Education column: Teachers spend summers relaxing, preparing

Recently taking advantage of an opportunity to interview various teachers, I asked about their summers; what they did, what they thought about, how they enriched their professional lives, and so forth.

Not surprisingly, there was quite a diverse range of responses. Some take second jobs during the summer months in various retail businesses. Some use the time for spending with families and travel or continuing education in the form of workshops or retreats. Some teach summer school, some tutor or teach summer courses at institutions of higher learning. Some take advantage of the time to hone skills on some of the latest technologies that have been introduced into education to be better prepared for the next school year.

Teachers read or re-read the great classics and/or the current literature written for the age group with which they work; or "read, read, read" for fun, going through "stacks of novels piled at the side of my bed." Many read research about instructional strategies and methodologies; research about reading instruction.

Those who are able to, take advantage of refreshing bodies and minds, as one shared: "It's important to practice wellness by taking care of myself, getting enough rest and exercise to refresh and get ready for next year."

Regardless of teachers' summer activities, it was most interesting to note that there were certain consistencies common to all. Emerging from face-to-face conversations, telephone conversations, and online responses, it occurred to me that these commonalities are quite likely unique to the field of education, which still seems to be a calling for most.

All offered some version of the following: "it is such a treat to take a step back and reflect; on things in general, on the past year, on the upcoming year; look for new ideas, ways to improve." Many admitted that during the school year, things often become overwhelming, and weekends, for example, are filled with grading papers.

Many teachers are friends and socialize during the summer, and "guess what we talk about … education!" They offered that there was something synergistic about sharing, reflecting together, brainstorming ideas, and the importance of relationship building with students. "Unless you build a relationship of trust with students, it's difficult to reach them and be effective as a teacher."

Throughout, it was clear that all care deeply about kids and their success; not only their academic success, but also students' development and success as individuals. One shared a quote from Catherine M. Wallace that encapsulates what many said; "Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don't listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won't tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff."

Cindy Kleyn-Kennedy is the instructional technology coordinator for the Clovis Municipal Schools and can be reached at cindy.kleyn-kennedy@clovis-schools.org

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