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Two Teachers' Calendars

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Teacher #1

Every month is the worst month of the year to be a teacher. In September, the kids are hopped up on summer and can’t settle themselves. The lingering mugginess makes everyone edgy, particularly in the unlucky rooms — like yours — without air-conditioning. October has no days off and feels hopeless. You feel like you’ve been there forever, but the calendar laughs at the tiny dent you’ve actually made. You’re bearing down on Halloween, the most obnoxious and dangerous day of the year while the children go ape in anticipation. November means funeral weather. Cramming to finish report cards and parent conferences drives you to your wits’ end! Frigid December means holiday fever, and you slip into autopilot, desperately hanging on for that coveted break.

If December is supposedly the most wonderful time of the year, January is clearly the least. It’s never been icier outside, and you look forward to nothing. Except the pressure-laden, high-stakes tests, which you loathe but can’t avoid. Bitter February marks the halfway point, but you feel that you’ve already been with these kids for a decade. The sensations of warm weather are lost to you, and the kids get rammy from the inconsistent schedule surrounding Presidents’ Day Weekend. In the March drudgery, you wonder how your real life, the one where you used to be a happy person way back in summer, slinked away. Spring still feels remote. April air is a little warmer, but that proves to be a true curse because the kids get energized and stir-crazy, and you’re still nowhere near the end.

After spring break, it’s a long haul. As a bonus, testing crunch time is back. Already having gone through the rigmarole once, the students hate it twice as much. May equals pain because with the big tests in the rearview mirror and the finish on the horizon, the kiddies really go bananas. You’re at the end of your rope, and they know it. The scorch of June is a wash, and the administration sets an example of exerting minimal planning and effort in their operations. All hallway small talk pertains to counting the remaining workdays as the haggard school collectively limps to the finish line.

Teacher #2

Every month is the most rewarding, heart-expanding month to teach.

In September you’re rejuvenated. Returning to school is a clean start for everyone after an adventurous and relaxing summer.

By October, you’re past the mundane establishing of rules, routines, and systems, so you can start flying with lessons. Halloween brings the first class party, and the group has gelled together as a community.

November sets Thanksgiving at its end as a well-earned break. You’re doing good work with the kids, and you can already see little nuggets of growth in their writing.

December is the best month to be a teacher because the kids give you precious little holiday trinkets, and you feel appreciated. The first snowfall reminds you of a being a kid yourself, and you warmly send your kids off for winter break, knowing you’ve accomplished quite a bit.

January feels great because now the kids’ tangible progress is undeniable. They really are learning! They notice it, too, and your classroom buzzes with the thrill of discovery.

In February, you knock out the big tests, and you know that all of the prepping amounted to fruition. Getting Presidents’ Day Weekend off is a gift.

March is a fine month to teach because by the second round of parent-teacher conferences, you know your kids inside out — really, you feel better than anyone else in the world — and you feel honored and legitimized by how importantly the students’ parents treat you.

April is aces because you’ve got spring break and mild weather. The end is in sight, and you are able to reveal more of your personality with the children.

No month, though, is a better month to teach than blossoming May. You’ve hit your stride long ago and now as you tie up the curriculum and tests, there’s a well-deserved feeling of accomplishment for taking on this rough journey and going the distance.

In June, the pressure’s off, so it’s all about the kids. Trips, games, fun activities, and parties own the sunny schedule. The last day of school is bittersweet. This batch of children has become part of you and you pray that in return, they will take a piece of you with them as they turn the corner out of sight.

Which teacher will you be? I admit I’ve felt at times like both. However, if the latter tips the scales of your heart, you can bring so much good to the world! Henry Adams puts it aptly: “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”

About the Author

Dan Brown is the author of The Great Expectations School: A Rookie Year in the New Blackboard Jungle, a memoir of his first year teaching fourth grade in the Bronx. His book has been featured in Newsweek, the New York Times, and on NPR alongside Jonathan Kozol. Dan Brown currently teaches in New York City and writes on education issues for the Huffington Post.
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