Our topic for this week is a pretty vital one. We all teach our hearts out from September to June (or your district’s equivalent), but let’s face it–like the kids, we teachers look forward to the summer vacation too. What many of my non-teacher friends usually don’t realize is that teachers do not just spend their summers sitting at the beach soaking up the sun (well, not entirely). For many of us, summer affords us the time we so desperately crave during the school year to think, reflect, and recharge so that we are our best versions of ourselves on Day 1.
This week, you’ll see how we are many times more excited to return to our classrooms after an experience in a far-off place. You’ll learn how reminding yourself why you love your content is a revitalizing practice. And finally, we’ll see how sometimes, a long break from school actually provides a wonderful chance for learning.
What can you do to reset and refresh during summer break?
I hope you enjoy–both this entry, and your summer.
– From Tom (follow @NVOTomWalsh), a high school social studies teacher in New Jersey:
For many different reasons, I believe traveling is one of the best ways to recharge your batteries after a long school year. By planning a trip you give yourself more than just a goal of getting to the end of the school year–you give yourself an event, however big or small, to look forward to. I plan and book most of my trips in the middle of March or early April so that I have extra time to research the sights, restaurants and activities of my destination. The trip is paid for during the school year. For many teachers who don’t get paid during the summer, this is another nice perk.
Traveling also gives teachers an opportunity to learn more about the subjects that they love. I am a high school social studies teacher and traveling has given me the opportunity to see and experience things that make my classroom a richer environment for learning. By visiting places like the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam, Robben Island in South Africa where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, and the Killing Fields outside of Phnom Penh, I have been able to transform my lessons by providing real world insight into these events and making the information presented in class more tangible for students.
Finally, the most rewarding aspect of traveling is that of a human element. So much is lost when we simply learn about something through books, videos, FaceTime, Skype and social media. Yes, the facts are important but there is no substitute for actual life experiences like having a quiet pint in Dublin and talking to the locals, walking through a night market in Chiang Mai and smelling food being cooked in hawker stalls in the humid night air or having a delicious meal in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower at a relatively unknown restaurant. These experiences are what fuel my desire to go and see (or in some cases revisit) another part of the world each summer and allow me to return to a profession that I love each September recharged, revitalized and excited to start another year.
– From Kelley (follow @KelleyKulick), a high school English teacher in New Jersey:
Recently, at a friend’s backyard barbecue, I was asked a question I’ve gotten a million times in my life: How do I get my child to like reading? This is the English teacher version of “Oh, you’re a doctor? Great! Does this mole/scar/mark look weird to you?”
After I launched into my usual commentary on modeling reading for enjoyment, I remembered something a veteran teacher told me during my first year in my current district: “To an extent, we all have to be cheerleaders for our material.” I talked about how teacher enthusiasm is a key to developing student interest—if they see that we like our material, they grudgingly end up coming along for the ride, and then realize that they liked the ride more than they expected.
The summer, for me, needs to be about recapturing that joy that we all have but sometimes have to fake as the strains of a school year weigh on us. Live without bells and schedules: if I want to read, I read, but if I want to play Candy Crush, I’m playing Candy Crush!
Next, get out and celebrate and embrace your nerdery. We all got into this job because we love the material we teach and we like discussing that material and bringing it to other people. Get back to the source—read books that grab you, write for fun, visit historical sites and museums, see the productions you just didn’t have time to see during the year. Talk about them with your friends and family. Engage with your subject because it brings you joy—not because you need to break it down by a set of standards. By unplugging the lesson planning parts of our brains, we get to recharge our batteries and approach September with the rose-colored glasses of our first teacher September (without that first September terror!).
– And the last one is from me (follow @MrKrapels)
So, Tom and Kelley pretty much stole my ideas for this post. I fully endorse both of the ways they choose to refresh over the summer months. In fact, when Kelley sent me her great idea, my wife and I were at Barnes & Noble, in the middle of our annual summer book splurge.
This year’s haul…
And, like Tom, I truly relish any opportunity to skip town and go see something. Just a few days ago, I was trying to figure out how to somehow get my hands on tickets for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child when we travel to London this August. I suppose I’ll sit outside the theatre and beg…
But, what I decided to discuss here is how summer is the best opportunity for teachers to learn. Yes, I became a teacher because I wanted to work with kids, and because I love my content, and because I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. But, I also love to learn. So much happens during the school year, that sometimes it is easy to forget this.
So, for me, summer (in addition to resting, reading, traveling, and spending time with those I love) is about finding some new ideas for next year. I’ll pick up one new book that may help me in the classroom. This summer, I’ve been moving fairly quickly through Kelly Gallagher’s In the Best Interest of Students. It’s a great read and takes a deeper look at the strengths and weaknesses of the Common Core standards, while also providing great classroom strategies. Gallagher’s website (linked above) is a great resource too, or follow him @KellyGToGo.
I also like to attend conferences or other professional learning when possible. Last year I found out that I would be teaching a course, “Literature and Philosophy of Asia.” While an amazing class, I really had very little schema for teaching it. Luckily, the National Consortium for Teaching about Asia runs a fantastic week-long workshop on Teaching East Asian Literature in the High School at Indiana University. This experience was so valuable for me. What I learned there in a week will undoubtedly help me for the rest of the time I teach this course.
I’m finishing this entry about a half-hour before I leave for Denver, Colorado to attend the ISTE 2016 conference, an international expo and conference for educational technology. I am beyond excited, as I’ve never been to an education event of this magnitude, and I’ve been connecting with other teachers attending ISTE for the past few months. I’ll also be joined with some of my fantastic colleagues, and I am grateful that I will have this opportunity to do some real reflection and learning alongside those that I will be working with next year.
My hope is that I will be able to share many great ideas over the next few days as I’m going to be flooded with all sorts of cool stuff in Denver, so check back next week!
Thanks to the contributors, and please, shoot me a comment either here or @MrKrapels if you’d like to add some of your own great ideas to this blog.
Happy summer everyone!