Ah, summer! Those three months that every teacher claims are the reason they signed onto the profession! After all, who wouldn’t want a job where you get a vacation for all of June, July, and August! That’s enough sarcasm. Here’s the truth. The vast majority of teachers are paid on a 10-month contract. (Ok, so two months off instead of three, right?) There is much more to the story than the perceived time off.
I have been teaching for 18 years in North Carolina . I moved to a new school five years ago that was part of the North Carolina New Schools Project. Because of this move, I was required to attend extra training outside my county requirements both during the school year and during the summer months. Granted some of the summer training was offered as “optional”, but to be the best I could be for my students I felt compelled to participate and learn as much as I could to bring into our program. Thus, for the past 4 summers, I have spent anywhere from 2-4 weeks of my 8-week “vacation time” attending events directly related to my job. After last summer, I promised my own two children that this summer would be different. I promised I would not leave them this summer that we would spend our entire time off together. My time off for the upcoming summer is currently scheduled to be from May 25-July 27 and I am looking forward to several things.
1. Spending time with my own children.
I have great difficulty during the school year spending all day pushing my students, reminding them of their responsibilities, keeping them on the right track and then coming home and repeating the process with my own two children. My boys are both in elementary school – a kindergartener and a fifth grader. Often, they see me come home too exhausted to do much of anything beyond the very basics of their care. They do occasionally have to spend evenings with their grandparents while I attend events at my school. Also, as I mentioned before, they’ve not had a full summer with me in 4 years. Under current budget constraints, we won’t be doing very much traveling, but I do plan to purchase a season pass to a local swimming pool and plan some day trips to nearby attractions. I am really looking forward to riding our bikes together, challenging them to some video games, and cooking for them more often.
Maintaining the schedule that I do during the school year, I don’t often have the luxury of seeing films in the theater or on Netflix. When I’ve tried to watch films at home at night, I tend to doze off long before they are over. I am looking forward to working my way through my Netflix queue and catching up on some of the best films of the past several years.
What would summertime be without a good book to read? I always do a great deal of reading during the summers. My parents gave me a nook for Christmas and I have had precious little time to do more than load it with an extensive list of books that I want to read. It’s filled with classics, poetry, and contemporary fiction. I am excited about sitting by the pool, watching my boys swim, and reading anything from Stephen King to Maya Angelou to Steig Larsson.
4. Family Vacation
Every year for as long as I can remember, my parents have taken a trip to the North Carolina coast over the Fourth of July. This year will be no exception. My children have come to expect it and I am grateful to my parents for making this wonderful trip happen every year, no matter how tight finances seem to get. This is one week that we all pull together and just enjoy being with each other in a more relaxed environment – well, as much as my mother can relax!
5. Laying out my semester calendar for Fall 2011
While this is not something that is required of me and not something I look forward to, it is a necessary part of my summer. As soon as I know what course(s) I will be teaching, the planning begins. Even if it’s not on paper at first, it’s never far from my thoughts, especially if I am assigned to teach a course that I’ve never taught before. Once my family returns from the beach, this task becomes more prominent in my thoughts and I spend about 10 hours a week planning and researching, looking for new research on best practices and finding ways to apply the research to my lesson plans. I also know that if I show up for the first teacher workday with my calendar already laid out, then those few precious days before the students arrive can be spent creating the more detailed lesson plans necessary for the first few weeks of school.
6. NBPTS conference and National Teacher Rally
Yes, I know. I promised my children that I would not go away this summer. This is the one exception that I am going to make. The timing places it right at the end of my vacation time, so much so that I will miss the first couple of workdays of my school year (increasing the need for me to complete #5 above). I achieved National Board Certification just over a year ago and when I heard that the NBPTS conference would be happening on the same weekend as the Save our Schools Million Teacher March on Washington, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to be involved in this process. I participated in a letter writing campaign last year and was one of thousands of public school teachers who wrote a personal letter to President Obama explaining my experience and the reality of my classroom. I became part of a national professional learning community that is growing more every day. To meet some of these incredible educators face to face will be the best motivation I can experience to send me back into the classroom in the fall.