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JIS Farewell Dragon

I think one of the most underrated benefits of being a teacher is the summer. Not because of the time off, although that certainly is fantastic. The truth of the matter is, however, that most teachers actually do work during summers. Maybe they aren’t in paid positions, but they take graduate courses, design curriculum, and plan lessons for the upcoming year.

(In my job as an international teacher, there is the added summer responsibility every 3 or 4 years of packing everything, shipping all belongings to another continent/country, arranging visas and work permits, finding a home, acclimating to a different culture, figuring out a new school climate, and getting ready for a set of kids who have no inclination of what I or my classes are like.)

No, the really redeeming feature of summer is the fact that it provides closure to a chapter. At the end of the school year, the school year is over.  Sounds intuitively obvious, but there you go.

That’s it.



When you start over again in the fall, you are truly starting over. You have a new group of kids, a whole year full of possibilities and opportunities, with nothing left over from the past. Your previous students are not yours any more; they have moved on and are someone else’s projects. Oh you’ll see them, and say “hi” to them, and hug them, but they are no longer “yours.” And yes, that’s kinda sad, but it also puts a clean break into our working lives, something that we are truly blessed to enjoy.

How many other careers can point to having a constant, expected, planned “end to all projects?” I truly can’t think of any. Maybe something like a pilot, where you land a flight, and then it is over, but not really – because you have the very same thing to look forward to the next day, and the next, off until retirement. If you work in a factory, or an office, or retail, or a bank, then things just keep going, day in and day out, whether you show up for work or not. There is no “end,” just a continuation of everything, on and on and on.

No wonder cartoons, movies, and tv shows about office workers always emphasize how dreary their lives are. There is never an end point to shoot for, no goal to attain, no finish line to cross other than retirement. The high point seems to be deciding whether to hit Applebee’s or TGI Fridays for the cheddar-potato-skins-and-strawberry-margarita special next week.

As a teacher, though, you know that school starts in August and is over in June. You’ve got 10 months. And then, BLAM, the door shuts. Turn out the lights, this party’s over.

There’s a set deadline, after which everything is finished. Everything – all the classes, all the sports, all the clubs, all the socials – is wrapped up and put away for good. Fall comes, and things start again, but they are all new things. You might carry some lessons forward from “last time,” but now you’re working with a whole new group, and you once again begin the process of helping shape young learners. It is a brand new project.

I like the closure. I like being able to say, “Today is our last Friday.” I like knowing that all accounts will be closed next Wednesday, and the grand project of school year 2012-13 will be tucked away. I like knowing that after I back up my files, recycle the final papers, clean up the debris from the last days’ craziness, and lock the door, everything is done for good. And yes, I’ll say goodbye to colleagues and students who I will never see again. But that also is part of the cycle. I’ve known this day is coming, and they’ve known this day is coming, and we’re ready for it. We’ll make a clean break, move on, end this chapter in our professional lives on a high note, and close the book on the year.

And I’ll be totally ready to start anew in August…

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