When I first started my teaching career, I was presented with two statistics that revealed what was to come with my tenure in New York: The first said that there was an achievement gap that resulted in my high school students graduating with, on average, an eighth grade reading level and the second said that, falling closely behind chefs, we teachers had the highest level of alcoholism among working professionals in the city. The former was sobering and the latter was anything but, but as I have found, both define the life of a teacher and indirectly explain all the teacher deals at local watering holes.
Any educator will tell that their existence revolves around a pedantic schedule of routines. You punch in. You grab your attendance folder. You grade papers. You teach. You eat your lunch or go to the same coffee shop for the same sandwich. You go home. You zonk out. And through it all, you struggle to maintain your exuberance and spirit when you’re round pegged being is hammered into the square hole of conformity.
By the end of the week we are frustrated, tired, and in desperate need of a pick-me-up. And while a cold beer isn’t a panacea to the pedagogical usurpation of the work week, it comes awful close. There’s something unnerving about the scrutiny of the classroom, where we are constantly on stage to both administrators and students. And by the end of the week, the thought on most teachers’ minds is the thought of self, the original desire to just remain original. This might explain why most teachers head to happy hour, and while most bars in New York aren’t places where everyone knows your name, at least the cute brunette from the English department does. And she likes Yuengling, just like you.
A great article was featured in the New York Times broke it down even further:
In almost every generation, education has been demonized as an enemy of fun. For those of us who came of age in the late 80s and early 90s, as I did, that message was stamped all over popular culture: the sexually frustrated Mrs. Krabappel and effete Principal Skinner of “The Simpsons”; “The Breakfast Club,” a cinematic testament to the woes of Saturday detention that depicted your average educator as a prison guard crossed with a fulminating minister; and of course, Ben Stein’s soporific teacher in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” who made a strong case for boredom as the eighth deadly sin. Maybe we drink to stave of these classroom ghosts, to convince ourselves that, deep down, we are just that prankster Bueller with an abiding passion for chalk-and-talk.
That restlessness that is envoked is the same restlessness Ferris Bueller had on his famous “day off,” when he reflects upon his existence and realizes that the circumstances cannot always dictate his course of action; sometimes, we all need that much needed our time, that proverbial “day off.” This can be done in many ways, obviously, and I’m hardly promoting an unhealthy lifestyle of boozing and debauchery. Teachers can exercise, read, travel, or lament in their own way. All I’m reminding you—and take this for what it is, a reminder—is that the gym is probably a good five blocks away. The bar is two, and it’s got great central heating.
I think it’s the Buddhist in me that comes out when I imagine the dichotomy that most of us embody, the responsible “mister” or “miss” during the week and the resumption of our first names on Friday. Weekday me begs weekend me to take a load off, and from time to time, weekend me begs weekday me to work extra hard to exorcise the ethanol-induced demons of Saturday night. Let’s face it: we’re young and we’ve undertaken a great and difficult crusade. And while we strive for that maturity and self-discovery that comes from our experiences in the classroom, there’s that momentary spark of inspiration in its most unadulterated form, the virtue of immaturity and naivete. And through it all a balance is achieved, reinforcing the adage that we hold so dear: all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.