My favorite line in all of Downton Abbey is from the first season, the first or second episode. The Crawleys are sitting around their dining table, and Cousin Matthew notes that he could take care of something “on the weekend” to which the Dowager Countess queries, “What is a weekend?”
Sometimes it feels as though we haven’t gotten a weekend, a summer, a break for a very long time, or have any time that isn’t spent doing work, thinking about work, thinking about planning for work, and we spend lots of time feeling guilty for doing anything that isn’t work, and hoping like crazy that no one finds out we aren’t working when we aren’t at work. And I am fairly certain that while these feelings are particularly common among educators now more than ever, there are a few other professions where they exist as well.
Teachers are overwhelmed…and that’s really an inaccurate statement. There isn’t a word that expresses what teachers are experiencing. During the course of the day, they are fielding questions from children in front of them, online, via chat, via email, and queries from well-intentioned parents on behalf of their children either via chat, phone call to the office asking to talk to the teacher while they are teaching to get clarification, or via email with a follow up several additional times because their first one clearly wasn’t seen in the moment but still requires an answer.
Between classes and after school, teachers are posting videos for kids who won’t see them until later that night or on the weekend when they can get access, calling parents back, emailing parents about young ones typing “poop” in the chat for 90 minutes because their parents were on their own meeting in the other room, dealing with their own adult versions of typing “poop” in the chat for 90 minutes… They’re brainstorming with colleagues about how to modify a lesson to be able to be done with kids in the room, kids at home on their own, kids at home with parents to help, and kids who won’t see it until late at night.
I wondered while I was working on my weekly preview on Saturday whether the posts I share on social media upset the teachers in my world, seeming rude and disconnected. I post about walks to the park, Zoom wine class on Sunday, naps while the laundry washes itself, and quick stops for beer on the way home because it’s there and someone else brings it to me. When I looked through my planner, I realized that those are tiny moments of “weekend” I’ve captured… My work right now is very slinky-like, ebbing and flowing with short spurts of work time in between coverage for this, that, or the other thing, with a few longer sessions where deep work can happen… I got better about setting boundaries and still try to leave on time, but there are meetings after 5pm to attend, work for other projects to be done, follow up that can’t happen during business hours because they’re working too, and calls from my mother at 3am, afraid and feeling dizzy, when I have to be up in 2 hours to be at school well before a 7am meeting during which I listen to understand…not respond.
Cousin Violet, a part of me wishes that I could live your simple life. But I don’t know that I would be happy doing it. I might for a while, only having to worry about local gossip and social convention sounds quite relaxing, to be honest. I don’t know how long I could last though…
You said it best, “You’re a woman with a brain and reasonable ability. Stop whining and find something to do.” And so I shall…and take pleasure in the small moments of my weekends.