Thursday, 3 June 2010

School's Out

When I was a little kid, I generally enjoyed school. I liked the smell of classrooms, the scratch of chalk on the blackboard, the dozens of Scholastic paperbacks our teachers almost begged us to read. But by the time summer rolled around, I was more than ready for it. On the morning of the very last day, I used to whoop and holler and jump around the house like a wild, demented creature. Never mind that a blazing hot summer lay ahead; never mind that the temperature would quickly climb to 100 degrees and higher, that our house was not air-conditioned and the only place I could go to escape the heat was the local swimming pool. Who cared about any of that when the dispiriting routine of getting up, getting ready, and going to school had been replaced by lazing around the house, reading whatever I pleased, and splashing around in the local pool with my friends?

For some reason, my friends and I always pictured that the teachers were sorry to see us go. We figured that teaching was their vocation, that without us to instruct and educate, their lives would be diminished. God knows where we got this idea, but as we left school, singing our silly No more teachers, no more books song, we had the idea that they were watching us go with regret, wishing that September would hurry up and come. And having those three blissful months of freedom was such a heady thrill.

But however a great a thrill that last day of school might have been all those dreamy years ago, it was as nothing compared to the unmitigated joy of my last day of school as teacher this semester. Especially because my husband and I have turned in our resignations and are contemplating another move -- and our next expatriate adventure.

No more students coming to class ten minutes late and asking for toilet breaks! No more risking wrist injury wresting cell phones from the meaty fists of teenage boys! No more students showing up late without textbooks, notebooks, or writing implements! No more students whining Teacher, break time, fifteen minutes before class is up! And -- with apologies to the handful of hardworking students I've been fortunate enough to teach -- no more students! No more Can, Murat, Tanol, Sevge, Fikret, Aycan, Cedyda, Uzay, Aziz, or Hamit.

It's getting very hot here. Our house isn't air-conditioned and the only place I can get cool is the local swimming pool -- and I hate heat. Who cares? Not me. Not one single bit.

Today instead of waking up at six and getting dressed, I woke up at six and went for a swim. Instead of bolting breakfast and heading out the door, I did yoga. Instead of rushing through my lesson plans and getting my teaching materials ready, I lay down on the sofa and read half a book.

Summertime isn't quite as carefree and easy as it was in the halcyon days of my youth. My husband still has a couple of weeks left of teaching. There are chores to be done and meals to prepare. I've got a 15-year-old who's taking her international General Certificate of Secondary Education exams this month and needs the occasional nagging session to get motivated. We've got another moving day looming ahead and moving is never much fun. But cooking, cleaning, nagging and packing up have never been as fun as they have this past week. I've got a stack of books I know I'll have time to put a dent in, two manuscripts to revise, and the glittering pool awaits. And sometimes just for the sheer heck of it, I whoop and holler and jump around the house.

School's out for the summer, folks. And it isn't just the kids who are thrilled.


Marian said...

I like the part about reading books on the sofa and working on manuscripts. That sets a good precedent for the rest of the summer.

I'm trying to exercise more this summer *looks sadly at tummy* but writing comes first.

Charles Gramlich said...

You hit the nail on the head there. I was never so happy to be off school as a kid as I am as an adult teacher.

laura said...

I would be working on the manuscripts, 'poolside' for sure!!
Personally I have no idea how you get through the school year and keep your sanity! Now I'm looking forward to reading about your next adventure.

Charlie said...

You made it, Mary, without choking even ONE student to death! Or ending up in the rubber room I was so worried about.

Finally, you have the time to read a book. Isn't life grand?

Kim Ayres said...

I can still remember the day I left school - I'd just finished paper 3 of my maths O level. And as I walked down the hill, 6 feet off the ground, the sky was blue, the birds were singing and the flowers were in full bloom. And I knew I never had to go back ever again.

It was one of the greatest natural highs of my life.

However, I'm dying to know what you'll be up to next, and I hope wherever you're heading for, I'll still be able to catch up with you back in Scotland this summer

Mary Witzl said...

Marian -- I like the part about reading books too! And although I'm a little less keen to start working on my manuscripts, I'm beginning to get into the swing of things. Once I get started, I'll love what I'm doing.

I look sadly at my tummy too, but less flab is definitely on the agenda.

Charles -- It's better than anything, isn't it? What a high, turning in those grades, handing in my locker key -- and letter of resignation. Too sweet! You've finished for the summer too, haven't you?

Laura -- It was a close thing, but I've still got all my faculties, if you'll pardon a bad pun.

The best thing about writing next to the pool is that I don't have an internet connection there so I can't be tempted by distractions. Tomorrow, the poolside is my writing study!

Charlie -- When I got to the last class of the last day, I felt like a long distance runner sprinting across the finish line. It's a miracle I didn't lose it and slap somebody silly.

Kim -- You were 6 feet off the ground? I believe I was 6 1/2 feet, but I didn't have a tape measure.

We'll be back in Scotland this summer. Can't wait to see you!

Robert the Skeptic said...

I would think that just the transition to starting on a new life adventure would be exciting in itself. Sometimes our careers can "define" us, even box us in. But even if you take up teaching again in a new place, the new challenges are what is important. I'm staying tuned in.

Chocolatesa said...

I'm so happy for you! And I can't wait to hear where you're moving next. I don't suppose I'm lucky enough for it to be Montreal?

Anonymous said...

I can so relate to this! I love being off school--whether as a student or a teacher! Woo-hoo!

Where to next? We're prob moving ourselves this summer. I suspect we won't be any closer to each other though. You've hinted somewhere in Asia.

Carolie said...

Hurray for you that school's over! (I hate the heat, too -- come visit and sit in air conditioning with me! Ha ha!)

My main question -- WHERE are you looking for your next adventure?? Any idea??

Carolie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
e said...

Woo hoo, Good for you! I can't wait to hear where you're going!

Vijaya said...

Hmmm. My comment disappeared ... I probably did something stupid. But Mary, how wonderful to see you looking forward to writing and new adventures. Wishing you all the best.

School will be out in another week for us and the kids are JUBILANT. I told them teachers feel the same way. That was a different perspective.

kara said...

yaaaaaay! time to head for the beach and eat pineapples. if i had a summer break, that's what i'd be doing.

Robin said...

That sounds heavenly! I am so very happy for you. I hope you have major league fun and many cool adventures.

Everything seems so much nicer by a pool. Drinks, food, books... I'd love to have a pool if that didn't mean taking care of a pool. I like other people's pools. Or the neighborhood pool.

angryparsnip said...

Woo Hoo . . .
"e" beat me to it but what the heck great news.
Last day of school, resignations handed in and books to read. Sounds like heaven. Can't wait to hear where you will be living and teaching next.
I have a pool that you could sit and read by but tomorrow it will be 100 and Sunday 107 only the brave stay in Tucson during the summer. I like it, not the heat but it gets quite lazy and quiet in the valley.

cheers, (toasty) parsnip

Mary Witzl said...

Robert -- The thrill of not teaching is so great that I hardly have room for any other emotions right now, but I'm still looking forward to the challenge of a new adventure -- especially if I end up teaching people who WANT to learn. There are a lot of things I'm going miss about this lifestyle, but brow-beating reluctant learners is definitely not one of them.

Thank you for staying tuned!

Chocolatesa -- Oh, I wish it were! If there were teaching jobs in Quebec, we'd be headed that way. As it is, Europe is looking the most likely now.

Elizabeth -- Where you moving? If you're going back to the U.K., there is a distinct possibility that we'll meet; we may spend a year or so there while we're preparing for our next move, just so our daughter can finish school in Britain.

Carolie -- I would love to spend a little time with you, air-conditioned or not. Do you know where you will be going next, or are you going to be Stateside for the foreseeable future?

As long as we don't end up in Saudi Arabia or the drug cartel-owned area of Colombia, I don't really care where we go next. At one point, Ukraine and Germany looked like possibilities, but now we're thinking we may go back to the U.K. for a year while we plan our next venture. Let's keep in touch!

e -- Thanks, we're beginning to feel like that ourselves! Wherever I go next, I just hope it's a place with motivated, hardworking students.

Vijaya -- I lose comments ALL THE TIME. I can never figure out how I manage to do it, but I certainly do it very well.

I've already rewritten four pages of my MG ms (which sorely needed it -- I've gotten good enough to see how awful some of my writing is, and I'm taking that as real progress), and today I'm hoping to get another five rewritten before the heat sets in and I'm too hot to think. Writing is so much more fun when you're not rushed, isn't it?

Kara -- Yes! But melon, not pineapples. Melons are really cheap and delicious here, especially watermelons. I'm going to be spitting watermelon seeds all day, watching the doves swoop and skim the surface of the pool. And guarding my laptop against you-know-what.

Robin -- Me too! The local pool here (which I usually only get to visit on the weekends, when it tends to be crowded) is in a courtyard surrounded by lemon, fig, and pomegranate trees, plus a mess of jacarandas and bougainvillea. It's like a little bit of heaven and I don't have to clean it, which is probably the nicest thing about heaven and its streets of gold and marble. I can go out there at any time I like now, and if that isn't heaven, I don't know what is.

AP -- We drove through Tuscon once when I was a kid, and I'll never forget our amazement to find a place which was even hotter than Riverside. But your air is cleaner!

I like lazy and quiet too and much prefer them to busy and boisterous. Which is why I'm not all that keen on moving to a place like Istanbul or Rome. Or Los Angeles, for that matter.

Carole said...

Woo Hoo. Have a great summer.

Blythe said...

I sort of miss school, just because it did start and finish: the days start and finish, the years start and finish, they sometimes give you weird hats to wear at the end...

Freelancing is strange because there is no rhythm to time. Projects overlap and they hardly ever end at the same time. There is no hour on the clock when work might not happen.

I'm making myself mopey.

I look forward to you summer vacation--and the next locale.

adrienne said...

I love that feeling...I'm excited for you. And, I'm looking forward to hearing about your next adventure.

Ruth Donnelly said...

Hope you enjoy your leisure... and your new adventure!

Mary Witzl said...

Carole -- Thank you, I will do my level best! It's off to a great start.

Blythe -- I did freelancing off and on for a year or two, and I found it really frustrating. I had to jealously guard my time or people would assume I was just messing around and could be interrupted and presumed upon with impunity. When you work outside, no one would dare do this. I've learned from that experience, though: if I ever have to freelance again, I'll be sure to tell everyone I'm not at home.

Adrienne -- It's the greatest high in the world, isn't it? I feel guilty being so happily unemployed, but there it is.

Ruth -- Thank you! I doubt I've ever appreciated leisure more.

Anne Spollen said...

This is the first summer I'm not involved in teaching summer school in four years, so I have some of that wonderful feeling of freedom back. But you're right; it's never the same as when you were a kid, but it's still pretty wonderful.

And moving again? Can you just tease us and tell us if it's within the same country or to a new place?

Postman said...

So that's how the other half lives...

Congratulations on your big decision! Another expatriate exciting. Keep us informed, please.

And I reckon you'll miss those Turkish squirts, even the whiny cell-phone harboring ones.

Alice Cooper, eat your heart out!

Pat said...

I trust you are singing Alice Cooper's great anthem 'School's out for Summer!'
Enjoy your break ready for the next adventure.
Funny to remember I always cried as we sang 'Lord dismiss us with thy blessing.'at the end of term but I loved the holidays.

Mary Witzl said...

AnneS -- You've been teaching summer school all these years? My sincere respect and admiration! Summer school seems like cruel and unusual punishment for teachers.

It's looking like the next few years we'll be in Europe, but after that we want to go back to Japan -- or some other Asian country. We'll see how it all pans out. All of this depends on our getting jobs.

Postman -- Noooo -- I won't miss them! Or at least not the spoiled, entitled, take-everything-for-granted, got-everything-they-ever-asked-for little (in every way but size) brats among them. I'm pining for the good ones already -- all five of them. Do I sound a little bitter? Believe me, you had to be here.

I've been trying to post something on your blog for the past couple of weeks, but for some reason, it won't let me. Have you changed the settings, by any chance?

Pat -- On our last day, Alice Cooper got quoted a LOT in song. So did Pink Floyd (We don't NEED NO education...) My former students really don't need any education, sadly. It's wasted on them.

You sang 'Lord dismiss us with thy blessing' on the last day of school? We used to make do with the Battle Hymn of the Republic, likening ourselves to newly liberated slaves. Crazy, really.

Angela Ackerman said...

I ma so excited for you, Mary! I really love this blog, and love the experiences and cultures you so generously expse us to. I am very excited to hear about another move, and can't wait to find out where you'll go. Have a great, relaxing summer!

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

Mary Witzl said...

Thank you, Angela! I'll be kicking around here for a little longer, just getting paperwork together, packing up our things, and doing as much swimming as I possibly can. I'm also trying to learn a little more Turkish.

Hope you have a great summer too!

AnneB said...

Late catching up on my blogs, Mary. I'm going to take a day of from everything soon and just lie around and read, too!

Mary Witzl said...

AnneB -- I've got a lot of catching up to do myself, so it's wonderful to finally have some time.

Lying around the house, reading, is one of life's great unsung pleasures, isn't it? Hope you get to enjoy yours as much as I'm enjoying mine!

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