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I just started my 24th year as an elementary school teacher. A little over half of that time, I no longer had my own children living at home. I didn’t begin this teaching career until my “baby” was in eighth grade, so I’ve lived a different life than many of my younger co-workers. But, since I don’t have to take care of my family of little children after I spend my day in the classroom, I’ve grown quite fond of my off-duty life.
Which brings me to the topic for this month’s Ricochet group writing project — “will.” During the break in the summer, and whenever there is a school holiday, I get to exercise a great deal of free will. If I want to sleep late, I will. If I want to drive out to the coast and see the ocean for a few days, I will. Whenever I have the opportunity to go visit my grandchildren, or brothers and sisters in another state, I will. My life is mine for the choosing. But, once that calendar page turns to the beginning of the school year, “my will” is turned into “you WILL.”
In our district, the high school teachers lobbied to start the school year earlier in the summer to enable the first term to be finished before the Christmas break. They wanted to have their students’ final exams done while the teaching/learning was a fresh topic, not after a two-week holiday break. Did anyone ask the elementary teachers if starting the little kids the second week of August, in our desert climate, was desirable? Of course not — you WILL report back to school while the temperatures are in the triple digits. If those young children have shade and a drinking fountain, they’ll be okay at recess. You WILL not whine about it.
When I began my teaching career, there were a couple of days of meetings for the teachers to learn new procedures, to build community within our ranks, to set up our classrooms, and in general, get ready for the new term. Two decades later, there are 14 district training videos you WILL watch by October 1st, on your own time. You WILL check off a list of 21 items that MUST be done: i.e., set up your grade book, turn in the paperwork from parents, get a security code from the office manager, read the school handbook, meet with your team, sign up for a committee, etc., etc., etc. Initial that paper and check off these things and turn it in by two weeks or you WILL be in big trouble.
About those videos … they range from Bloodborne Pathogens Protection, to Embracing Diversity, to School Security Procedures, to Child Abuse and Neglect. They vary in length from 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the topic. Yes, 14 of them! It’s the lawyers, I’m sure, but, watch them you WILL.
The entire school year is filled with this sort of thing. Report card comments due for the admin to check over before you put them in the system. Pre-test and post-test results sent to admin. Arrive before the bell at the playground for your duty; pick up your class from the music teacher on the minute; send out those progress reports every three weeks. You WILL, you WILL, you WILL.
I’m not whining, mind you. I actually love being a teacher in elementary school. I love watching my students change and grow. When they “get” something, it’s such a fine thing. But the amazing contrast between work and home is pretty vivid. I WILL keep loving my life.