My girls are happily settled in their morning summer learning program, so here I am at my own school, posting this blog entry before I settle into working. The building’s pretty quiet without the students, but like many schools, we offer our space to a wide array of summer camps, so I’m not the only person in the building by a long shot.
But what do teachers do during the summer? There’s no grading, which is often, I think, all that people think of when they think of the work of teaching. For me, grading is the most onerous, least interesting part of this job, so during the summer, I feel like it’s the perfect time to do all the things I often don’t have for during the year– revamping assessments, choosing and designing new assignments, revamping old lesson plans that didn’t fly so well the first time, designing new lesson plans for a new concept, text or perspective I want to include in the next year.
Some teachers like to go in and wing it, but one of the many things I’ve learned about myself since starting this job is that I’m a planner. I can certainly branch off if the students seem willing or if I get inspired, but even if I don’t use it, I like to go in each day with a plan. It helps me stay focused on what I want to impart and what my goals are for that class period, so that I don’t get to the end of a unit and realize that I never talked about the motif of birds throughout Jane Eyre (to use one example). Right now, I’ve got lists and pages of ideas from the workshop I just attended, and so my goal this week is to think productively about how to best integrate those ideas into next year’s curriculum. I’m determined to get some of it done this week because next week, I’ll be in New York at another workshop for a week, and am hoping to come home just as inspired and bursting with ideas.
I started to regret signing up for this next workshop a bit when I realized I’d have to be away from my girls again, but now that I’m here, I realize how excited I am to learn more from other teachers. In addition to being a planner, I’m also a big fan of collaboration– I’ve learned so much from listening to other teachers, whether it’s chats in the faculty room, trading assignments over email, or reading blogs. Part of our evaluation process here involves a degree of peer review, and it’s been incredibly helpful for me. Even if the reviewer only has positive feedback to give, I find I am even more thoughtful about my planning when I know someone might be popping to observe it, and that helps me think more about planning each of my classes. Next year I get evaluated again (once a year for the first three years you’re here), and I’m also serving as a peer evaluator for a fellow teacher. I’m looking forward to learning from both of those experiences as well.
I don’t mean to imply that I’m incredibly eager at all times to tackle these experiences– I get tired and fatigued, sometimes depressed when it feels like I’ve got more flops than successes, and I think every teacher has that moment(s) where we think, Good Lord, did I teach them anything at all this year?!
Don’t worry about me, though– I’m going to mix in a lot of porch-sitting, pool-going, and baking this summer too. But in the mornings, at least in July, I’ll be here, typing away, printing out rough drafts to revise, sorting through old documents and shuffling them into new folders. The air-conditioning is pumping, I’ve got water and snacks, and Pandora is keeping me musically fed, so here’s hoping I can make some headway in the ever-expanding job of trying to become a better teacher.