Summer School

There's always this one guy who, when a teacher talks about her demanding job, just sort of sniffs dismissively and says, "Yeah, but you don't work in the summer."


Let me just tell you about some of the crap work teachers do in the summer.

1. I, personally, have just this week been attending a workshop entitled Teaching Reading in the Content Area.

Maybe this strikes you as odd, considering that I attended three (3) workshops with THE EXACT SAME TITLE during the school year.

Perhaps you are saying to yourself, "But isn't your degree in English Education, which one assumes may have required you to have taken and passed just such a course during your undergraduate education?" (answer: YES)

And it's likely that you are wondering just why, exactly, someone who actively teaches a READING CLASS might need to know more about TEACHING READING in the READING CONTENT area.

Well, it's because I was "strongly encouraged" by my administration to attend this workshop.

2. And now that I have attended it, I am expected to make a presentation to the entire faculty--WITH WORKSHEETS! WITH POWERPOINT! WITH ACTIVITIES!--during one of our inservice days. For free.

3. I'm not doing this, but several of my colleagues are taking graduate classes this summer, either to update their certifications or to obtain full certification.

My state requires teachers to take at least six hours of graduate level courses every ten years in order to renew their certifications. That's not really such a big deal, but most people figure it's not that much of a stretch to go ahead and get the graduate degree because, eventually, that's going to be required anyway.

I looked into starting a graduate program, but I found out that I cannot take classes, because I am poor. In this area, grad classes cost anywhere from $303/hour to $450/hour. So for ONE class, I would pay about ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS.

QUESTION: Why don't I have an extra grand lying around?

4. In addition to attending classes myself, I am also focusing on the classes that I teach. A lot of teachers do this: we evaluate what we taught during the school year and overhaul the entire curriculum make changes as necessary.

For me, this means reading plays for my theatre classes and deciding what to add to the course next year. We didn't look at any Eastern theatre this year, so I want to put together a unit on Noh and possibly Kabuki. That means I have to do a lot of research myself, because nobody ever taught me anything about Eastern theatre either.

I also want to put together a notebook of speeches for my speech classes. I've been thinking a lot about modeling, and how I always want to see an example when someone gives me an assignment; don't my students deserve the same? And--I've been trying to figure out how to do this for four years--I want to put together a database, and possibly a video library, of Great Speeches, the ones that a lot of people have heard snippets of. MLK's "I Have a Dream" is a no-brainer here, but I want to include others as well, like the Gettysburg Address and Roosevelt's "Day of Infamy" and maybe something from Ghandi or Churchhill. [Note: I will be showing "Dwight's Speech" from The Office, because that? Is classic.]

My reading classes are, by far, the ones that need the most work. Since this is the first time we'll be using the curriculum for the whole year (as opposed to starting in the middle), I need to figure out how to introduce it. How do I model it? How much whole class instruction is needed? How many components should I introduce at a time? Do I need to wait until we've tested them for reading levels? How DO I assess their reading levels?

I need more materials for those classes, and then I need to organize those materials. If I gather short stories, poems, and nonfiction passages on my own, I then have to create writing assignments and quizzes for them. Then I have to record myself reading them. THEN I have to organize them by reading level, make copies, put them in plastic sleeves, put the sleeves in color-coordinated file folders ... I am depressing myself.

In addition to all this, I am going to work really, really hard to have sub lesson plans ready and waiting before the first day of school. It's not so hard to get a plan together if you KNOW you're going to be out, but what if I have another three-day migraine? I can't just tell the sub to pop in a movie three days in a row. (Not until I'm tenured.)

As if that weren't enough, I am also planning for a fall play, to be performed in November. That seems like a long time from now, but it really does go by quickly when I'm looking for props, getting scenery together, paying royalties, advertising, mapping light and sound, looking for costumes ... and that is all going on even BEFORE the auditions.

5. I have to do all of this at home, because during the summer, the floors are waxed at the school. There's a huge mess from where all the desks and bookcases are dragged into the hallways, and it always reminds me of walking through a junkyard, and THAT always reminds me of snakes (I don't know why). The snakes wouldn't keep me away, but the idea of being alone in a dark, deserted, un-air-conditioned building with the anonymous floor-waxers, who may or may not be criminals, WOULD.

So ... yes. I (and other teachers) DO work during the summer. Most of us don't even have the luxury of going to an office. For some of us, the work we're doing won't even be acknowledged by anyone outside of our own classrooms. And the thing is, a lot of it isn't required anyway; WE choose to do it, because WE want to make OURSELVES into better teachers.

We're not punching any clocks, or turning in any time sheets, but a lot of us are using our two MONTHS of summer vacation to complete one YEAR'S worth of work. How many other professionals do the same?

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