Friday, June 6, 2008

The Social Life of a Teacher

For teachers, summer promises many things: beach and bocce and barbecues and just plain barbs-- cracks, that is, from people who complain about how "easy" teachers have it.

Yes, summer vacation is a nice perk, but take it from me: we earn it. We absolutely do. Especially the younger teachers, who can't enjoy a normal social life for ten months out of the year.

Don't think so? Well, consider Exhibit A.

The following are a series of telephone conversations between two men in their early twenties: Jenkins, who is a first-year teacher, and his friend, who has a normal job. Watch as the friend gets more and more exasperated with Jenkins’ increasing lameness.

Monday Night

Friend: “Hey, a bunch of us are going to Harry’s Place tonight, watch some of the game. You in?"

Jenkins: “Oh, sounds great, but I can’t. I’m beat..”

Friend (good-naturedly): “Are you kidding me? You’ll sleep when you’re dead. Come on out, just for an hour or two. There’s this girl from my office I want you to meet.”

Jenkins: “It’s tempting… but really, I got so much to do. The quarter’s almost over, and I still got these essays I have to correct and get back to juniors, because I want to give them an opportunity to re-write them.”

Friend: “OK, man. Maybe some other time? All right, talk to you later.”

Tuesday Night

Friend: “Catch up on your beauty sleep last night? Good, because tonight I got something right up your alley. There’s this great 80s cover band that’s playing downtown tonight— everything from Big Country to Kajagoogoo to Men Without Hats. They start at 10:00. What do you say?”

Jenkins: “10:00? Are you kidding me? There’s no way. You know how early I get up in the morning?”

Friend: “Hey, you think I don’t work? I have to get up early too, you know.”

Jenkins: “I get up at about 5:30 to get to school at 7:10.”

Friend (after a long pause): “Yeah, you’re right. That’s freakin’ early, dude.”

Wednesday Night

Friend: “I’m going to tell you what’s going to happen tonight, and you will say, ‘That sounds great,’ or else the friendship is over. Got it?”

Jenkins (unenthused): “Got it…”

Friend: “A bunch of us are going out to Stoney O’s in an hour to shoot some stick. You are going to join us. You will have a good time. You will rejoin the human race. And tomorrow morning, you will call in sick.”

Jenkins: “Call in sick? Do you have any idea how much work is involved in that?”

Friend: “What’s the big deal? You get up, you call in sick… that’s all you have to do.”

Jenkins: “No, that’s all you have to do. With Mr. Jenkins, it’s a little different. See, Mr. Jenkins can’t just be sick; he has to prepare to be sick. He has to write up lesson plans for the sub, which probably takes about an hour. And the whole time he’s doing it, he’s realizing that it’s probably easier just to drag his sorry butt into school.”

Friend: “Fine, so come out tonight, and drag yourself into school tomorrow!”

Jenkins: “You don’t get it: I can’t go out tonight. I have all these papers I need to—”

Friend: “Papers! I’m sick of papers! You know what? I didn’t want to have to tell you this, but the truth is, we’re not going to play pool tonight. We’re having an intervention for you, because you’re, like, addicted to work.”

Jenkins: “Look, I’d love to go out, but I have to get these essays back to them by Friday, so they can re-write them over the weekend, so I’ll be able to re-read them again on Monday, before the grades are due on Tuesday.”

Friend: “Just listen to yourself for a minute. You don’t ‘have’ to get them back. They don’t ‘have’ to re-write them. You’re heaping all this work on yourself.”

Jenkins (realizing his friend has a good point): “Look, what do you want me to do?”

Friend: “What do I want you to do? Two words: teach gym.”

Thursday Night

Friend: “Hey, I created a little dialogue. Want to hear it.”

Jenkins: “Sure.”

Friend: “So, it’s a conversation between Faithful Sidekick and someone called Shell.”

Jenkins: “Shell?”

Friend: “Yeah, as in Shell-of-His-Former-Self. So Faithful Sidekick says, ‘Hey, man. You want to go out tonight. We haven’t seen you in a bit.’ And Shell, naturally, says, ‘Boy-oh-boy, that sounds swell, but you know I need to finish reading Romeo and Juliet tonight because I want to give them a quiz on it tomorrow. And it’s really important that we finish the play tomorrow, so I can squeeze in a test on Monday, before the grades close on Tuesday. Of course, I can’t give them tomorrow’s quiz without handing back the quiz we took last Friday, so that means I have to correct last week’s quiz before I create this week’s quiz. And this is on top of all the other essays I have to correct for the fifth time, because, after all, I have to let the kids walk all over me, even at the expense of my personal health and social life.’ (pause) How’d I do?”

Jenkins: “Well, it’s Macbeth, not Romeo and Juliet… but other than that…”

(Friend hangs up without saying goodbye.)

Friday Night

Jenkins: “All right, I am ready!”

Friend: “You’re ready, huh?”

Jenkins: “Oh, I’m ready, Freddy! I admit, when I got home, I was dead tired, but I realized I can’t let this job take over my life. So I took a power nap. And now I am refreshed and ready and willing to rock this town, baby!”

Friend: “Uh, yeah… I don’t know what to say, man… I’m actually kind of beat myself…I’m thinking about staying in tonight-- you know, chill”

Jenkins: “You’re… beat? On a Friday night?”

Friend: “Hey, I went out every night this week. I need to crash.”

Jenkins: “Well, what about everyone else? What about Joey? Dave? Wheels? How about Eddie?”

Friend: “Well, let’s see… Joey is going out tonight with the girl I wanted to set you up with on Monday. Dave's going away for the weekend. Wheels is working at the restaurant tonight. And Eddie? Dude, Eddie went away to law school, like, four months ago!”

Jenkins: “He did? Man, I really have been out of the loop…”

Friend: “Sorry, buddy, but I’m going to take a raincheck tonight. Maybe tomorrow?”

Jenkins: “Oh, yeah, sure. Talk to you tomorrow…”

(Jenkins hangs up the phone and looks around his empty apartment. Next to him on the couch is his unzipped, overflowing book bag; he can see the Macbeth quizzes sticking out, beckoning him. He resists. It’s Friday night; he can’t correct quizzes on a Friday night. He just can’t.
Jenkins picks up the phone again… but who is there to call? He glances once more at the book bag. Angry at first the world and then himself, Jenkins yanks the quizzes out of the bag. He picks up a pen and takes the first paper off the pile. Slowly, dejectedly, he starts reading

The End


Crow said...

Ten months? When you subtract summer, Christmas, April and February vacations, isn't it more like eight?

learntoteach said...

If you know a teacher, spend a month with them before you comment. Most "breaks" are spent grading projects, posters, getting ahead on lesson plans, and state tests. Summers are spent planning school-based projects, or how to keep kids from failing, or if you're lucky to teach in a wealthy area, how to put more pressure on students to succeed. Don't be fooled-we don't sit around all day like so many believe we do. As for our vacations, we don't get "vacation" days to travel to exotic places. If we do travel, we bring mounds of papers and work to do on the plane. We work from early in the morning until late in the evening. You tend to know a lot about teaching. What is it that you do?

Kristi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.