Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Myth of "Summers Off"

I don't do bulletin boards.  I don't do fringy patterns, big calendars, fun seasonal flair, or anything of the like.  Plenty of teachers do; I'm just not one of them.  There's good reason for it, you see.

As a child growing up with two teachers for parents, I remember summer days when our whole family would "go to school".  My brother and I always hoped that this meant hours spent in my father's gym, shooting hoops, swinging from ropes, or horsing around on gymnastics mats.  The other option, always to our dismay, was working in Mom's first grade classroom, methodically and tediously picking each and every staple out of all of her numerous bulletin boards (and she was one of "those" teachers).  This is why I don't do bulletin boards.  By age 10, I'd hit my lifetime quota.

Twenty-five years later, my parents are retired from teaching, but my wife and now have classrooms of our own.  And several days a week during our "lavish" summer vacations, we end up "going to school", often with our two small children in tow.  Instead of gyms or bulletin boards, my work goes into school gardens, service learning projects, constructing trail networks, and building the best possible curriculum that I can conceive of.  My wife, recognizing the importance of learning environment, spends hours creating a magical learning space where her pre-schoolers forget that they are even in a school.

And this is just the time spent in our classrooms, don't forget.  There is a reason that I'm just now (July 23rd) getting around to writing this blog, meant to be a signal of the end of the school year. So far this summer, both my wife and I have attended multi-day conferences, workshops, and fellowships.  We've given presentations, coordinated fundraisers, planned projects for the fall, and revamped curriculum to meet new standards.  She's been reading up on the latest research in classroom and behavior management, and I'm taking new technology for a test-drive, seeing what will work with our planned projects in the fall.  We both spend hours each day of our "summer vacation" working to make sure that next year is our best year, yet.

We're not the only ones.  Our colleagues, and countless educators across the nation, are spending their summer vacays preparing for your children next fall.  Soon, you'll probably receive a "Welcome Letter", and maybe a list of school supplies.  The letter might include a link to a website, classroom blog, or Twitter handle that your kid's teacher has been working on over the summer.  In the weeks before the school year starts, teachers around the nation will be at school nearly every day, pulling together all of the final details that we all know matter so much.  And on the first day of school, when kids around the nation put on their favorite outfit, grab their lunch boxes, and make their way to school, we'll be at the door, greeting them with a smile, and helping to set their young minds at ease.

So forgive me if I take offense to the idea of teachers having summers off...many of us have just worked too hard.