GOOD

Do Teachers Disappear on Weekends and Holidays?

How one teacher fights back against the perception that teachers cease to exist outside the classroom.

The other day, I overheard one of my female students say that on weekends and summers, teachers cease to exist. “It was like so weird,” she was telling her classmate, “I was at the mall and I saw Mrs. Halls at Anthropologie looking at skirts or something and I was like, 'No way.' I mean, I kind of thought teachers just went into a closet or something at the end of school and then came out in time for class. It was weird.”


As her friend laughed in agreement, I realized that although she was kidding, I couldn't really relate—and not just because, as a professional educator, I had fairly incontrovertible evidence that teachers do not disappear the moment students stop looking at them. I grew up attending a cozy little school in the Amazon, in a small community made up primarily of American expats, whose lives were so intertwined that it never occurred to me to wonder where my teachers went at the end of the day because I knew them. They were my teachers, yes, but they were also part of the network of adults that made up my life.

Although it is abnormal that I grew up barefoot and hiding boa constrictors in the drawer of my school desk, as far as my relationships with teachers went, the interconnected world of my childhood was not all that different from that of rural kids everywhere. My students, on the other hand, live in wealthy suburban North America, where their parents seem to have literally interpreted the old English proverb that “a man’s home is his castle.” In these climate controlled McMansions, the moats may be metaphorical, but the manicured lawns and theater-sized entertainment systems perform the equivalent function of isolating the inhabitants from his and her neighbors.

The soulless, community-disintegrating nature of suburban living is a hobby horse of mine, so I am aware that when I start writing about it you most likely hear my tone and begin to picture me standing on a soapbox in an old flannel coat, foaming at the mouth. But just because I am a zealot does not necessarily mean I am wrong. In this age of “cheap” gasoline, we teach our children early on to accept a lifestyle where school, work, play, commerce and habitation are separated by distances commutable only by automobile. Although they yearn for connection, they come to believe that it is normal and even virtuous to make for yourself a lonely island of stuff.

My students’ comments about the life I apparently do not have outside the doors of the school are just another symptom of the way in which this disjointed lifestyle has dismantled our sense of each other—and of our community. While I am aware that not everyone can live in a small town, or a clump of expats in the Amazon rainforest, or even in the (perhaps) less-isolating world of the city, I do think it is important for us to stop seeing our disassociated way of life as inevitable.

Personally, I drive 40 minutes to get to work each day and if I want to keep teaching, I am going to keep on doing it. So I have no right to lecture and no easy solutions to offer. Perhaps there are none. Perhaps we are so far down this path that all we can really hope for is to make tiny steps back towards connecting with our fellow humans. I have argued previously for increased teacher vulnerability and for teacher-student interaction on Facebook. As a moderate technophobe and lover of all things tangible and raw, I am aware that the internet and a little human-to-human interaction in class are a poor substitute for the sort of community lost as we have created our current culture of isolation.

I cannot fix the situation and I certainly cannot make my students raze their homes and talk their parents into building co-housing units over on the school soccer field. But perhaps, by showing them as much as possible that I do exist when the day is done, I can help them begin to believe that maybe—just maybe—it doesn't have to be like this.

Josh Barkey is a high school art teacher in North Carolina.

Articles
Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Millions of people in over 150 countries across the globe marched for lawmakers and corporations to take action to help stop climate change on Friday, September 20.

The Climate Strikes were organized by children around the world as an extension of the of the "Fridays for Future" campaign. Students have been walking out of classrooms on Fridays to speak out about political inaction surrounding the climate crisis.

"We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart," organizers say.

There's no doubt the visual images from the marches send a powerful message to those on the ground but especially those watching from around the world. GOOD's own Gabriel Reilich was on the scene for the largest of the Climate Strikes. Here are 18 of the best signs from the Climate Strike march in New York City.

Keep Reading Show less

September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

Keep Reading Show less
Health
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less
Health