Teacher development is a year-round affair – even during the summer months when you’re kicking back and enjoying some well-deserved time off. I always got a kick out of students who had that special calendar at the back of their notebooks. As June rolled around, they would start counting the days until the end of the year. They would sheepishly smile when I noticed the big black X’s they marked at the end of each day. I always wondered what they would say if they knew about the calendar teachers were keeping.
Whether in the back of their day-planners or in the back of their minds, teachers were also marking off the days. The only difference was that many teachers had actually worked it out down to the hour! Summer vacation is not meant only for kids.
The importance of professional development for teachers notwithstanding, those of us who have spent time in the classroom understand why. Good teachers invest every ounce of their energy into the children they teach. While many cannot understand why teachers require such long vacations, they simply have never spent time in front of a room full of students. The summer months are a critical time for teachers to recharge their depleted batteries.
What I find interesting, however, is how quickly we miss the classroom. The truth is that many teachers simply thrive on the thrill of teaching and are nurtured by the incredible opportunity that educating young minds provides. My wife always marveled at the fact that in over thirty years of teaching and administrating, I was truly blessed to almost never miss a day. However, by the first week of summer vacation, I was sick in bed. There was no doubt in my mind that the classroom kept me healthy.
How does one balance the need for vacation with the need for teacher growth and stimulation?
A year ago, in a blog entitled ‘What I Did on My Summer Vacation,’ I wrote of a mistake teachers frequently make. I argued that for many, if not most, relaxation does not result in recharged batteries. If one were to remove the battery from an appliance, the battery would not recharge itself; it would simply discharge at a slower rate. (I have heard that putting batteries in the refrigerator significantly slows the rate of discharge, but I would not suggest this for most teachers.) In order to recharge a battery, it must be connected to a power source.
Teachers are no different. While some ‘down time’ is recommended, ‘powering up’ is a must. Using the summer months for professional development and to learn something new is the only way to begin the next school year fresh and rejuvenated. For example, use the time to acquaint yourself with some of the latest technologies that might excite your classroom come September. Learning technology can be frustrating (can be?) when stressed by the demands of overloaded teaching schedules, but it is fun and truly enlightening when we have the time to discover the endless benefits technology offers. Find something, anything that will help you grow as a teacher (try to get your school to pay for it!), plug into it, and start recharging just as the last X is finally marked on your calendar.