My brother was a public school teacher. He now works in the private sector. I asked him about how hard it was to give up his summers. He told me that he had worried over this very question constantly before the fuse was lit, while it was burning, up until the moment that his career ended dramatically in a glorious explosion of profanity and threats. He said that now that he is done teaching, he no longer needs summers off. As I look toward a future away from education I am reassured by his words.
Back home in the Texas public schools, people worked very hard - hell, we toiled. There was always too much to do and too little time to do it. We often worked very long days, but we didn't delight in it or boast about it. Sure some folks were driven and inspired. Many were brilliant. But there was an understanding that many of us were just trying to get through the day, the week - counting down days until the next break. There was no shame in that.
People here in the international, private schools are different. There is what strikes me as an oddly competitive attitude about how hard they work and particularly about how many hours it takes. If I tell someone that I came in at 9am on Saturday to get some work finished, she will likely counter with, "Well I came in at seven." If I left at two, she invariably stayed until at least five. It is as though we are in a bidding war over wasted time. When I ask a person what he plans to do on the weekend, he will always make some mention of working at least part of the time. The funny thing is that when I do actually drag my lazy self into school on a weekend to do something that I should have completed weeks ago, I rarely actually see anybody there at all. It seems to be enough just to say you are working - to continually work on the illusion that you are busier than everybody else. If I thought that people were trying to support and inspire one another, I might have some respect this ridiculous game of one upmanship. But it does not feel like that at all.
The same attitude extends to extra curricular activities. I love to take long walks. People here train for marathons. I mentioned to a coworker that I just went swimming. "How many laps did you do?" Probably not as many as you. I don't do laps. I am more manatee than porpoise. Why would I waste valuable water time swimming back and forth over and over again?
As such, I don't really like to tell people what I am doing. I don't want to relate everything to work or to compete about how much of my free time I have spent at school. Jenn suggested that I just say I am working on whatever I am doing... just use the word 'work' in every sentence. This evening I will start by working on eating too much really good Korean food. When I get home, we will work together on finishing off that case of foul tasting Sakkara beer. Then I will work on watching a TV show about teenage vampires. Tomorrow morning I will work with my kids on playing soccer and dig into a project based on Scooby Doo.
If I am inspired to work really hard this weekend, I will slip away to a quiet place where I can lie on my back in the sand. I will gaze at the heavens and begin the arduous task of finding and identifying images in the clouds as they float past.
|Hard at Work|