A Teacher’s Vacation

It was the Sunday after Thanksgiving at 9:48 pm. I had just decided that I would be going to school underprepared on Monday when I received the following email:

Dear HISD Community:

Due to the Boil Water Notice issued by the City of Houston late this evening, all Houston ISD schools, offices, and facilities will be closed Monday, November 28, 2022. HISD will closely monitor the situation and provide additional updates regarding operations tomorrow.

Signed Sincerely by the Superintendent

Hallelujah! I said to myself.  

Don’t get me wrong. I am super thankful for my school, my salary, my sweet students, my week of vacation. But is it a week of vacation if I brought 44 AP Literature poetry analysis essays home for grading? Seriously. On Monday, I would’ve needed to grade the last 5 during my conference period and lunch. Of the other 117 essays, there were a smattering of A’s, even 100’s, but too many did not show understanding of the critical parts. I planned to pass them back for revisions. Three. The thesis statement. One topic sentence. And one body paragraph. (With smoothly incorporated evidence and commentary in connection to the prompt.) Okay, maybe a revision of half of the paper, but some targeted instruction and 40 more minutes should work wonders. Time is ticking. Two and a half weeks until semester finals. I need to finish my fall grades before 2023. Then suddenly May arrives, and my kids take their AP tests, essays included, for college credit and graduate. Ready or not, I feel some responsibility.

Instead of torturing myself with those last five essays or preparing for Monday, at 10 pm on Sunday, I finished Dead to Me Season 3 on Netflix, stayed up past my bedtime, and didn’t set my alarm. What an unexpected treat! Never mind the fact that I might need to boil water.

On Monday, I graded my AP LIT poetry essays, 4 of them anyway, uploaded a previously written recommendation to Julliard, wrote another recommendation for another student, graded some English IV personal narratives online. Granted I slept later, went for a walk, and indulged in some leisure, but by 4:25 pm I was still working toward being prepared for Tuesday. I know the time because I received an automated voicemail from HISD:

Houston ISD will resume normal operations Wednesday, November 30. The citywide boil water notice has been lifted and HRV personnel have begun servicing all equipment with waterline connections. The district does not anticipate the need to make up the prior two days.

Whoop! Whoop! I slid my laptop underneath the couch and continued binging Season 3 of Cuckoo and Season 1 of Wednesday on Netflix.

On Tuesday morning, a to-do list was in order. I notice that everything takes me longer these days, and I’m a little extra scattered. Focus, Crystal. Focus.

To Do:

  • Edit essay for student who politely asked for help with a college application essay.
  • Create overhead agenda slides.
  • Continue grading due English IV personal narratives. 16 to go. 19 missing. 68 total.
  • Identify students with work past due/missing and failing. 27 of 191 = 14%.
  • Check e-mail for students who may have e-mailed missing assignments. 0.
  • Enter grades in gradebook.
  • Add upcoming assignments into gradebook.
  • Type sample research paper found in Writing about Literature, for a digital example of content, MLA formatting, and Works Cited.
  • Prepare to teach The Importance of Being Earnest (for the first time).
  • Create revision assignment with a checklist and examples of a thesis statement, a topic sentence, and a body paragraph with embedded quotations and commentary. Upload to Canvas for student submissions.
Today’s agenda for English IV students. I teach on a block schedule and see kids every other day. If I’m ready for today, I’m ready for tomorrow.
Today’s agenda for AP Literature. Q1–poetry analysis essay. TWIST—tone, word choice, imagery, style, and theme.

My vacation is officially over. Muah. Muah. But I’m ready to see the kids. That’s the easy part.

53 thoughts on “A Teacher’s Vacation

  1. A credit to all the wonderful teachers out there and a special cheer for you Crystal for pouring so much time and effort into your students.
    Glad you had some extra time to binge watch some tv and get the work done too.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. My daughters high school gave an essay writing talk, but no essays were looked at by staff. My daughter had extra essays for almost every school she applied to, and her college wasn’t even on the common app so it was a whole separate package. The teachers would have spent a semester just doing that

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  2. Phew and big hug. Teaching is hard work; it can be so frustrating at times, but yet can be so rewarding and gratifying. And you’ve reminded me of why I’m finding retirement equally rewarding! 😏

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      1. Oh my, that will actually be a tough decision for you, Crystal. Teaching is in your blood … in your heart. But there ARE other less totally time-consuming ways to share your passions and talents in that regard, when you’re ready.

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    1. Thanks, Brian. I didn’t plan to write this post at all. It sort of spilled out when I ended up with extra time on my hands and realized how much time I had spent on behind the scenes work. I’ll take your advice and time for me tonight.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh my, Crystal, your “time off” was a quicksand of extra work. Nothing new for a teacher; still; yours most definitely was a working vacation. Thank God for that (sort of) extra day, eh?

    How much time do you spend grading/planning, etc., v. actually teaching? Don’t despair – logistics make bureaucrats of us all. Paperwork is the necessary price of pursuing our aspirations. Calls to mind the series finale of NYPD Blue, probably 20 years or so ago now. The show’s parting scene panned out from the lead actor, a detective, sitting at his desk filling out forms.

    No doubt, he dreamed once of making Detective. In order to, what, go through pens by the boxful?

    Oh, good of the Superintendent to sign the email “Sincerely.” Had it been “Sarcastically,” you would’ve received another email fifteen minutes later, “That was a joke, McFly. I’ll expect you here in the morning.”

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    1. Thank God for the extra days and thank Him again that we don’t have to make them up! And again that I’m home with a roof over my head and again for my bed and again for friends with jokes. I suppose there are worse things than extra work.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow, this was exhausting to think about. It is sad to realize teachers really don’t get to enjoy their breaks. And they work so much overtime that is not seen. You deserve a round of applause for all you do. And a big hug! I am glad you were able to squeeze in some of your TV shows too though. We all need a brain break.

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    1. Hi Bridget! Thank you. Funny how once in school, it’s time for the kids to think, which takes the pressure off me. I wish I could find a way to do all the hard work during school hours. Maybe next semester. ✨

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I could easily identify with your feeling of relief AND your spending a large part of your two days “off” working for the benefit of your students. And there are people who claim that teachers don’t deserve their salary because they have so many days off and only work 9-3. They clearly don’t live in the world I taught in.

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  6. Happy You had a nice break!!! Blown away by Your to do list!!! You ROCK!!! And….I binge watched season 3 of Dead to Me recently as well. LOVE!!! 🤣 Cheers and I echo Mark: Thank You for being a teacher that cares so deeply!!! You do provide an incredible service that ripples out to us all!!! 💕

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  7. I’m late to comment here, but that’s been my week. And it’s not like this comment is time sensitive. You’ve reminded me that I’ve been wanting to watch the last season of Dead to Me. And now, I shall, soon. Hope your week was great

    Liked by 1 person

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