I’m on the road, traveling out West, doing a little hiking, a little sightseeing, a lot of thinking.
I just sat down with my laptop and a cup of coffee under the blue skies of Wyoming, thinking about how much I will learn in these 4½ weeks. That’s the same chunk of the school calendar reflected on our students’ progress reports. Just over four weeks — about 23 days, almost a month. So, of course, I want to assess my progress.
One of the first questions people on the road ask is about your occupation. That’s always an easy ice-breaker. I reckon I don’t yet look retirement age, so they ask, “What do you do that allows you to have the time to drive from Georgia to Wyoming?” I proudly proclaim I teach.
I’m learning more and more about how the education profession is one of the most rewarding. Of course, I would love the salary of a doctor or the hours of a banker, but there’s no complaint about having the summers off, guaranteed holidays free, and weekends off.
Then I realize, we don’t really have these days off.
Scattered throughout my days on the road, I try and squish together some time to create a lesson on close reading. Somewhere in between hikes, I am planning a unit on The Invisible Man. When I can find Wi-Fi, I’m sharing ideas with a coworker on how to teach writing.
If teachers aren’t grading papers on the weekend, they are planning for the week. If teachers aren’t baking cookies on Christmas break, they’re eating them as they grade essays. If teachers aren’t lying on the beach in the summer, they are reading teacher books to make them better at their job.
So, I don’t feel guilty anymore when people make judgments about teachers having the summer off. As I’m driving the Million Dollar Highway, I’m not thinking about the naysayers. I’m thinking about the stories I will have to tell my students. I’m pondering how I can use the moose I saw frolicking in a lake to teach some abstract concept my kids will struggle learning. I’m planning how I can relate the adventures of a road trip to a novel I will teach.
How a teacher’s mind is always going, always progressing is something to be proud of, no doubt. So, my progress report will look pretty good when I return to Columbus.
I’ll get an A in Social Studies because I’ve learned that society respects teachers. Across our country, when people find out I’m a teacher, they are either in awe at my willingness to teach “crazy teenagers”, or they understand the mighty impact we can make.
I’ll earn an A in English because I’m making everything into a metaphor, a poem, or a story.
Perhaps I’ll get a C- in math. I’m spending way too much money.
Hopefully, I’ll pull out a B in Science. I’m studying the vast differences in America’s landscape, and I survived driving through the desert of Moab, Utah.
I’ll definitely earn an A in PE with all this hiking I’m doing.
And I’ll maybe earn an A- in Home Ec because I’m getting pretty good at cooking dinner in a Dutch oven.
I think the most important lesson I have learned, though, is that I am very proud and honored to be in association with remarkable people who are probably doing the very same thing I am doing — constantly learning, forever improving, always being a teacher. We never stop, and I’m good with that.