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Rebecca Rider column: no break for teachers

Walking through a school during the summer is eerie. Tables, chairs and bookshelves are pulled out into the hallways so that rooms can get a deep clean and turns walking into an obstacle course. The halls are quiet, unusually so, and even the light looks a little strange.

But the teachers are still there.

When I was very young, I believed that my teachers lived at school. It’s a relatively common perception children have. After all, from a child’s perspective, teachers only seem to exist at school.

They’re there in the morning, guarding the bus drop-off and the car-rider line; they’re there after school to help with tutoring, homework and clubs and they’re at evening events and meetings, ready to greet parents with a smile, or running a table or booth. They never seem to leave — so it’s only natural for students to assume that a school is a teacher’s home.

Obviously, this is a silly way to think, and as far as I’m aware, everyone grows out of it.

But summer is coming to a close, and I’ve been covering education for eight months now, and sometimes, I’m not so sure. I find myself thinking about that childhood perception from time to time — or about my first grade teacher, who swore up and down that she slept on a cot under her desk — and wonder if the kids don’t have the right of it, after all.

Teachers are always at school. Obviously, they don’t sleep there, but sometimes I think that’s one of the only exceptions. They arrive before their students, and stay after the buses leave. They are there for fairs, parent-teacher meetings, clubs, book fairs and reading nights.

During the summer, they are still in school, running camps and remediation, or traveling for conferences. If a teacher chooses to attend a board meeting, or stays for an evening event, they may pull a 12 or 14-hour day. They may end up working them anyway, if they have to grade assignments or lesson plan from home.

I’ve always heard people joke that teaching is an easy job, because teachers get summers off and have long breaks for holidays. But the reality is they don’t.

A teacher who takes a summer off, fully, falls behind. The education world changes so quickly, and teachers who aren’t constantly studying, learning and searching for ways to better their classrooms may miss opportunities — whether that translates to attending a conference, reading the latest research or perusing Pinterest for a new design or idea.

Teaching, I think, is one of the only jobs that demands so much from its practitioners. And it’s an incredibly difficult job to leave at the office. It may, actually, be nearly impossible — at least, I’ve yet to meet a teacher who doesn’t worry about her students long after the last bell has rung.

So teachers, I have some advice for you: remember to rest. Remember that sometimes, it’s important to get away for a day or two. Remember that it’s important to take care of yourself, as well. Remember that sometimes, you need to take five minutes and just breathe. You’re trying to get your students to be the best that they can be, but your students need you to be at your best, too.

And parents: remember to support your teachers. They worry about your child just as much as you do. They want your child to grow and succeed, just like you do. And they’ll look after your child while you’re at work.

So if you get a break this summer, remember a teacher — and remember to thank them when school starts back up. Because they haven’t stopped working.

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