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After the Bell Rings: Teacher Life Over the Summer

You’ll find teachers rarely get time off, even in summer when they’re not teaching.

‘It must be nice to be a teacher and have summer off!” There is not a teacher anywhere who has not heard this envious lament. At one time, before I became a teacher, that sentence conjured up images of leisurely sleeping in, a beach with a lawn chair, and a juicy novel. Oh, and don’t forget the cold adult beverage and maybe a bon bon or two … Today, after working through several careers and finally landing in my true passion, I have a just slightly revised understanding and appreciation for what “summer off” really means for teachers.

“Summer off” frequently means time for another job or career. Teaching is a part-time profession requiring advanced education. Educators don’t get paid for summer off time, so you can find teachers working at everything from waitressing to running a greenhouse to creating art to – you guessed it – TEACHING! Summer school, tutoring, camp counseling, and teaching private classes are just a few ways teachers continue teaching (and learning) all summer long.

“Summer off” is an opportunity for teachers to explore something new! Whether it is for professional or personal growth or continuing education, teachers who love to teach also love to learn. Enrolling in a class on inclusion or differentiating instruction, taking an adventure trip to soak up another place and culture, burrowing into a book about geology, history, or another interest, watching TED Talks or documentaries – there is something for every interest. Teachers feed hungry minds all year. Summer is a time for them to feed their own.

“Summer off” can be a calm block of time for revising curriculum or teaching plans. How can we improve the connections students make? Will reorganizing content increase understanding? How can we modify to boost comprehension? Teachers passionately want their students to succeed. That success takes place in a safe, welcoming, and interesting environment. Summer is an unhurried time that many teachers use to make this environment a reality.

“Summer off” is precious time for teachers to connect with their own families. Time for finding animals in the clouds, exploring a pond, road tripping, playing catch past bed-time, chasing fireflies, counting stars. Time for gardening, studying insects, camping, and just hanging out together. From August through June teachers bring home their work: grading, planning, student concerns, school initiatives, and a jillion daily details fill the short days. Summer contains that entity most treasured: wide-open free time brimming with promise, time to discover and grow with their own children.

And finally “summer off” is time for beaches and novels and even bon-bons. Teaching is the most challenging job you could ever love. Being tuned in with every fiber of your being every day, facilitating the absorption of knowledge into multiple different young minds is powerful, exhilarating, inspiring ,... and exhausting. The mind of a teacher never turns off. It is always looking for an idea, a strategy, a teaching tool or example with which to enhance understanding. Summer is time to rest, renew, and refill the tank!

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