Ahhhh… the two weeks teachers wait for that never seem to get here fast enough. I was so ready to be done with 2018 I had a collection of white flags hidden in my desk that I found myself waving ever so slightly throughout that last week of school.
So as I got off of winter break, I hastily tried to get caught up on everything that I’ve been behind on since July. Especially this year because I thought Christmas was on Thursday, but instead, it was Tuesday, and well hell, I had those extra two days already planned out! I wasn’t counting down to Christmas Day as the kids; I was counting down to Christmas BREAK.
I couldn’t have given a rat’s ass about Christmas Day; just let me breathe, people! Let me finish a thought, let me not trip over school supplies and backpacks, let me come home without hazardous waste from someone’s nose on my sweater! If Santa Claus was coming to my house he better damn well be quiet and let me sleep! And do his own dishes!
Now on to my story that all teachers will enjoy.
[Insert family meal here]Here we all are in the dining room table, eating lots of food with too many battling personalities and insecurity complexes to beat the band. If I hadn’t been one of the players in this, I would have enjoyed a large tub of buttery popcorn and watched the comedic tragedy unfold.
And unfold it did…
Somewhere between the mashed potatoes and the green beans, Obnoxious Family Member One (OFMO) decided that the light banter of Christmas tidings wasn’t working.
OFMO: “Sooooooo how’s school going, Paula? Are you feeling better about your situation?”
Now first off, I don’t have a ‘situation’ this year. That was last year when I was on long-term sub pay and was trying to scrape my life back together after my divorce. But I took the high ground.
ME: “Things are working out well! I love what I do!”
OFMO: “Well I saw that you guys all got a substantial raise this year. That must be nice, especially with the long breaks you get.”
Before I go any further, let me interject that this is THE family member. Everyone has one. You know, THE one that is always looking to cause problems; THE one that is nosey; THE one that you’d like to bend a foot backward and peel off the sock and stick it in that big fat mouth.
ME: “Yes, we did get a raise. I am very thankful for it. I enjoy my breaks too. Teaching is exhausting work.”
OFMO: (ginormous snort) “Oh my goodness! How hard can it be? You just raise other people’s kids for a few hours then send them home! And get paid for it!”
By this time, I’m breathing pretty hard, but trying not to upset our Christmas meal. Everyone else just looks at me helplessly, because none of them are teachers so they don’t understand. Please note, that the pay raise we got in Oklahoma was nice, but it barely raised wages above the poverty level. I’m a special education and even with my experience and Masters degree I still only make $40,000 a year. Oklahoma isn’t doing so fine in the salary aspect, YET. I think it will eventually happen, but not for a while. I love my job. I love the idea of making a compounding difference in the lives of my students. My pay really wasn’t of anyone’s concern at our Christmas table so I took the high road, as always.
But with a bit of a twist…
ME: “You know, you do have a point. I guess I do raise other people’s children then send them home. I’ve never really thought of it that way. Mean I do have them for seven hours a day.”
OFMO: (smug, smug, smug)
I made a bit of small talk and felt the tension begin to lift. And then…
ME: “Would someone please toss me a roll. Thanks! (directing my attention to OFMO) So, how are things going in your world? Empty nesters!!! It’s hard to believe that all four boys are out of the house! Remind me of what they are doing now?”
OFMO: (beaming, just bursting to brag) “Oh my goodness! Just wait until you hear all about them…”
So OFMO proceeded to talk for the next forty-five minutes about the four boys. One was a pilot in the military, one was a doctor, one was a biologist and the fourth one was in business. OFMO babbled on and on about their successes, and should have; the boys were amazing!
And this is where the fun unfolds.
Other family members began piping up about the successes they remember their kids having along with the boys having while they were… STILL IN ELEMENTARY, JUNIOR HIGH and HIGH SCHOOL. Collectively the family talked about how those successes could be traced all the way back to those toothless grins in kindergarten.
I chose to just observe. I looked around at all of the animations that came from remembering programs and grandparents’ days and students of the month. How the love of reading came from a second-grade teacher and how the robotics program was over the top in the junior high.
After a bit, things began to die down. And family members looked back at me. I felt like there was going to be a Christmas miracle, with clock chimes and snowflakes falling in the house.
OFMO: “Ummmm, are those activities part of what you do?”
OFMO: “Oh. Wow.”
I didn’t expect an apology. I didn’t expect anymore conversation about it. I didn’t need it. I know to value myself in my profession way before anyone else does, simply because a career in education is not highly respected anymore. But it still means a lot is to me. And that’s what matters.
You want me to raise your kids? I got you, Boo, but please give teachers our respect.
Happy first day back at school.
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