A Teacher’s Summer


With the July 4th holiday upon us, most folks are thinking about fireworks, outdoor activities, watermelons and our nation’s birthday.

But there are many in our fair town who are also thinking about something else. For them, the holiday signals the official start of back to school. It’s the middle of summer, and you’re not thinking about going back to school?

A sure sign you’re not a teacher

If you’d asked me in The Then, I would’ve told you that teachers stayed at school all summer doing “teacher stuff.” If asked in The Now, my answer is very different. After having been a substitute teacher during the last school year, I know firsthand what this teacher does during the not-so-long summer break. But first, let’s go back to childhood times.

Growing up making memories back on that old familiar street not so far away called Flamingo, none of us kids gave much thought as to what teachers did during the summer. And why should we? They were teachers, and we were kids.

A simpler time

During the summer, we kids played all day outside in the street or in the woods with no supervision. We’d spend the time swinging or jumping across Cripple Creek and swimming in the crystal-clear lake above the swamp in our backyard.

Most every day either a dirt clod battle with Army men or a water balloon fight would break out, and we spend countless hours working on the three-year dig we called Cliff Condos — all of which got us really dirty.

When it rained, we got wet but still played until Mom or Dad yelled at us to get inside. And sometime during the summer, we’d go on a week-long vacation with the entire family.

The rich kids who lived over on The Duke of Gloucester took more vacations than the kids on Flamingo, but other than that, we all had very similar summers. And the last thing on our minds was school — that is until after the July 4th holiday. After July 4th, the countdown began, and none of us, not even the rich kids over on The Duke, wanted to go back.

We weren’t the only ones counting down the days

Summer for school-age kids in The Then and The Now hasn’t changed all that much over the years. They only have about 69 days of summer break before the first day of school.

For teachers, summers are much shorter. First, when students leave at the end of the school year, teachers stay for two additional days of post-planning. After post-planning, they get to go home and do whatever they want for the rest of the summer … right? Nope.

Summer schedule for a teacher

During the first week of summer break, I propped up my feet and rested. In my lifetime, I’ve had a lot of physically demanding jobs: landscaper, firefighter, and construction worker, but none of those prepared me for the rigors of being a substitute teacher.

Standing up all day, five days a week, for nine months is much tougher than it sounds. Trust me, your feet will hurt at the end of the school year so badly even walking is difficult.

The to-do list

For the next two weeks, I watched a lot of movies from a recliner located either in our front room or at a movie theater. At the start of each day, I wrote down a long list of home improvement items that I’d been waiting for summer break to start. At the end of each day, I looked at the list, then decided that tomorrow would be a better time to get started.

Week three

On the third week of summer break, The Wife and I escaped for a beach vacation with our two granddaughters. The home improvement list on our kitchen table would have to wait until we got back home. Besides, with an entire summer off from school, there would be plenty of time to complete everything on the list … right? Nope.

Week four

The last week of June brought us the start of a heatwave causing this lifelong Georgia boy not wanting to go hiking with the granddaughters, do yard work, or tackle all the other things on my summer break to-do list. When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, so we enjoyed making lemonade and popcorn as we watched movies in our cool basement.

Week five

During the first week of July, that long list of overdue home improvements is still on the kitchen table. Finally, I can get started … right? Wrong.

The Wife asked me to clear the table, so I picked up the list, looked at it and even added a few things, then placed in the kitchen “junk” drawer. Cleaning out that junk drawer is also something on the undone summertime list.

With the July 4th holiday falling in the middle of the week and a summer soccer tournament over the weekend, nothing on the to-do list has gotten done. I’m not worried. There’s plenty of summertime left … right? Well, not really.

During the rest of summer break, all the following has to be squeezed in. First and most important, The Wife and I will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. I’m sure we’ll go somewhere and do something special to celebrate. The home improvement to-do list now in the kitchen junk drawer will just have to wait.

The Girly Girls will go shopping for back-to-school supplies, backpacks, clothes, get fitted for new shoes, and enjoy an all-day visit to the hair salon. I’ll also try to find new shoes that will help me stand all day and not hurt my feet. There are not one, not two, but three kids’ birthday parties to attend. I know this because the Girly Girls told me so. Are we finished with summer break yet? Nope.

All summer long, teachers are looking for deals and starting to buy the stuff they need to get their rooms ready for the return of the kids. Hint for all my teacher friends out there: Look for the $1 section in your local big box store with the red bullseye outside.

A couple of weeks before teachers go back to school, some will try to get in one last vacation with family. But most will visit the school to get their rooms ready for the kiddos.

Teachers go back to school an entire week, before kids arrive, for something called pre-planning. What they’ll do for that week, I actually don’t know because substitute teachers don’t have to attend. I go back when the kids go back.

Finally, there’ll be a “Meet the Teacher” ice cream social. This event marks the official end of summer break, and school starts the following week. The summer schedule outlined above is followed by most teachers during the summer … correct?

Nope … not even close.

In addition to all the above, some teachers still have children to look after — their own. Juggling being a parent, most teachers squeeze in any required continuing education classes. Some may also be working on completing their Masters or Doctorate degrees.

If asked back in The Then, I’d complain that the summer break is way too short. If asked in The Now, I’d say I can’t wait to go back to school — a feeling I’m sure shared by every teacher in our fair town. They all have one thing in common: they miss their classrooms full of kids. After all, their love of children is the reason why they became teachers.

As of today, there’s only 29 more days before school starts … not that this substitute teacher is counting.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories weekly in The Citizen since 2001.]