Please Don't Ask Me This QuestionKelly Wickham
Please don’t ask me when school starts. I hate that question more than you know.
Yesterday was my last day of summer vacation. How do I know? Because it rained all day and prevented me from doing the things outside that I love to do like garden and sit on my back porch and eat donuts while the runners on the trail behind my house get fit and I get fat. How else do I know? Because people love to remind me of my job when I’m not doing my job. Summers for teachers are, for the most part, a full 3 months while administrators get about 4 weeks off and then must return to an empty building. In my district, the teachers come back about 3 days prior to the students, though many of them are in the building working on their classrooms throughout the summer. The thing that drives me insane, and I have no way to combat it, is people asking me the dreaded question of when I go back to work.
When I started teaching almost 20 years ago it was a novelty to be asked that question and it usually popped up in casual conversations at the swimming pool or the soccer fields where my children played. Sometimes, it was a quick trip to the grocery store where I’d bump into friends and we exchanged the usual pleasantries for a few brief moments.
“How are you?”
“Good, fine. Thanks. How about you?”
“Awesome, I’m happy for you.”
“So, when do you go back to school?”
I’m not sure why this is the Go To question for me. It’s not as if I don’t have a lot of things going on or lead a dynamic life full of interesting projects. As the years wear on, though, I’ve given my family permission to stick up for me while I’m busy rolling my eyes or sighing heavily and becoming irritated. My children have been trained to step in after someone carelessly asks me, on my time off, when I’ll be on the clock again.
“Don’t ask her that question. It’s only June. That’s a no-no.”
People. This is a plea to give teachers, all kinds of educators, in fact, a break when it comes to inquiring about when we’ll be back at work. I watch friends constantly complain, online, that they can’t wait for summer to be over so they can send their children back to school and then they’ll be able to get the laundry done or go to yoga without having to deal with their kids. That’s probably a theme for another post, but still. While teachers and schools are dealing with the nation’s children and caring for them upwards of 8 hours a day, we deserve a break, too. Our vacation time shouldn’t be spent telling people when we’re going back to school and starting it up all over again. The most important thing about me isn’t when I am going to punch the clock again.
Look, I get it. You see me at the store and want to check in on my life. That’s totally normal! I’ve missed seeing you, too. The ways in which people in communities take care of one another assumes that we know about their lives and that we’re invested in them. When I see a pastor on a Wednesday I don’t hurry him towards standing in the pulpit on Sunday. (Or the rabbi hurrying towards Shabbat. You get my drift.) When I see my favorite waitress out at a concert I don’t ask her when she’s going back to work because that’s awkward and uncaring. The same is true for educators and we shouldn’t expect that the only worthy discussion is when we’re talking about when they’ll be back at work.
Maybe you’ve done that to some teacher friends of yours. If so, here are things I wish people would ask me instead. Perhaps you can incorporate them into your conversations with educators.
Ask me about any trips I’ve taken and whether or not I went to the beach.
Ask me about what my children are up to and how the wedding planning is going for my daughter.
Ask me about what good books I’ve read and would recommend.
I’m on summer break. Let me take a break and get a breather, would you?
There are better questions about checking in with my life than when I go back to work.
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