Where I live, summer’s over, or will be soon.
Not in terms of the actual season, of course; in Southern California, at least, we have yet to hit the really hot weather. But for those in school, or who have kids in school, that grand cultural tradition known as “summer vacation” has again played itself out for the year. It’s time to get back to the routine and hit the books.
Summer vacation has always had a bit of a mythical feel to it. When the school year seems to drag by with agonizing slowness–will this ever end???–summer can a bright soft-focus daydream of freedom and fun. For teachers, summer holds the hope of catching up with everything that didn’t get done during the academic year. This year, we tell ourselves. This is the year I’ll finally be ready when school starts.
And we enjoy our summers, but not without ambivalence. Kids that couldn’t wait for the school year to be over get bored and want to see more of their friends. Parents begin to wonder if there’s such a thing as too much family togetherness. And teachers with a long list of things-to-do find out–again–how short the summer is in comparison.
I do it to myself every year. I look forward to summer as the season when my wife and I will get some time away, or when I’ll finally read this or write that. And it does happen, to an extent. We’ll take off somewhere, but never far and never long. I’ll make a dent in that pile of books, but only a small one. (My wife would probably just tell me to stop buying new books and read the ones I already have. Gotta admit, she has a point.) And I probably spend more time thinking about what I’m going to write than actually writing it.
I habitually expect more of summer than summer can deliver. Having been a teacher for nearly three decades now, you’d think I’d know better.
Still, I’m grateful for the academic calendar. As friends have sometimes reminded me, at least I have a summer vacation, whatever I might make of it. And I don’t need more summer vacation. I need to remind myself more deeply of my vo-cation, of what God has called me to do. Because the simple fact seems to be this: the life of a teacher can grind you down if you lose sight of why you’re doing it in the first place. It can’t be just another job. It has to be a calling.
That’s not to say it’s a cakewalk even then. Some of the most devoted teachers are deeply frustrated by the constraints that make their jobs more difficult: budget cuts; larger classes; top-down policies. But they keep at it, because they believe in what they’re doing.
If teaching is truly my vocation, it’s because God is the one who calls. If God is the one who calls, then he is also the one who can motivate and empower.
If you’re a teacher, I pray that God would bless you with a renewed sense of vocation this year. May you feel his smile upon your work. May he give you the eyes to see the unique and precious person behind every upturned face in every classroom.
And if you’re not a teacher, find one to encourage.