When people find out that I am a teacher, one of the first things they say is, “It must be nice to have your summers off.” Yes, thank you, it is nice to have a more relaxed schedule over the course of the summer break. But in all honesty, I would be fine if I taught year round. There are a lot of teachers who don't really have the whole summer “off” because their school operates on a different type of school calendar. I do look forward to summer, not because it means that I don’t have to go to work. I love being in the classroom and working with students each day. The reason I look forward to the summer is because it presents opportunities to seek new learning experiences that will enable me to return to my classroom refreshed, with new ideas and hopefully improved skills that will help me to provide the best learning experiences for my students.
Summer is also a time to connect with other educators. I have been fortunate to meet a lot of educators over the past few years, but even more so this summer because I had the opportunity to be a part of several tremendous conferences and learning experiences. So yes, it is nice to be a teacher and to have breaks throughout the year and especially during summer, but I bet if you ask some of your friends who are teachers if they really have their summers “off”, I bet almost all of them will tell you no, and maybe even follow up with a laugh. And here is why.
Summer is a time for a lot of things. For some, one of the benefits of being in education, is that many educators do have the summers off. But we all know the reality of it is that we don't really have the time off. Teachers have time of course for some of the normal summer things like sleeping in, spending more time with friends and family, traveling and not worrying about setting the alarm. However, it is a valuable time for teachers to do even more, on a personal and professional basis. The summer opens up more time to think about one’s practice and take advantage of the many opportunities out there for professional development and growth. It is time to work on becoming better for our students and colleagues.
Teachers devote most of their time during the school year, focusing on students’ skills and needs, and creating a supportive, positive, meaningful, engaging learning environment for students. For some students, school is the only place they feel safe. Each teacher's classroom is unique and presents an opportunity for teachers to create a whole new world. It can immerse students in authentic and meaningful learning opportunities. It can take away the negatives that might be a part of a student’s life, and replace it with hope and wonder. We create a space for students to develop their skills, to become reflective, to have choice and voice in their learning. We empower students in learning and provide the supportive space that students need. Teachers work to be a constant source of support and guidance for each student each day.
And contrary to the “school day schedule”, when the day ends, these “tasks, jobs, responsibilities” do not end with the ringing of the bell. We may leave our “work” on our desk in our classroom, but our “work” continues beyond the bell schedule. The impression that we make on our students and the atmosphere we create, the guidance we provide have an impact that does not end when they leave our classroom nor when they leave the school for the day. Each student takes something unique away from the classroom when they leave us. Whatever our connection is with each student, the relationships that we build will grow and flourish throughout the year and continue when the year ends. We are their teachers, but more importantly, we are their mentors, providing more than just a lesson in the classroom. We guide students and support them, no matter what. As Rita Pierson said, “Every kid needs a champion.” Teachers need to do more than just teach, we must engage, encourage and empower our students. We don't just teach. We give ourselves and our support to our students. It is exhausting, in a wonderful way. And if you leave your classroom at the end of the day, and you are not exhausted when you get leave, then something is wrong. There is more work to be done. We have students who need us.
The Life of Teachers
Teachers put a lot of time in outside of the classroom and that time is not evident to the rest of the world. The hours at night or on the weekend grading papers, making parent phone calls, preparing lessons, are not factored into how people view the time and place of the act of teaching. I do not see this as negative, it is just the reality that because the act of school happens during an 8 hour day experience, that is where the act of teaching ends. Maybe in the past “school” was viewed this way because technology did not exist to enable communication and collaboration beyond the school day. But the work involved and the personal investment was and still is the same today.
Learning & Leading
I am a continuous learner. Each summer I have used the time to learn more, to read, to connect, to reflect and to prepare for the new school year. My summer goal is to work hard so I can start stronger and be better than I was the year before. And no worries, there was still plenty of time to sleep in or sit outside with a cup of coffee, but the computer, a book or a magazine were always there. I use the time I have because I want to learn, to connect, to develop skills so I can be the best teacher and mentor that I can be for my students. I will do whatever it takes to make that happen.
Remember to give yourself freedom and flexibility with your schedule. You have to make time for friends and family, to connect with people that are important and that matter. Once the school year starts, schedules become very hectic and time passes quickly. There are so many learning opportunities out there and while there is not time for everything, there can be time for a little bit of everything. So decide what is best for you. Decide what will help you be the best for your students.