Sounds like the title of a catchy pop song, right? It might actually be one, but if it is, my guess is that its tone would contrast to my own summer state of mind so far. Last year kicked my teaching a**: two sections of AP Lang, two sections of a brand new sophomore curriculum implementing a workshop model, and one section of a senior elective titled Advanced (read: “creative”) Writing. Like anyone reading this blog, I loved (or grew to love) every student, I loved (almost) every teaching minute, I (usually) loved the planning. I had so much love that there weren’t enough minutes in the day to express it. Literally. We express our teaching love through individualized attention, nurturing encouragement, and meaningful feedback, right? So, literally not enough minutes.
My own personal summer state of mind consisted of my mind grinding to a halt. For almost the whole first two weeks after school let out, Chicago spat a chill rain and my bones ached with mental exhaustion. And my brain hurt. I checked out of my teaching self so deeply that I put out of sight the stack of books I had planned to devour starting on day one. And I unwittingly missed two blog posts, for which I sincerely apologize. Guilt over that professional lapse drove me further into the delinquency of binge-watching season 2 of Marcella. Although I did drag my attitude out of the mire to see Roxane Gay speak about her memoir and her new anthology, about rape culture and politics, about writing and (of course) Queen Bey. I went with my friend and teaching partner Mariana, with whose pen I scrawled pieces of Gay’s wisdom on a cocktail napkin. Ms. Gay was inspiring (although Mariana and I shamefully confessed to each other that it had been tempting to just put on pajamas per usual at 6:30 pm, but tickets had been purchased).
Has anyone been there, in that “summer state of mind”? I suspect you have. Despite the temporary comfort of a British-TV-mystery binge, between the exhaustion and the guilt, it’s not fun. When I got home from the Roxane Gay event, I tucked the cocktail napkin into my copy of 180 Days without even looking at it. Shana wrote of not being able to turn off her teaching self, but I was wallowing in the avoidance of mine and in the guilt of doing so. This couldn’t go on.
A few days later, I followed through with plans to meet with a few beloved colleagues, two of whom will be new to our sophomore workshop curriculum next year, to do some planning. These are smart, passionate, devoted teachers–not to mention funny, lovely people. But even among these dynamos, my own energy still waned. So now I had something new to feel guilty about: not bringing my best professional self to that coffee shop and to my colleagues. But lo and behold, that very same day, Shana had posted this. And that brief paragraph at the end, so straightforward and honest, but more complex than anyone in another profession could know: “I think it just contributes to that overall feeling of exhaustion I have, so maybe I just need to pick it up when I’m a little more rested.”
Boom. Mic drop.
We’ve all read and written about how much we deserve our summer break, and even its accompanying anxiety. But we’ve also all heard the haters. Is it their rhetoric that brings about the guilt? Is it seeing our loved ones go off to their year-round jobs while we are still sipping coffee in jammies? Is it because I was raised Catholic? (I have to admit, the moment of reading that paragraph in Shana’s post felt to me like I had just prayed the Rosary).
This post doesn’t offer anything new, but I guess I wrote it just in case anyone is still struggling with a “summer state of mind” that isn’t what that phrase connotes. As for our better teaching selves, “maybe we just need to pick them up when we are a little more rested.”