Thursday, May 20, 2010

School's Out...Forever!

It’s that time again.
School’s out.
Well, almost, at least.
It’s a time of year anxiously awaited by students and teachers alike, and possibly best celebrated by Alice Cooper in his 1972 title track, “School’s Out,” a song that ends with this memorable anthem:

School's out forever
School's out for summer
School's out with fever
School's out completely

According to reports, Cooper was inspired to write the song when answering the question, "What's the greatest three minutes of your life?". Cooper said: "There's two times during the year. One is Christmas morning, when you're just getting ready to open the presents. The greed factor is right there. The next one is the last three minutes of the last day of school when you're sitting there and it's like a slow fuse burning. I said, 'If we can catch that three minutes in a song, it's going to be so big.'”
He did.
It was.
Cooper’s hit song has had a little more meaning around my house this year, because my wife the teacher is hanging up her bookbag after a career that started 36 years ago with Kewanee School District 229.
She’s pretty excited. But that excitement is tinged with a good measure of sadness, as she knows she’ll miss the kids and the people she works with and just doing the one thing she always wanted to do: Teach.
I’m not surprised.
I’ve been surrounded by teachers all my life, with my wife, mother, sister, brother, daughter-in-law and younger son all working in eduction at one time or another. So I’ve witnessed the all-out dedication it takes to share a love of learning with children of all ages and backgrounds.
Believe me, it’s not always a walk in the park.
It’s easy to look from the outside in and assume that teachers have it made. After all, the school day is over by mid-afternoon every day and, of course, teachers have the summer months to do nothing but lie poolside and sip umbrella drinks, right?
Not exactly.
That 8:00 to 3:00 school day is lengthened immeasurably by many factors, like the sheer volume of papers to grade and lessons to plan, plus many teachers are also involved in after-school and weekend activities that include sports and organizations, tutoring and counseling sessions, home visits, evening programs and other extra stuff that nobody else seems to know or think about. While some of those extras receive an additional stipend, it’s generally pretty miniscule compared to the effort put forth. And while summer vacation gives some teachers a well-deserved chance to rest and recharge for another school year, many spend the time furthering their own education, teaching summer classes, or pursuing other work to supplement their income. Nowadays, state and national budget shortfalls have even taken job security out of the mix, with teacher cuts and a lack of pay raises a part of life in many districts.
So, if teaching means long hours and short pay, why do they do it?
Tough question.
Simple answer.
They love it...and love our kids, too.
For the good ones, it seems to be based on an amazing altruistic sense of satisfaction. While most of us feel good about ourselves when we’ve accomplished things by and for ourselves, teachers feel good when their students accomplish something. They are the people who love and lead and teach and and cherish our future.
Our children.
Yes, she will be sort of sad when she hears that dismissal bell for the last time. But she’ll be happy, too, thinking of new things to do, places to go and, most importantly, grandchildren to spoil...and love and lead and teach and cherish.
Because real teachers never stop teaching...or learning, either.

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