Can you hear it? Listen closely . . . all around the United States parents are cheering. It is August and back to school time! Simultaneously, teachers are sighing and children are crying. It's enough noise to sink a battleship, I tell you.
Here is what is like to be a teacher in August: you savor the last remaining days of your vacation, but at the same time mentally begin preparing yourself for the upcoming year. You go in to school before you are required to because you know the school system has not allotted you enough time to set up a classroom and get ready for a new year and a new class of kids. You start the year off with lots of energy and excitement. Then, it happens--the energy and excitement begin to leak out of you like the slow drip of the faucet.
The drip starts at the beginning of the year faculty meeting when you are confronted with the uncertainty of the budget and you are told how you are going to have to teach more kids with less resources. It continues when you are told that the state legislature decided to add more days to your school calendar without increasing your pay. It drips even more when you try to get the instructional supplies you need from the supply closet, but there aren't enough and there won't be enough so you are going to have to buy them yourself. And it quickens a little bit and drips a little faster when you see that again this year, you are going to make less money than last year because your supplement has been cut again. Drip, drip, drip.
But somehow, despite this drip, teachers keep going. Teachers are like the little engine that could. We have a purpose. We have the ability to shut out the bad and focus on the good. We cherish the small victories. We are hopeful. This year, when the drip in my faucet starts running too quickly and filling my sink with negative thoughts, I am going to reread the letter I just got from one of my former students. Among other things, he wrote "Thank you for being my best teacher ever. You taught me how to be a good sport. You helped me to understand the things in math that I didn't get."
It's the things like this that help us keep going year after year, leaky faucets and all.