July 24, 2009

Teacher Planning in the Summer: My Compromise

I met up with one of my friends at the mall few days ago. During lunch she told me that she was freaking out because she does not know what she's doing next year. I know she's freaking out. She's been freaking out since before school ended because she's moving from 7th grade English to 8th grade English. I don't blame her because there is a major shift of focus between the two grades at our school, but I also know that along with the other 8th grade English teacher, the three of us can totally rock 8th grade together. (Plus, she's an awesome, competent teacher!)

We need to do some work, though. This work needs to be done before school starts. I can do a lot to alleviate her fears, but she's also bringing new ideas to the table, as is the other 8th grade teacher, who is also a dynamic teacher at her 3rd year (I believe this is a pivotal year for most teachers), so I'm prepared to change things up, too. And that takes time. Lots of it.

So, have I spent the summer working? Nope! In June, I had opportunities for paid professional development, where colleagues at my school conducted sessions of things we wanted and needed to know. It wasn't too intense...about 24 hours over the course of 3 weeks. There were some ideas I should have taken to develop further, but I was on the downhill slide and I knew during July, I planned to to nothing school-related.

Doing nothing school-related for an entire month? Some of you might think that was an amazing feat, while others would consider that a mighty short summer. For me, it's a compromise of how much time I feel I should be planning, and the reality of how much time I will actually spend. Rather than beating myself up for not spending time, I set up time when I wouldn't even fool myself into thinking I might work: July.

I surrendered so completely to July that I hardly even remembered my job. That meant that wherever I went, I DIDN'T think of ways that whatever I encountered could be used in my classroom. This is huge. Very different from my earlier days of teaching.

(Okay, so I've hit some school supply sales, but it's not just for the classroom, it's for my own children, and I can't pass up super-cheap. Money is a different issue.)

On August 1, it's time to transition into planning mode. And by saying transition, I know that I won't be able to hit it full force. I'll procrastinate. I'll suddenly find things around the house I need to do. There are plenty of movies I still haven't seen. It won't be 40 hours of work.

So, as my friend is stressing out, anxious to get to work, I told her I would be happy to sit down and plan and seriously knock around ideas on August 1. I'm not just happy to do it, I'm looking forward to it, but not until August 1. I'd be lying if I said we didn't talk a little shop, but it was surface talk--and most of it concerned whether the clothes we were trying on would be comfortable and fashionable in the classroom. Pretty serious stuff there!

One more week to go. I'm dreading having to go back, but I'm so thoroughly relaxed from leaving my profession in my book bag behind the couch for a month that I think it will be even a bit refreshing to work again.

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