Summertime and the Living Is Busy
- Grades: 1–2, 3–5, 6–8
My non-teacher friends turn green with envy at this time of year. “So, what are you going to do with all of your time off this summer?!” they constantly ask. After the tenth time, I become ornery. I’m tempted to say, “Well, I plan on sleeping until noon every day and then having lunch at a café with friends before heading to my daily spa appointment.”
As all of you teachers know quite well, I’ll be using the break to do the myriad stuff I can’t possibly accomplish during the 24/7 insanity of the school year (think doctors’ appointments and filing household bills), as well as to reconnect with my favorite activities, people, and nature. I’ve started to compile my summertime to-do list, some of which is below. Not that I’ll share it with my non-teacher friends — let them think I’ll be sipping bubbly on the beach every day.
One List Begets Many
During the school year, my to-do sticky notes spawn children — my work is never done. Even during the summer, I find that one simple list doesn’t cut it. I have my school-prep list, my household list, my travel list, even my “me” list. Below are some items from all of the above.
To Do #1: “We Don't Need No Education . . . ”
I hereby declare that I will take one full week — yes, 168 hours — in which I will not be one bit a teacher. I will not check my school email; I will not look at a single teacher blog, Web site, or magazine; I will not pick up a kids' book; I will not even think about my classroom! I’m determined to visit with my non-teacher self. I wonder what I’ll find . . .
To Do # 2: From Soil to Plate
One of the secrets of having a school garden is that gardening doesn’t end when school ends. In fact, in the northeast, July and August are very busy months out in the garden. We continue to plant new crops for the autumn back-to-school harvest; we pick the early harvest; and we weed, prune, stake, and water.
At my school, we divide up the work so that different teachers visit the garden every week to help with the garden maintenance. We send out the dates for these garden sessions to the students’ families, and we encourage all of our former and future students, along with their siblings and parents, to come down and help out. Everyone who joins in and gets his or her hands dirty gets to take some veggies home!
In addition to gardening at school, I seek out local farmers' markets and pick-your-own farms during the summer. Then I cook up a storm at home, tackling all of those recipe “projects” that I’ve bookmarked all year long. For me, summer is the time when I bake bread from scratch, make my own pasta, and cook up ruby jams.
From blueberry bushes to a blueberry crisp — summer is so yummy!
To Do #3: Embrace My Inner Web-Mistress
The summer is a natural time to tidy up my class Web site. I move all of the class photo galleries, newsletters, and student work pages from this year to an archive section on the site. I keep “live” archives from each school year in separate tabs on my class site, so that my students (and their parents) don’t feel as if their work has disappeared. At the same time, I make room on my site for my new students.
In addition, I take the time during the summer to check that all of the links still work, to update the parent information sections, and to remove any old pages that I no longer need. I also have high hopes to add more classroom materials, lesson plans, and other resources that I want to share with my colleagues to my Web site. If you want to follow what I’m doing with my class site this summer, I’ll post updates on Facebook and Twitter.
If you don’t have a class Web site yet, creating one is a fun summer project that you can do entirely on the couch! Start with a few basic pages, and your site will grow over time. When I help my colleagues begin class Web sites, I usually suggest that they start with four to five pages: a welcoming home page, an “About the Teacher” page, a “Parent Info” page with useful school and class information, a photo gallery (which can be empty for now), and a page with some links for students. I use Weebly to build and maintain my site, although there are many other services out there. If you have any questions about building a class Web site, feel free to get in touch.
To Do #4: Shh, I’m Reading!
Back in September, I wrote about my resolution to read the newspaper every day this school year. While I rarely made it through the entire paper, I’m proud to say that I read at least an article or two every day. However, my newfound news literacy came at the expense of other reading. My to-read list is now several pages long, filled with new and old children’s books, professional development titles, and some fun for-me reads.
I find many new read-aloud books over the summer. I love flying through children’s chapter books and filling a notebook with my thoughts about teaching with each one. This year I am also going to read some kids' lit on my iPad using Scholastic’s Storia app so that I will be more of an e-reading expert come September.
Summer is also the time when I can step back and really tackle some new professional development books. During the school year, I find that I’m too busy with day-to-day teaching to fully consider new ideas and to reflect on how I’ll change my practice based on my new learning. This summer I really want to focus on becoming a better writing teacher. If you have any book suggestions, let me know!
This July I’ll also be heading to Confratute, the University of Connecticut's summer institute on enrichment-based differentiated instruction. If you’re there, too, please come find me and say hi!
I'm reading a book about school gardens while sitting at the pool — not too bad!
For me, summer is a time for new journeys and for reflecting on old journeys. This was my first year writing a blog, and it has been an incredible experience. Getting to share what I love about teaching with an encouraging community of like-minded professionals — it really doesn’t get better than that. It has been inspiring to get advice and feedback from wonderful teachers around the country — a weekly reminder that while I’m the only person over the age of nine in my classroom, I am certainly not alone in there. A huge thanks to Scholastic for this opportunity, and to every reader who has joined me on my journey this year! I’ll see you all on that giant beach where we teachers camp out for the summer. . . .
Thanks for helping me come out of my shell this year!