Cool for the Summer

I’d like to talk about summer.

I’ve heard more than one person say how nice it must be to be a teacher and have your summers “off.” I immediately think, yeah, that would be nice, because I don’t take my summers “off.”

This summer I signed up to teach four weeks of reading club in summer school. For me it’s a chance to do something different than what I do everyday during the school year (pull out small groups of struggling readers and teach strategies and skills to help them become more successful) and work in a different environment (a whole classroom of kids who choose to be there and are motivated to read independently). Sometimes there is an overlap of students, but most often I find that the summer group shows me a whole other side of teaching and group of students. I get to see eyes light up when they talk about the book they chose to read the night before for homework (homework!) and students scribbling away in their reader’s response journal to talk about what they’re reading now.

Of course it’s my choice to sign up and teach summer school and, yes, I do get paid to do it, but in truth, I sign up because I get to do a different kind of teaching. I get to see a different side of kids. I get to build relationships with students I wouldn’t normally work with – and guess what? Next year, when summer reading club sign ups go out, I bet I’ll have kids I don’t know come up to me again asking, “Are you going to be the summer reading teacher?” and displaying a bright smile when I tell them I will. They look forward to it. So, it’s a choice with serious consequences.

Sure, I took some vacations, like most people do when they have time off. I spent time with family and friends. I went to some events I couldn’t have attended during the school year. I caught up with people I hadn’t seen.

Then I signed up for a two-week summer writing and leadership institute. I paid for it myself (although it was humorously underpriced); I didn’t ask permission from my principal (he doesn’t even know I went); and I won’t be typing up a report to present to the board. I signed up because, for me, being a teacher and a professional means that I grow. Each day I learned something that I will use in my practice and improve the lives of the students I work with during the year and in summer school.

I hear about summers “off” a lot and I understand the resentment. I get jealous, too, following friends' trips around the world on Facebook and feeling a little jilted in the lot I’ve given myself. But summer is a time when I recharge and get ready for a new set of students, new plans for how to improve them as learners, new ideas about how to be the best teacher I can be. The way I recharge looks different than my world traveler friends because we’re different people. Like a light switch, I use my summer “off” in order to turn myself back “on.”

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