‘You teachers. You get great time off’. Spit. OK, I exaggerate. No one spits. Often. This clichéd statement is one of the many flung in accusation or even bitterness at a teacher on a typical weekly basis. There are others, but let us stick with this one for now.
I don’t doubt the verity of the sentence.
Clichéd because it is true.
We get amazing time off!!
It is the tone that often accompanies the few words that gets me! I will not deny however that I can see why acidity may drip malevolently from a non teacher’s tongue as they discuss the educators’ holidays especially when June looms. We are becoming giddy ourselves at the image of endless weeks away from the desk. The poor accountants, farmers, shopkeepers and everyone else must stay at the grind and I can empathise having worked at many jobs myself that boasted normal holidays.
Combine the ten week break with the one continuous hot spell Ireland has seen since the glory days many moons ago and yes, teachers are hated and begrudged!
How do we justify the holidays?
Largely because we need it or both staff and students would have major melt downs and relaxation is key to education.
They are part of the package.
So what happens in an Irish secondary school when June begins her flirtatious advance, coquettishly cocking one hip and rolling a scarlet tipped finger towards her whilst staring in your eye, beckoning to you to something beyond the red pen and PowerPoint ?
Many changes. Some small. Some so minute you may not notice. Some in our heads even. ..
The angry teacher begins to smile a little more. The suited one has left a top button open. Cracks an unintelligible joke. The stringent teacher suddenly doesn’t seem to realise how late you are. Again. Lunches beome lazier. Were they ways this chilled out? Windows are thrown open. The sinners in homework detention are becoming a rarer breed. The pedants are now colouring ever so slightly outside the lines. The classroom rebel loses his patience as his most trying behaviour is ignored and in fact is the teacher throwing him a jeering half smile herself?
Role reversal is on the table.
Those exam sitting students facing three weeks of state tests in June suddenly are feeling the fear. They have become the worker bees. They are asking questions they were too cool to ask before. Last minute revision is desperately undertaken. Teachers help. Yes. They give final tutorials and notepacks. They will not refuse extra advice however their job is pretty much done. They taught their subject. Examined it. Gave tips, support and encouragement. They can do little more than issue more advice, wish them luck and see them on the other side. Their own difficult job is over. The students’ challenge is on the table now and right ahead. Do the students feel the change however? Do they realise that are now the stressed one in the room? They are the ones almost frightened to stray from topic in case the course is not covered or sweating with pressure to get notes made and stapled, over zealous in correction, almost blindly hopeful they might learn from it for next time?
Do they observe the teacher is quietly eating Malteasers and wearing flip-flops, casually tidying up those BBC Shakespeare cassettes, filing old handouts and dumping uncollected homework as they listen to your pleas? Considering the next boxset they might watch (we hear Boardwalk Empire is worth a go) and recklessly, mentally ‘letting go’ King Lear and his need of Super Nanny for those unruly daughters? Have you realised that she is no longer asking Padraic McGinty to take out his books? That Padraic McGinty is in fact now twitching in apprehension at his table and realising the days to listen are over and he may be in fact approaching pretty deep excrement? He actually has his books out. Boy, are they shiny clean. It is past that time. Teachers are not able to do much more. Students now must take the baton and it is up to them if they choose to run. (Did you like that analogy? We teachers have MANY!).
What do we do now? The teachers I mean.
It is likely students feel that we all slink away to our museum going, instant coffee drinking, cat hugging homes for the summer. I believe some of the younger students think we don’t leave at all, just sink back slowly as they leave, motionlessly self-cementing into the wall, standing lifeless until the end of August when we rise again, automaton style to repeat ourselves for another nine months!
Hate to break it to ye guys.
You are all wrong.
We do what you do.
We party like we are in 1999 and we are still nineteen. (Prince, we remember you).
Summer party time!
The big staff night out is important so we can look at each other in delight one last time for the season knowing we don’t have to interact again without choice until the end of August.
So as the big kahuna (summer) arrives, attitudes tend to change. People become lighter. Gentler. More insane! Add temperatures hitting the mid twenties and staying so for seven days in a row (this is Ireland remember) and you have hit paydirt. Release, holidays and hot, hot sun make teachers go crazy.
We had our staff night out last Thursday. A lethal combination of staff room tensions due to massive changes in our school, normal end of term edginess, three retirements of respected and very long term staff AND 25° Celsius weather made for a potent send off. I can liken it to TV series Black Books when character Manny has an outbreak of ‘Dave’s Syndrome’. An instant mania sets in when the heat reaches a certain melting high. Hence crazy Lord of the Flies style behaviour ensues.
How does this manifest itself in the world of Shakespeare, verbs, compasses and overhead projectors?
Precursor: It begins with cones after work. 99 with a flake. Passing students may be fooled into thinking this is as loco as we go, shaking their heads at how ‘sad’ we are.
- We continue to tequila shots with the German teacher who has two kids over 18, one of which sitting the Leaving Cert herself in June.
2. 80% staff attendance at a night club. A real night club. There are always a few who can’t quite get there, but in this case people who haven’t seen midnight in months chanced the flashing lights and loudspeakers. No age, subject or gender distinction. All accepted, daring someone to try stop our outlandish behaviour and ask us to leave.
3. Air Guitar release. This is therapy for a stressed Mammy and teacher like nothing else. DJ did a quick age calculation and also decided the club was full of teachers from various schools losing the plot so we were awarded a variety of hair rock classics, topped off by Take That. Never Forget at that. Think Paradise by the Dashboard Light. The French sub who has barely spoken all year all fists and hair, screaming into a bottle. Wowsers. Head banging like a Kurt Kobain worshipper to Lithium.
Lest we forget!
4. The single guy/lady making a two am drive of Dutch courage towards the other single guy/lady, usually lucking out and to the hilarity of us around them. No prisoners.
5. We all tell the principals/ vice principals how to run the school.
6. We all squeal at the one poor student we spot when we leave the club yelling at him/her that they should be at home studying while we laugh hysterically at our own wit.
7. Dancing like no one is watching or Facebook isn’t real. Head banging. Shouting. Yelling. Heckling other schools and their teachers who are also dancing like monkeys on mind altering drugs and feeling very brave.
8. Hugging each other. That does not happen. Ever.
9.Vegetarian teachers may eat meat. Or whatever is in a chicken ball from a three am takeaway.
10. Non smokers can be found chain smoking in the smoking area. Happily.
The rest must be kept hidden..!
There you have it. Not much different to a standard work do, I know. I like to think we do it with style though!
Teachers get holidays. They can celebrate too. Immorally, drunkenly or soberly but always in an insubordinate fashion.
Thank God for role reversal time.
Let us have our moment. Let us believe we are rock stars before we make an instant coffee, hug a cat and ooh let us go to the National Gallery! New exhibition!!
Sounds pretty nice right now…