The problem is, though, that when the annoying staccato of the alarm clock wakes us at dawn, sounding the end of summer vacation, we won't be going back to school to meet our new students and dive into another year. Nope. First there's the week-long pedagogical potpourri of ice breakers, high-energy guest speakers (some of whom now spend more time talking about their love of teaching than actually teaching), cheesy morale-boosting sessions, meetings, meetings about what was discussed at previous meetings, and meetings about future meetings known as in-service.
Of course, a few of those meetings are necessary. A department meeting is helpful to establish goals for the year. An overview of changes made to the student and faculty handbooks is useful, although assuming everyone on the faculty is literate, it should take twenty minutes tops, not two hours. If in-service sessions consisted of these two things, and even, say, a meeting on state standards, meetings would be wrapped up before lunch the first day, and teachers would have the rest of the week to work in their classrooms to prepare for the year.
Simple, right? Of course it is. That's why it will never happen.
First, some people are addicted to meetings. Memos and emails just don't cut it. They need to announce things. Everything. I hope for the sake of those people's families that addiction is contained at work: "Honey, kids, come in the kitchen. You were asleep this morning when I got up, so I need to show you which bowl and spoon I used to eat cereal and where I sat at the table."
The other big reason in-service will never be streamlined is that some people think returning for work has to be a production. That's where the ice breakers, team-building exercises, and motivational speakers come into play. There are teachers who claim to actually like that stuff. I've concluded they're either delusional, or they were paid by the people in charge of those activities to convince teachers like me how fun they are.
For teachers who are healthy-minded and aren't paid actors, I've compiled an In-Service Survival Guide.
1. Stay caffeinated. This goes without saying, really, since most teachers quaff approximately 3,600 gallons of caffeinated beverages during a school year. But caffeine is even more important during in-service. Without it, hours of mind-numbing meetings coupled with the fact your body hasn't adjusted to getting up early will likely end up with you fighting off slumber--or falling asleep for a few minutes at time--annoyed that you could be sleeping comfortably in your bed or on your couch. So grab a cup of coffee on the way to work from someplace with good coffee. Don't settle for the Folgers in the teachers' workroom. Chances are you'll wind up having to drink that crap plenty during the year. As the day wears on, be sure to drink a soda or two.
2. Make lesson plans. Exciting? No. But productive. Why be sitting in a mind-numbing meeting, irritated you're not in your room planning, when you can be planning?
3. Bring a game. You can't stick with just lesson planning. Mix in some games--crosswords, Sudoku, cell phone aps.
You can also make up your own games. See my In-Service score card, for instance.
4. Read a book. I like silence when I'm reading, so this one doesn't work well for me. But some people can pull it off.
5. Maximize your pee. An added benefit of consuming caffeinated beverages is that you'll have to pee. But don't just head off to the bathroom at the first urge to go. Read over the day's itinerary and determine what will be the worst session. Even if it's painful, wait until you're a few minutes into that session, then walk out to use the restroom. The two-three minutes it takes to walk to the restroom, relieve yourself, and walk back to the meeting is often all the respite needed to survive until an actual scheduled break.
6a. Take a phone call. If your spouse, another family member, or a friend calls, it could be an emergency, right? Better answer the call just to be sure.
6b. Arrange a phone call. If you receive an agenda to start the day, look it over and spot the most painful session. Text a friend and ask him/her to call you during that time.
7. Invent a new education acronym. Not only will this provide you with a distraction, it could be the springboard to an early retirement and making millions hocking your product. Spend the first day coming up with the acronym and then write a short book replete with graphic organizers the rest of the week. There's really no need to develop a novel concept. Just pick an old edu-fad and rename it.
8. Imagine you're Bill Gates. Think of a field you have no experience in but would like to heavily influence. List changes you'd make to that field if you had billions of dollars worth of influence and a legion of "yes men."
9. Pretend you're somewhere else. Say you'd rather be at the beach. Bring in a basin full of sand to place your feet in, a lounge chair, some sun block to rub on, and head phones to listen to the sounds of the ocean on a phone app. Then just close your eyes. *Note - This works best if the speaker has an obstructed view of you.
10. Injure yourself. I've never tried this one, but if I get desperate enough someday, I might. I'm not talking about anything that would necessitate a trip to the ER, just something that would require you to leave the room--a papercut that draws blood, a fall out of your chair, spilling a hot drink on yourself, etc.