Summer's coming to a close for teachers across America...and as much as we love what we do, it's always a huge relief to finally arrive at June, July, and August. Some folks have the idea that teachers don't work over the summer; but actually that's the time of year when we get some of our most productive work completed.
When I first started teaching (1976!) I took home piles of work each night--papers to grade, lessons to plan, professional articles to read, paperwork for special needs children--and spent a couple of hours every evening finishing what didn't get done during the day. Summers were for workshops, casual time with colleagues, and a lot of serious soul searching. You'd think after 20 years I'd get better at that, but I still carry home files, articles, lesson plans, and paperwork--most of it can be condensed on my laptop but it's still all there. And I don't know a single teacher who leaves her laptop at school over the summer...all that information comes home with us, and we stab at it, dig in it, work at it, worry over it, and plan with it. The good part is we can do that in our pajamas, we can plan at 2AM or 2PM, we can do it with a margarita in hand, we can use our grandchildren for guinea pigs as we practice some of our lessons, and we can just relax because we're not being "tested." We're not punching anyone's clock but our own. But to say we have the summer "off" is just not accurate.
Teaching is an art, not a science. It is a profession of inquiry. We must question ourselves first and foremost, so we can make sure what we are teaching is relevant for our students. We are our own worst enemies in that regard. We question everything we do. There's a great book out there called The Courage to Teach by Parker Palmer, and it's all about the painful and necessary conflicts that teachers face every day. It's all about the self-doubt and self-discovery that's part and parcel of the teaching profession. For almost every teacher I know, teaching is a mission, not a vocation. It's what we're called to do. Whether we're teaching in the biggest classroom on campus, the library, or the smallest classroom on campus, the principal's office...we're committed to what we do. Summer gives us a chance for reflection and personal growth. Don't worry, they're not paying us for those three months. We take the pay we're given for 9 months of work, and we stretch it out over twelve.
So for the next fifteen days, we're spending some time with the families we miss too much during the school year, we're hanging out with friends whom we miss too much during the school year, we're getting the rest we miss too much during the school year, and we're saying a few prayers for the children headed our way.
Sharpen those pencils, stock up on new crayons and glue, find a pair of cool shoes and a trendy backpack, and we'll see you in a few!