I have been teaching for 23 years, and I keep hearing that a perk of the profession is having the summers off. And I do enjoy my summers, not because I am off but rather because I am on in a different way than the school year allows.
Admittedly, I do enjoy sleeping in and taking a LOT of naps. It sort of makes up for the 10-12 hour work days I put in for 270 days, which doesn’t include the dances, forced volunteerism at at least four ball games a year to sell tickets thanks to statewide redbook regulations (future blog post material here), student events I choose to attend to create better connections, and the grading and lesson planning I do at home.
I also enjoy the freedom of setting my own schedule every day for about a month and a half minus a few required school and committee meetings. During the summer, I try to get up and write while drinking my morning coffee. It centers me and starts my day off with a little quiet time where God and I can sit down and just be. Also, I am practicing what I preach to students all year: “To be a better writer, you have to write every day.”
I wear jeans or shorts every day! Some days I don’t make one solitary decision and play SimCity until my eyes are bleary or read a real honest to goodness book instead of a student essay! I even get to use the restroom whenever I want to during the summer, which is an incredible freedom! Yes, teachers definitely have some summertime perks built into their 270 day contract!
But if you still think that most teachers simply take one or two months off free of everything “teachery,” I am about to burst your bubble. That does not mean I am disgruntled… well, maybe a little when people sincerely believe that I have the summers “off”. Summers makes me a far better teacher when I return in August and meet my new set of 7th graders. Here are some of the things my colleagues and I do every summer to some degree. We tend to pack a lot of things into a very short amount of time!
Attend lots of professional teaching conferences:
Teachers attend day/week/month/summer long conferences in order to improve their craft. Yes, teaching is a craft! Here are my conferences this summer:
- IFL Technology Conference – This was my first official conference of the summer. Teachers from across the state gathered together in Lexington, Kentucky to learn everything they could about Google, Microsoft, incorporating technology effectively in a classroom to better engage students and drive content. Thanks to this learning, I created a website for the WEKY conference, which I am in charge of coordinating this year, and a template for an online literature book circle template which you can have since you have read this far in my blog post! I have also set up Google virtual classrooms for every one of my classes next year and developed content for each.
- Morehead Writing Project: I spent the last three weeks of June with a phenomenal group of teachers at the Morehead Writing Project, one of the many writing projects across the country, that offers powerful professional development teachers to help them become stronger writers, teachers, researchers, and leaders. If you have never attended one of these projects, you are missing out! It is work, but the rewards are immeasurable! We came in as strangers but were so close by the that is was hard to leave on that final Friday. The bond made in only three weeks is fostered by the intensity of the program- three weeks together from 9-4, weekends off. Lots of writing, sharing, learning, and teaching each other using the writers workshop model endorsed by the National Writing Project makes this an unforgettable experience. I have been affiliated with the writing project for at least 10 years now, and every year I hear the same words from the new fellows when they leave. “This PD changed me for the better.” They are the very same words I say every single year.
- National Writing Project Retreat – If you continue to work with your regional writing project, you will never be bored. Because of this amazing organization, I have so many opportunities to try on new hats. This year is no exception. I was asked to attend a retreat in Denver, Colorado the second week of July. The is my vacation, albeit a working one! Deanna Mascle invited Liz Prather and me to the conference where we are supposed to help write a monograph to support other writing project sites as they launch online summer institutes. I can’t think of a better way to spend part of my summer than in a room with energetic, passionate writers and educators.
Take tests voluntarily!
Yes, take tests voluntarily! This year I tried to earn my Google Level 1 Educator badge. You can read the blog post I wrote to find out how I did.
Go to doctor/dentist appointments
I am pretty intense about my school year, and whenever possible, I do not like to use days where I can teach to go to doctors dentists, optometrists, podiatrists, or whatever doctor I have to see. Whenever possible, I put those appointments off for the summer. That reminds me. I still need to set up my appointments. Yikes! I only have two weeks left to get all that taken care of!
Spend time with friends and family
My friends are tough. They understand my schedule and are low maintenance. My occasional lunches or dinners with them are a luxury, and while I often eat my meal in 20 minutes or less because I have learned to eat quickly thanks to 20 minute lunches that turn into 15 minutes after walking the kids down and waiting in the lunch line, the time after catching up after the meal is restorative. Most of my friends are in education, so this gives us a chance to see one another outside of teaching.
I tried the marriage thing….twice, but my poor ex-husbands simply couldn’t hang with the intensity of my career. I admire teachers who can teach, be married, have children, and stay in touch with family. For them, this time is invaluable. Their children get to actually see their parents and spouses can reconnect.
I wasn’t built that way. God chose a different path for me, and I don’t regret it. I do have one friend who has withstood the test of time, and I think that is because we simply accept each other the way we are. Jules Downing, is amazing. She understand my crazy schedule. We live a few thousand miles away from each other now, but each time we talk, we pick up as if no time has passed. As a result, we have been friends for 33 years. Everyone should have one of these friends! I am blessed!
One of the great things about summer is I have built in time to improve what didn’t work last year. A good deal of my time in the summer is spent assessing which lessons worked with students and which lessons need to be trashed or severely overhauled.
This year, I am having to trim my curriculum as my school has decided to do away with 90 minute block classes reducing my class to just 50 minutes. I am not happy about this (this may be blog post worthy, too.), but I have to work with what I have. Teachers are in the habit, after all, of making the best out of any situation. Additionally, I am also teaching 4 preps next year, so that means a good amount of this summer has been allotted to curriculum planning.
Yes, I absolutely adore my summers, but not for the reasons those outside of the education field often think. It isn’t time off; it is time on. It is time to make my classroom a better place for my students than it was the year before. It is time to make me a better teacher than I was the year before. It is time to reconnect with God, myself, and my many low-maintenance friends so I can head back into the classroom reinvigorated and ready to give all I can to my students.
One of my colleagues, Amanda Howes Mason, posted this on her Facebook page this morning: “I should be asleep… instead, it’s almost 1:00 am, and I’m thinking about the upcoming school year. That’s what teachers do.”
Yes, Amanda, that is exactly what we do, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!