Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Tuesday Slice: This is not a paid vacation

Last year, I wrote about my work-filled summer.  In that piece, I planned to really look at this summer's activities, and make them less work-related.

I didn't succeed.  I ended up working almost a week beyond my calendar, trying to catch up on tasks that didn't get done before my official last day.  Of course, those extra days pale in comparison to the number of weekends my colleagues spend working in their classrooms, a practice I successfully avoid.

I did make a point of signing up for library activities that came with a paycheck.  The five sessions of summer library afternoons, one evening of pop-up library time, and presenting a professional development are compensated hours. 

But....each one of those activities eats into my summertime.

Why do we educators do this to ourselves?  Do doctors and lawyers take their case files with them on vacations?  At the end of the school year, our administrators send us off with messages of "Relax!" and "Enjoy your break, come back refreshed!" How does self-care fit with the parallel, unspoken expectation to continue working?  Are they mutually exclusive?

I began thinking of this post when a blog about a summer bingo game for teachers popped up in my Twitter feed.  I get it; it's supposed to make work fun. But we aren't at work. We are on summer break.  You know, those days we don't get paid for. Viewing it from the lens of self-care, imagine my disappointment when every square was work-related.  If I were to make a summer bingo card for educators, this is what I would include:
  • Get a pedicure in a bright summer shade.
  • Turn off your alarm clock, and see how many hours of sleep you really should be getting.  Try to work that into your school year schedule.
  • Attend an adults-only event (or two, or three).
  • Read a fiction novel for grown-ups.
  • Read a nonfiction book that ISN'T about education.
  • Revive an old hobby.
  • Listen to new-to-you music; purchase whatever lifts your spirit.
  • Learn a new craft or skill.
  • Go off the grid for three full days.
  • Connect with friends/ meet new people who aren't educators.
  • Travel; visit a new-to-you place.
  • Get a massage, or two, or three.  Schedule them at regular intervals for the next year.
  • Find physical activities that bring you joy and health.
  • Get a physical checkup with your doctor.
  • Make a self-care kit with snacks, mints, gum, scents, deodorant, chocolate, cough drops, bandaids--whatever you might need to get through a long school day. (Yes, I know this is work-related, but the self-care aspect is what's important here.)

I know that great teachers are lifelong learners, and are always striving to improve their teaching skills.  It's an admirable trait, but I often wonder if we are truly compensated for our time and effort.  Yes, the intrinsic value is worth more than the paycheck.  I also worry that we become myopic in our definition of learning. We don't have to be all about education, all of the time.  

Especially during our summer break.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Tuesday Slice: Packing for college

"We need a what?" my husband calls from the kitchen.

"A pillow and a blanket. And towels; they are only providing the linens," I answer.

We are packing for our son's college orientation--but not packing for our son.  Frugality won over convenience when my husband learned that we could stay in the dorms for a fraction of what the local hotel would charge.  Not the same dorm as the incoming freshmen, of course.  We will be in the Honors Hall, in separate rooms with single twin beds, sharing a bathroom.

This is a much different experience than our firstborn's college entrance.  At her tiny, private liberal arts college, orientation happened during the last two days of summer.  We attended a few parent sessions and helped her move into her dorm over the course of a weekend, with time to spare.  Our son's orientation starts today with an afternoon check-in; we have events through the evening, and lasts until late Thursday afternoon.  His move-in will happen in August, when we get eight hours to get him settled before being scooted away for his weeklong freshman transition.

I am more excited about this than our son, who is understandably upset about starting off college in a compromised physical state.  Unable to chew for two to three more months, and barely able to open his jaws three weeks into recovery, he worries about the social and academic implications of thick speech and dietary restrictions.  I try to acknowledge his fears and provide solutions, but my efforts have done little to elevate his mood. My hope is that the busy-ness of these three days will alleviate some of those worries, and that the staff will be compassionate and accommodating, as posted reviews have stated.

So off we go to college today, pillows and blankets and towels in hand.  Wish us luck!


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Tuesday Slice: Two days

It's Sunday, June 18th, and my stomach is sour.

Several reasons for my discomfort come to mind--the pizza from the new-to-us restaurant yesterday, the overabundance of fast food I've been consuming lately, the overindulgence in sweets and carbs....the stress of my teenage son's surgery.  We leave before dawn for the hospital tomorrow.

I've gained the ten pounds that should be on my son's frame.  What will happen when he can't chew for the next 120 days?

Seeing a movie together is but a momentary distraction; the surgery is already on my mind before we leave the theater.

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It's Monday, 330am, and I am praying.

Prayers of gratitude for medical expense loans, to cover the large check I must present this morning.  Prayers for compassionate nurses, competent doctors, effective pain management.  

We arrive at the surgery center at 530a, as directed.  The doors are still locked in the predawn gloom, with only a receptionist visible in the office across the foyer.  Someone else finally comes out and opens the door for us.  At 630a, we are taken back to the pre-op area.  Preparations are made, and he is wheeled to the OR just before 700am.

Still Monday, 900am, and we are anxiously awaiting an update.  Crocheting keeps my hands busy, the nonstop barrage of TV chatter only mildly distracting.  The update comes a few minutes later.  The surgery is going well.  Then it's 1030a, and we get word that they are a little over halfway through.  Surgery was supposed to take four hours; the math in my head doesn't add up.

Noon, and we are finally ushered into a small consultation room without enough chairs, to hear from the surgeons.  They are happy with the outcome.  

We are called back to recovery a half hour later.  Our son is still drifting in and out of sleep.  He looks pale.  When he wakes up, he coughs up blood, bright red splatters on the blanket and paper towels.  There is a man shouting from across the room, hidden by his curtain.  At first his rants just seem like a bad reaction to coming out of anesthesia, but then he yells "INCOMING!", and we realize he suffers from PTSD.  In the midst of my worry for my own child, I feel for this soldier and his family.

It takes our son forever to wake up long enough to raise his oxygen levels without a mask on.  We remark to his nurse that we haven't watched a monitor this closely since his sister's stay in the NICU.  He is the second-to-the-last patient to leave; the shouting soldier is long gone. It's now 515pm.

We get him home, thankful we had prepared the couch the night before with sheets and a blanket--but the blanket is white, and soon ends up in the washing machine, spattered by another bloody coughing spell.  Old towels are quickly piled up and put to use, as he drifts in and out of sleep again, only to wake and cough some more.  At some point, he is alert enough to change into comfortable clothes, and then falls asleep on the couch for the night.  I listen to his breathing, see his chest rise and fall in the dim light from the kitchen.  

I fall into a fitful sleep in the chair next to him, only to awaken minutes later and often through the night, not unlike his first night at home, nineteen years ago.
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