Summer Manifesto

Went hiking today.

(“And who the hell cares?” you’re thinking.  “I brushed my teeth today…and…?”)

But I didn’t just go hiking today.  I woke up (voluntarily) at 6 am, cleaned the kitchen, went grocery shopping, put everything away, drove an hour and a half to the mountains, hiked for three and a half hours ending up above the treeline and gaining a vertical altitude of over a half mile, drove back home, cooked food for the week, caught up on email and am now playing on my blog.

And I still have more energy than after a day of teaching.


The insane amount of energy required by my job perhaps became most clear to me last summer when a girlfriend and I went on a hiking bender and summited six 14ers in one week.  (14er = mountains over 14,000 feet in altitude, for you flatlanders).  During that week, I was up at 5am or earlier everyday.  My legs went numb from overuse.  I was hailed on.  Froze.  Subsisted on PBJs and granola bars.  Experienced lightning at high altitudes.  Lack of oxygen.  Etc, etc, etc.  And it was still easier than teaching the subjunctive to a bunch of unwilling adolescents.

Which got me to thinking.  I am blessed with two months of vacation.  So if I can just figure out what it is about my job that makes it more exhausting than riding a bike for 30 miles (uphill, into the wind) and eliminate those particular elements from my life for these two months, perhaps I could return to work in August a whole new kind of refreshed.  So after much thought and reflection, I now present you with…

My List of Things I Will Not, Under Any Circumstances, Be Doing this Summer

1.  Repeating everything I say three times.

I try to be a good teacher.  I really do.  “Ok, kids,” I say in an effort to save time.  “I need everybody’s pencils down and eyes on me before I continue.”

Thing is, a teenager can have his eyes on you and his mind on the attractive girl next to him.  Or look like he’s taking notes, but really be writing one lyric of his favorite song over and over and over again. Between rescuing Johnny from Bobby who is pinching him under the desk, confiscating Besty’s love letter to her college boyfriend, and waking up David who can sleep with his eyes open, I begin to sound like some cracked-out education parrot. In the ultimate irony, the phrase I end up repeating most is “Well, what did I just say?”  (To which the inevitable response is “I dunno.” at which point I have to repeat myself again, again.)  Then there are the students that just defy all logic.  The ones I swear are just trying to make me crack.

Raised hand.

“Yes, Suzie?”

“Um.  What are we doing?”

“Well.  Were you listening?  What did I just say?

“To get out our notebooks and write this down.”


On the outside:  “Sooooo…what should you probably be doing?”

“Getting out a notebook and writing this down.”

Oh my god, somebody just shoot me now.

2.  Acting out everything I say

I teach Spanish.  Repeating myself is only for the good days.  Most of the time, I also have to act out at least three-quarters of what I say in order to prevent an exceptionally high number of blank stares and drooling.

Cuántos…años…tienes? I say shrugging my shoulders and holding up my hands to indicate that I’m asking a question, then showing a number on my fingers to give them a hint, then pointing directly at the person I’m talking to.


Años.  Uno dos tres…¿catorce?  ¿Tienes catorce años?  I flash the number fourteen on my hands and raise my eyebrows.


¿Uno?  ¿Tienes un año?  ¿Eres un bebé?   I hold up one finger, then act like I’m rocking a baby in my arms.

“Oh.  Uh.  Yo…tener…uh…quince…anos.”  I have fifteen anuses.  Awesome.  That gosh-darn ñ.  Trips up the gringos every time.  Only by drawing on every ounce of my willpower do I resist acting out that particular utterance.  Too likely to get me fired.

You can pat your head and rub your belly?  Rookie. Try switching between two languages, confiscating a cell phone and acting out “Would you like to accompany me to the movies?” Yeeeeah…now that’s impressive.

3.  Sugar Coat

Teachers are masters at toning down our  true thoughts.  Actually, I rather think that we’re masters at toning down what really ought to be said but manners, protocol and paychecks demand a certain aversion to bluntness.  A few of the most common examples:

True thought:
Blargh!!  Oh dear god, teenager in low-cut jeans bending over ooooh yuck, yuck, yucky-yuck buttcrack ewwwww!
“Suzie…honey…you might want to pull up your pants a little…”
or buy some mom-jeans…

True thought:
Excuse me, Ms. Smith, but what do you mean by “There’s nothing we can do?!”  He’s your child, you brought him into this world, now go buy some parenting books and a straightjacket and raise your little mini-me!
“So could you talk to me a little bit about what strategies you’ve tried so far with Bobby?”

True thought:
Please don’t let anyone show up for help after school.  I just want to go home.  Nokidsnokidsnokidsnokidsnokids…..
“Hi guys!  I’m so glad you came by!”

Three simple things that you wouldn’t think could make such a difference.  But this little contract with myself opens up a whole new world.  I can say things once.  Better listen up closely, or I might even take advantage of my newfound freedom to mess with you.

“Hey, Teach, how’s your summer going?”
“Pretty good.  Enjoying myself.”
“Sorry…my phone cut out…what was that?”
“I said I just killed a hippopotamus.”
“Three potatoes and a thimble!”
The possibilities are endless.

I’m free to actually hike and chat with my friends without having to actually hike, chat with my friends and act out everything I say.  Which could get really awkward when we’re catching up on gossip.

“Yeah, so Candace has a new boyfriend.  They were hanging all over each other when we were out at a happy hour the other day.  Don’t think it’s serious though…she’s just using him for sex.”

Like I said.  Awkward.

And finally, I can say what I really think.  Like, “If you haven’t signed up to follow my blog you’re a poohead.  Now do it so I can at least pretend I’m popular since we all know it’s only about appearances.”

Or something like that.  Hypothetically speaking.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to have lunch with a friend.  Whoops…old habits…I mean, now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to drink a beer before noon.

Because I can.

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