I’m on vacation right now. Since last Friday. Not even half finished, because we get two weeks. Haven’t seen the early side of 9 am since then. Haven’t done much of anything except build and launch rockets, read Fluke by local fave Christopher Moore and the new TC Boyle (When the Killing’s Done) on my hacked NookColor, and sleep in.

This is why I need a job.

We’ve all seen the t-shirts and mugs with the old saw, “The Three Best Things About Being a Teacher: June, July, and August.” An old colleague of mine had that poster in his classroom.  Never mind that school goes halfway through June these days, and starts in August, but I always thought it was a bit…crass.  I mean, I’m not complaining about the time off or anything, but that sure ain’t why I’m a teacher. Well maybe a bit. But you don’t have to advertise it.

I figure the time off is: 1) payback for not getting paid as much as most of us are worth (starting teacher pay in Finland is $180,000), and 2) recovery time. I know you know what I mean.

But from the beginning of my career, I have never really asked about the money. In fact, I couldn’t tell you what I make now; you’d have to ask my wife. Like I said, I’ve always thought that it was a bit unseemly to worry about what you were getting paid for teaching.

I know. You’re all like, “How is it there in FantasyLandia?” That’s why I don’t handle the money in our family.

I have always had the same response when the kids ask me–and they always seem to right in the middle of a particularly exasperating session–if I like teaching.

“You’ll know when I don’t any more when I’m not here.”

I love my job because it’s different every day, and even when the clientele is frustrating and/or thickheaded, they are almost always funny about it in some way. (Sometimes it just takes awhile to admit it.)

I love my job because I don’t have to wear a tie, and when I absent-mindedly flap my cheeks in a sigh (it sounds like a horse snorting, and it was the way my boy said horse before he could talk), I get 25 imitators spewing out air and saliva and saying, That’s cool!”

I love my job because it’s like being a stand-up comedian, dog-trainer, psychologist, parent, coach, big sibling, teenager, your own boss, writer, artist, actor, Jeopardy contestant, inventor, diplomat, and Jeff Probst all rolled into one. (I’m sure I’ll think of a few other things too.)

Ok. I do like July. And things are pretty nice about now.

But it’s really all about stuff like this. You know what I mean. There’s that one kid, the one that will be the smartest kid to ever fail your class. And you just know that if  you could find that switch…

Sometimes that switch takes awhile to flip. This is from the guestbook on my seventh grade class page. Hope it doesn’t seem like bragging, but like I said, this is why we do this.

Dear Mr. Coward,
I had you in seventh grade. That was seven grades, seven years, and seven lifetimes ago. I was the one who never did my KBAR (is that what it’s called?) reading logs. You couldn’t have known it then, but in middle school I struggled immensely with severe depression and pathological self-loathing, and felt awkward and out of place in the Laguna shuffle. You saw me as a smart kid, deemed ‘average’ by an unfair standardized grading system, and encouraged me when few others did. That encouragement carried me through high school, where I graduated with an above average GPA. I am now attending an above average (read: exceptional) university in an above average (read: incredible) part of Washington state, and am pursuing a B.A. in biology with an emphasis in neuroscience, to help other above average kids with below average self-image.
Thank you for being the above average influence in my life when I truly needed it most.
Thank you, from a now above average college student.