What a break. Lyrics from several songs come to mind, including the title of this blogpost, the Dead’s “What a long, strange trip it’s been”, and Sufjan Stevens’ line about himself and mass-murderer John Wayne Gacy, Jr., “Look beneath the floorboards for the secrets I have hid”.
It’s been a break of record snow, long, almost Buddhist meditative retreat reflections upon that snow, cabin fever, roof repair and wearing sunglasses indoors because it’s so bright outside. We’ve had too long to ponder the past Semester of school and a growing ennui about exactly what it will be like when we get back. It’s been a break of holiday ups and downs, downs that make one wonder what perverse deity would instill in people the need for religious-based winter solstice ceremonies, and up periods that make us worship any deity, living or dead, who would think up the whole snow idea.
In other words…this break has gone on too long, now.
Summer vacations for teachers/students are one thing. We’re used to them and they include the progression of students from one grade to another. This Winter Break has been so long that it seems like a Summer Vacation, but the kids will not have moved anywhere in terms of what grade they are in. These psychological journeys we’ve made over the 23 days of break will be jarringly contrasted with the fact tomorrow that nobody has gone anywhere. Heck, given that I teach middle school it’s entirely possible that several students will have grown three inches since I last saw them, but will still be sitting in the same increasingly inadequate chairs.
It reminds one that a HUGE advantage of the fake world of teaching v. the real world of work is the constant flow of progression and change. We teachers are like product inspectors on a very slow-moving conveyor belt. The students pass, as we wear white smocks and goggles smoothing imperfections whenever possible with a gloved-hand smudge here and there. The product then drops off the belt to be shipped to a high school, while we turn our gaze to another set of products.
I wouldn’t have it any other way. Perhaps some of you who have gone on vacation from “real jobs” only to return, again, to a dysfunctional office are a little envious of the educational system in this regard. Ah, the grass is occasionally green on this side of the fence, I guess.
So what I’m saying here is that tomorrow, Day One of Spring Semester, is gonna be a little weird. The entire Spring Semester might, in some small ways, be weird because of this simple three-day delay. The autistic are known for their incredibly heightened demand for repetition and order, but it is only a heightened state of a feeling we all share. This collective uneasiness will most probably be exacerbated by the following:
- Schools will still have enough ice on walkways and such to inevitably lead to kids falling on their asses with great regularity.
- I would guess that every single APS school built before 2000 (which is, of course, the great preponderance of them) will have significant roof leaking issues. The bill from these leaks will be the subject of newspaper stories and well-placed trash baskets for months to come.
- Outside Recess and Lunch activities will be curtailed, leading to a cabin fever which will be only be ameliorated by continuous announcements from school administrators that “anyone caught throwing snowballs will be (punished/suspended/tortured/killed)”.
- An inordinate number of bad essays will be written on the topic of “What I Did During the Snowstorm”.
- The longer break means fewer days before our required standardized testing, which makes your humble blogmaster sleepy just thinking about it.
All these things notwithstanding, your humble blogmaster is positively excited that we’re finally going back to school. It’ll be a somewhat bumpy re-introduction and start for the reasons listed above, but the strongest analogy I can come up with for the feeling I have this last Sunday morning is that of the prizefighter waiting in the dressing room before heading down the aisle to the championship fight. That may sound strange, and kinda scary, but we teachers are chomping at the bit to get in the intellectual ring, box around some higher-level thinking and knockout some academic sloth…but we’re still sitting here in our glittery boxing trunks smacking gloves together nervously.
It’s time to get ready to rumble. Way past time. Let’s get it on.