What Teachers Really Do In The Summer

Yesterday I wrote my weekly Slice and linked up to Two Writing Teachers. As I often do for that weekly writing challenge, I wrote about an aspect of my life outside the classroom. My goal was twofold… I wanted to try working with a simile in my writing and I wanted to capture in words the lovely ordinariness of my summer so far. I write in the summer because I enjoy it, but also because it helps me sharpen my thinking about teaching writers.

But, after I published that piece to my blog, I started thinking about all of the teaching related things opportunities that I make time for seek out in the summer. And I thought about how I am not alone in that endeavor.

Summer… How many times has someone who isn’t in the profession said to each of us, “Oh, you are so lucky. You have the summer off.”

Yes, it is true, many of us who teach are not in the classroom every day. We’re not facilitating Morning Meetings, conducting running records, conferring with writers and sharing read alouds with our students. We do have a bit more “me” time in the summer. But, I’d be hard pressed to come up with a list of teachers who don’t also stay busy during the summer doing things that will strengthen their practice and benefit their next group of students.

Because here’s the thing…we teachers are learners. And summer provides us with time for learning. We attend conferences, institutes and workshops. We take classes- in person or online, like the amazing Teachers Write! hosted by Kate Messner, Jo Knowles, Gae Polisner and Jen Vincent. And when we can’t be physically present for the gatherings we know will be rich with ideas we want to know about, we follow the tweets generously shared by those who are there. I for one am guilty of ignoring my family for days at a time as I sit glued to Tweetdeck , following educators like Fran McVeigh and Julieanne Harmatz  during  TCRWP’s week-long writing and reading institutes.

We read books- books that will help us teach more effectively.  My summer stack includes Disrupting Thinking by Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst, The Importance of Being Little by Erika Christakis, An Ethic of Excellence by Ron Berger and Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading by Vicki Vinton. And we connect with other educators in person or through online communities like #cyberpd. The faculty at my school have a Summer Reading Google Doc, where we share titles and make plans to get together to talk about the professional books we’re reading.

We participate in or follow along with Twitter chats, like Mary Howard’s Thursday evening  #G2Great, that we don’t always have time for during the school year.

We read children’s books- books we know our students are currently reading or might like to read, so that we can have meaningful conversations with our readers about those books. We scour used bookstores and fill our Amazon carts with titles we wish to add to our classroom libraries. We read reviews on blogs like Nerdy Book Club to find out what’s new in the world of children’s literature. We plot and plan for the annual August 10th Picture Book 10 for 10 when teachers all over the world reveal their lists and plans for 10 picture books they will use in their classrooms in the coming school year.

And we find ways to supplement our income… by tutoring, teaching summer classes, running summer camps, or house and pet sitting. Some of us present at conferences for free, just for the opportunity to share ideas and connect with other professionals.

We facilitate amazing volunteer programs. My colleague Sarah FitzHenry and her team spend time each week biking through town handing out books and popsicles.

We teachers are a dedicated group. Dedicated to growing readers and writers and scientists and problem solvers. Dedicated to doing our best in the classroom. Dedicated to learning and growing along with our students.

So yes, we are so lucky. We are “off” in the summer. But really, we’re not. We’re oh so on. And that makes us both lucky and amazing.


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