Yes, it is that time of year that every teacher has been waiting for, right? The countdown to our summer days has begun! If you are like me, you will have at least two months (well, sort of) off from work. I rarely take it for granted, and I sometimes feel guilty as I try to explain the necessity.
I will never forget my supervising teacher telling me the story of her colleague who applied for a new position only to swear she was passed by because of one mistake she made in the interview. When asked, “Why did you become a teacher?”
She replied, “June, July, and August, of course!” She was joking, of course, but I suppose the administrator interviewing her did not find it humorous and chose someone who appeared more “committed” rather than jovial.
The fact that school teachers, along with their students, have summers off is a wonderful benefit to choosing a career as an educator. I am not a parent myself, but this can be ideal for those who work full-time and have children. There are other professions that follow a nine-ten month schedule similar to school systems, such as organizations and businesses that work directly with schools during prime season. For example, my sister works for a company that arranges tours in Washington, D. C., for school groups across the country, and many of its employees have summers free due to this being their “down time.”
Some might say, and there are days I wouldn’t argue, that teachers are in need of these two months (I guess we used to have three, but now we have less.) to regroup from the mental and physical agony of the school year. Yeah. It is rough out there some days! The things I see and hear in those middle school hallways… And I’m just talking about the adults! Not really. As with any job, there are rough days. Everyone needs a vacation from time to time.
The months that teachers have off in the summer, I believe, is for extended reflection time.
I am, by nature, a reflective person, but going through my coursework in education, reflection was a process that was reinforced in my role as a teacher. I was told to think back on how each lesson was during my student teaching months. Were the students engaged? Was the lesson effective? What were the strengths and weaknesses? How would I do things differently? By the time December came during my first year of teaching, I was already preparing myself for how I would start out the year differently in the future school years to come. Reflection has become an unconscious colleague to my ever-working professional brain. (I have the stack of sticky notes to prove it, too!)
In Kenneth Bernstein’s article “The Reflective Practice of Teaching,” he mentions that, as a National Board Certified Teacher(NBCT), teachers follow the Five Core Propositions. The fourth is “teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience” (ASCD, 2015). Reflection is a process that I cannot imagine not doing as I move through my weeks and months of each school year. It makes sense that to be a certified Master Teacher one would have completely grasped the skill of reflection and process of changing his/her teaching methods and habits based on the knowledge gained.
For teachers like me, I need not only the days into weeks and weeks in months to reflect and make alterations. Oh, I make adjustments to what I am teaching and changes to my own methods as my students are assessed and the environment of the classroom shows a need for change. I reflect and make changes throughout the year as I need to, but I also end the year with some basic overall questions such as: What am I doing right? What can I change? What can I add?
This is not me being the forever pessimist. No. This is me being the forever learner. This is not the perfectionist, but the reflective teacher.
For each August, as those workdays show up on the calendar (Earlier every year, right?), I feel like a student who is once again going back to a new year in school. Unlike my students, though, I am in the same grade. Faces are different. Some things are similar. I’m a little the same and a little different. I’m excited for a new school year. And then, let the new reflections begin!