As a teacher I am used to the age-old line I get every time someone finds out what I do for a living. “Oh, you get SUMMERS off!” I’m not denying that having summers off is a perk, but it comes at the end of a nine-month marathon we run with 24 children strapped to our backs.
Not only are we exhausted, most teachers are involved in school related classes or projects during the summer. We teach classes to other exhausted teachers; we teach summer school; we re-write curriculum; we take classes to maintain our permanent certification; or we receive new units and new initiatives that we must become familiar with and be ready to teach in the fall. Most of these activities are not exactly optional, if you know what I mean.
But teaching has other less obvious perks, like all the amazing people you get to know over the years. For example, on the day that your credit card is denied approval at the grocery store, it’s always fun to look up and find that the check-out clerk is a former student. Like when you go for your mammagram, and the woman putting on your “stickers” is the mom of one of your students. Or, how about when during a fun-filled day of tailgating you run into one of your students and her extended family. That’s always exciting, especially when you’re standing there holding your ice-cold refreshment! And, I always enjoy running into students and their parents when I’m at Target purchasing certain unmentionables.
In all honesty, I really do love running into people I know when I am out and about. (Maybe not so much when I’m at the pool in a bathing suit….) It makes me feel like such a part of this community, and gives me a great sense of comfort to know that this really is a small town. (Of course, my children refuse to go shopping with me because they claim that it takes me an hour to get through any store. )
However, there really are some teacher perks worth mentioning. One of the coolest teacher perks is having a parent offer a class trip! Over the years we’ve visited many different Oregon State colleges, toured the Ice Cream Factory, eaten delicious food at the College of Hotel Management, and seen beautiful displays at Smith Museum of Art. (It was a bit awkward rushing the kindergarten students past the huge anatomically correct statues, if you know what I mean, but we managed!)
Last year we experienced the trip of a lifetime!
We happened to have in our class the grandson of a certain football coach, who happens to be royalty in this town. We won’t be naming any names. Well, this young fella’s father (our parent of the year, after this trip) arranged a trip to you know where. Yes, I’m talking SMITH FOOTBALL STADIUM! We boarded a bus, zipped across town, and landed in a little slice of heaven. After a wonderful tour of the stadium museum (anyone who is a fan should go) we headed to the locker room-home to all the young athletes, so many of which this community has become so proud. We stood where they stood, and tried to imagine just for a moment the excitement they must have felt as they headed down that long corridor to the field of dreams.
Then it was our turn to march down that corridor. And, on a beautiful, bright, sunny afternoon, Smithfield Elementary kindergarten ran screaming out of the tunnel at Smith Stadium and onto the field. It was an incredible sight. We ran with outstretched arms onto the grass, a shade of green that even Crayola couldn’t name, under a blue and white sky.
It was an unforgettable trip. The children may not remember morning meeting or story time- they may not remember the cool science projects or math time - they might not even remember the name of their teacher. But I have a feeling they will always remember that glorious day when they ran out onto the grass at the stadium. I can’t speak for all the kids, but I can tell you that it made me feel like a million bucks!
Now THAT’S a teacher perk!