Ever since 1961, when I set foot in Franklin School as a kindergarten, the same its-almost-time-for-school-to-start-pit-in-the-stomach-reaction occurs at summer’s end.
It doesn’t matter that I graduated from high school in 1974 and college in 1978. It doesn’t matter that I’ve been out of teaching since 2003. It doesn’t matter that my kids’ public school days are a thing of the past. One rustle of the calendar page turning from July to August, one glance at the back-to-school ads in the paper, and my stomach ties up in knots. I can take deep cleansing breathes, engage in positive self-talk, and count my blessings until the cows come home, and my gut still feels queasy.
I tell myself it’s a conditioned response. You know, my personal version of Pavlov’s dogs. Only instead of salivating at the thought of food, my intestines go all grumbly at the thought of entering a classroom. Why is that? I loved reading and learning as a kid. As an adult, I loved teaching and developing relationships with students.
I attribute my annual August gut reaction to one thing. Teaching is hard work physically, emotionally, and mentally. It’s harder than any job I ever did. Detassling corn, working in the Hy-Vee Deli, washing dishes and cooking at a nursing home, being a nurse’s aid at the same home. All of those were child’s play compared to teaching. The same can be said of my present career which involves writing books and speaking to large groups of people.
Here’s why. Every day teachers must be organizational whizzes, entertainers, mind readers, communicators, multi-taskers, disciplinarians, record keepers, clock-watchers, counselors, comforters, problem-solvers, and tough guys in the classroom. But that’s only half the job. The other half involves trying to keep up with the legislative requirements that change and grow more demanding every year.
So say a prayer for teachers this month. Then put your prayers into action by doing something special to. Bake cookies. Send an encouraging email or card. Take them supper. Mow their lawn. Pick a bouquet of flowers. Say thank you.
This August, do something to untwist their tummies.
They’ll be glad you did.