Teachers, and advocates of teachers, have written a hundred articles about the so-called “myth of the teacher’s summer vacation.” (See, for example, this phenomenal Edutopia article.) While the summer does indeed provide a respite from the actual act of teaching (and from paychecks, unless the teacher takes on a second job or teaches summer school), I can’t imagine there’s a teacher out there who doesn’t do some school-related work during the summer between school years. Why is that?
Well, for one thing, a successful school year requires a great deal of careful planning. Good teachers don’t teach the exact same thing year to year; we tinker, we revise, we innovate. And a couple of paid work days in August certainly don’t provide sufficient time for all this necessary planning (although those days are much appreciated!).
For another thing, most teachers simply can’t turn off their “teacher brains.” If you’re a teacher and you’re like me, teaching is more than a job or profession; it’s a part of you. I am a teacher. It’s my identity. So, when I’m reading an article from The New Yorker and the sentence variety in a particularly well written paragraph catches my attention, it’s almost automatic that I’m opening Google Drive to add to my bank of model sentences to show students, or maybe I’m suddenly inspired to create a mini-writing lesson around this passage. Anything could trigger me to create a slide deck, revise the essential questions of a unit, or design a project that I think will engage my students in more supportive and meaningful learning next year.
I think it’s important for those who don’t teach to realize what exactly a teacher’s summer looks like. Yes, it’s a time for relaxing, for getting out of the classroom for a couple of months to recharge and refocus, but it’s also a time to refocus, develop, and prepare for the year ahead. I thought it might be fun–and illuminating, depending on who my reader is–to share a list of some of the things I happen to be doing on a random Thursday evening in July, about six weeks out from the first day of the next school year. (And, for my fellow teachers, I’d love if you would share your own list, long or short, in the comments below!) So, without further ado, here’s what I’m doing (or have done) tonight:
1. Writing this blog entry!
Okay, I began with the obvious. While I have not been a very active blogger thus far this summer, I still wanted to keep up my writing and reflection, as well as stay engaged in an active way with the online teacher and ed-advocacy community. (Thanks for reading, by the way!)
2. Reading education news and articles.
It can be tough to keep track of the latest policy news, pedagogical and learning research, and education blogs during the busy school year, so summer evenings are one time I get to regularly peruse what I’ve missed during the year or what is new for the summer.
3. Reading for school.
No, not books I’m going to be teaching next year. I’m talking about graduate school. One thing I love about having summer’s “off” is the time it affords me to continue my own education. I’m currently finishing classes for an MA in English this summer. The summer-only program demands a great deal of my “vacation,” but it allows me to focus on my teaching during the school year so my learning doesn’t interfere with my students’ learning.
4. Creating a vocabulary list.
In past years, the vocabulary instruction I’ve done in my senior International Baccalaureate class has been…spotty. I was inspired tonight to brainstorm some vocabulary lists for different parts of the upcoming year based on my reflection on students’ needs in the last couple of school years.
5. Going for a run.
Okay, so this is not strictly a “teacherly” activity. The school year doesn’t always leave me with the time or energy to stick to a regular exercise routine. I’m trying to redress that this summer by getting into something that resembles a routine in the hopes that I’ll be able to continue it into this school year.
6. Organizing and cleaning out my inbox.
After a year of accumulating emails, my inbox needs some organizing and purging. I’ve been taking a couple minutes every day for the last couple of weeks to delete or move 10 emails from my inbox. Come August, I’ll be ready to receive a new onslaught of digital communication from students, parents, colleagues, and administrators.
7. Watching Netflix.
All work and no play makes me a dull person. I have to give my brain a break every now and then, right? Plus, it’s crucial that this teacher stays up to date on the best shows so he can relate to his students! Teachers need to find some time each summer to treat themselves.
So, there you have it: my list of 7 things you may not have expected to find a teacher doing on a summer weekday evening. Or, maybe you did, and you have your own list of teacherly or not-so-teacherly activities to share. Please tell us all about your summer experience in the comments below so we can laugh, be inspired, sympathize, and/or be envious of you! I’d love to hear from administrators, too!