any workplace. That also doesn’t make them bad people – that just means that they function at a different level and could probably use a little mentorship or coaching. Not everyone SHOULD be an insane workaholic. Great teachers just feel a responsibility to be one because they fear what will happen if they slack off. They genuinely care about the education their students miss if they are slacking off for even an insant. I wonder if accountants or postal workers or construction workers feel that way. That if they pause for 5 mintues to get a drink of water or go to the washroom – that the world of someone will be negatively impacted. It’s a big responsibility. At no point of the school day does it let up – EVER. Not even during your ‘break’. Because you have to spend your break reflecting on how you have failed that day, how you will fail tomorrow, and who will blame you for failing at things that you haven’t failed at yet – all in between making phone calls to parents, copies for tomorrow, or subbing for someone’s class.
Anyway – I’m really not making up this brain activity thing. Below is a picture of a brain scan given to someone who is totally relaxed/meditating/at rest.
Next – is a picture of a brain that is/has been in intense thought/stress patterns for a prolonged period of time (I believe it was 5 hours but I accidentally deleted the link to the study so I don’t feel like going back & re-looking it up. So let’s call it about 5-hours)
Now I’m no doctor, but in the words of Charlie Sheen, “Look at the colors, DUH!!!” Obviously in the world of exhaustion/brain overload teachers are certainly “WINNING!”
Anyway – as I reflect on the warfare that my body and brain are about to re-launch themselves into – I find solace in science. In knowing that I’m not totally insane – that there IS in fact a reason that I’m ususally so tired. (Other than the getting up in the middle of the night to start my day thing) I really DO love my job, and I don’t think that I could do an easy-thinking, slow-moving job and be very happy. I do however take the great with the crappy and have really learned to appreciate silence, being still, and the vegetative state that I put myself into during the first week of summer break. I refuse to feel guilty for that week of my brain and body healing. I lounge proudly watching Oprah and crappy soap operas and read for pleasure. And no amount of condescension from corporate workers who think my brain and I aren’t challenged enough will make me feel bad for sitting on my ass watching Oprah until I go to the pool to sleep all afternoon in the sun. Once that first week of break is over afterall, I’m already mentally gearing up for the next year and have my first month’s worth of lesson plans and handouts in the works.