Friday, July 1, 2011
A Salute to Teachers
I'm married to a Physics teacher. He began teaching in the fall of 1989 and we delayed our wedding for a year because people told us we shouldn't embark on marriage during his first year of teaching. He took to teaching like a duck to water, and we only regretted waiting.
This year, in early January, he got a call from the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. He's been moonlighting for them for a number of years now, helping out with summer conferences, acting as a consultant for curriculum projects and even zipping over to CERN in Geneva every year to teach master classes to physics teachers. The call was a request for a semester of his time.
"Sure," he said. "Which semester?"
"The next one."
"The next semester starts in three weeks."
"Yeah--" Pause.-- "Let's see if we can make it happen."
And happen it did. Three weeks later, he had a desk and a role and he had to get used to sitting all day, and being quiet, but also being able to use the washroom at will and altering hours to arrive early or late as needed.
A few months in, they asked him if it might be possible for him to stay for two more semesters, an extra year. He talked about it with his department head and principal (oh, and his wife), and decided to accept.
So, for the first time in his career, he's working through the summer.
I mention this now because yesterday was the last day of school. Yesterday we said goodbye to a beloved teacher, who has taught our son for the last two years. We said goodbye to school routines and hello to summer. And, for the first time, my husband didn't get to bid that farewell.
We sat in the backyard in the late afternoon sun and talked about this yesterday. I asked him whether the rhythm felt wrong, whether he felt like he really should be off for the summer, and he shook his head. "I could keep doing this forever," he said. "I don't feel like I need a break."
In the last six weeks, I've had the opportunity to be the project manager for a PI project and to work closely with my husband. Fortunately we've enjoyed the experience (except for the one day he called and supper was exploding, the baby bird was getting divebombed and the puppy had to poop and I was not at all prepared to talk shop. But I digress.) I know he works hard. I know he puts in long days - certainly longer than he often spent at school. But, he doesn't bring anywhere near as much work home with him at night, and he isn't presenting new and complex material to wriggling adolescents for six hours a day. He has more personal energy at the end of the day and the end of the school year.
Oftentimes, teachers get a bum rap. "Those who can, do," people snigger. "Those who can't, teach." People make snide remarks about the holidays teachers get. This experience has been interesting and confirming to us that teaching is darn hard work. And darn good work. I look at the beloved teacher who broke her foot badly on the weekend and who still hobbled into school this week, to walk her students through their graduation and their end of year celebrations and wrap-ups. I meet former students of my husband who tell me he took away their fears of science, that he listened to them and helped them.
People ask whether he will go back to teaching. He will. That's who he is. That's what he does. He believes his value as an educational consultant will diminish the longer he is out of the classroom, and he misses the teaching part.
Still, he loves this break, where he can work with smarter minds and potty breaks.
On this first day of summer, I want to salute those teachers who can and do teach. As a learner and a mother of learners, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the hard work and heart work you put into your vocation. Enjoy every bit of summer!