Jun 26, 2012 0 Share

Too Much of a Good Thing

Illustration of woman lying in hammock on summer day.

For the typical teacher—and no, I’m not 100 percent sure what that is—the last day of school brings with it a myriad of emotions not unlike those experienced by the 18-and-under set. Contrary to what many young people would like to believe, we are working just as hard, perhaps, some would say, even harder, than the students themselves. Yes, we’re getting paid to be in school, but the enormous weight of the importance of our jobs to our students’ future cannot be measured in dollars and cents. So summer break arrives at a point in time where most, if not all, teachers have been counting the days right along with the students in their care. We’ve been dreaming of this break at levels at least equivalent of those we teach, if not more.

As a special-education teacher, my summer vacation is not quite on par with that of my general-education counterparts. I have three weeks “off,” then school for six weeks, and then two weeks off again at the end of the summer. Having been in circumstances over the past few summers where I was not working from June through August, I have come to the conclusion that this summer’s routine is going to be just as beneficial for me as it is for the students who qualify for Extended School Year (ESY). The intent behind ESY is to allow for students with IEPs to avoid that big gap in programming that would most likely result in significant regression in skills.

While I cannot speak for every teacher who happens to have an autism spectrum or related diagnosis, I know that for my own sake, I am much better off when I have just enough time off to rest and recharge, but not so much time that I find myself slipping headlong into a somewhat numbing, isolating routine. That’s what happens to me when I get too much of a good thing, such as vacation. I spent last week—our first week off here in my corner of Pennsylvania—talking myself out of going into school to get things ready for ESY. The compulsive nature of my wiring drives me, and when I am “on a roll” such as I have been for most of this school year, I am afraid to stop for more than a day or perhaps two. Any more than that and fear creeps in that I will fall into the trap of procrastination shared by so many of my ASD fellows. I will go from being driven to accomplish all that I am responsible for and then some (so many ideas just waiting for me to have time to start implementing them!) to a shut-down mode that keeps me sedentary and effectively useless for days or weeks on end.

This summer will be different than summers past, because my future is as secure as I could hope for, and I love what I do for a living. That love will motivate me this summer during my vacation to keep my head out of the dark recesses of my autism. There’s so much positive I can focus on that I am more optimistic than ever that I will have little difficulty using my Aspie powers for good instead of evil in the coming weeks. I can only hope that my students who will be joining us this summer will see – if not now, than one day, perhaps! – that the more practice we have in finding that balance, the better. I did not go into school last week, and I somehow managed to not feel completely crazed by taking my first full week vacation since 2011. As for the next two weeks, let’s just say I’m planning on taking it one day at a time!