Teacher Talk

In Defense of Doing Nothing This Summer

Disclaimer: Sorry for all you poor souls who teach year-round. You can disregard this post.

“I’d let someone punch me for nine straight months if it meant I got two months off,” a friend of mine has said to me. For many teachers, that is what it feels like: Nine months of getting punched in the face (metaphorically, but if you’ve really had a bad year, literally). I was one of the lucky ones. My cousin was taken aback when, a couple days after school ended, I answered “It’s been pretty great, actually” to her “How was the end of the school year?” She figured most teachers are pulling their hair out. For me, the end was joyous and not that stressful. One of my students in my “family” graduated, and I got to take a group of kids to Boulder to go hiking. There wasn’t much drama, and I got enough done during our work day to throw in the towel and not have to bring anything home for now.

I don’t have the post-end-of-the-year aftershocks like I have had at the end of school years before; maybe I’m just getting better at being resilient and knowing what to let go. My “it is what it is” attitude, for better or worse, is very refined at this point. I actually felt like “Ok, what next? What new learning for myself can I get my hands on?” But then I stopped that thought and deliberately decided that, for two months, I am going to do absolutely no work, trainings, or anything related to teaching. I have checked the SAT scores of my kids because I’m curious. And I looked at my email a couple times. But that’s it.

A few years ago, a very successful and seasoned teacher said to me: “In the summers, I live it up. I don’t do anything related to school.” Back then, I wondered how to become a great teacher and not use that valuable free time in summer. What’s better—read that new book about differentiation, or watch twelve hours of Orange is the New Black? (Answer: I have not only watch the whole OITNB season, but also the new House of Cards. Winning!) There really is so much free time (at least for me, because I have no kids 🙂 ) I felt very guilty if I didn’t devote it to getting better at teaching.

If you follow other teachers on Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media, you probably see posts of the ISTE conference, the AVID trainings, twitter chats, etc. Being part of the blogging world, I see teachers (and people who aren’t) all wrapped up in sharing ideas rampantly on Twitter. I figure that’s a small percentage of the teaching workforce. But it doesn’t seem like it; it seems to like everyone else is more devoted or amped about education than those of us who choose to sit back and do nothing. It’s like FOMO, but for teaching. If that’s a thing. Am I alone in this feeling?

Being introverted, you’d think I’d love to connect with people about teaching through social media because I don’t have to actually talk to them. But that’s not the case. It actually stresses me out and makes me feel like if I’m on the internet, I can’t divide life and work. I don’t want work to pervade my screen time. It’s all or nothing for me, most of the time.

I don’t know how my situation compares to the majority of teachers across the country. I sympathize with the “teachers do work a lot in the summer” sentiment, and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, read this Atlantic article for some perspective. It seems that a lot of schools vary in their expectations of what teachers do, basically, for free. I said no to attending two trainings this summer sponsored by my district (of which I could use for re-licensing hours), and two paid summer school teaching type positions for extra duty income. I am painfully aware that many teachers need the money, and they’ll do the extra work. Living in Denver, my colleagues need that extra money to pay for the ‘extras’—vacation, kid’s sports fees, etc. I could write a whole other post about this. I may have to change my ‘no-summer-work’ policy in the future, depending on my financial situation.

But for now, I do nothing. I am enjoying (save this blog post) taking a break from blogging, immersing myself in other things I like doing and learning about, and catching up with family. Take care of yourselves, teachers. Summer is sacred. Say no to the not required trainings. Go outside. Avoid the education book aisle. (Playfully) Scorn your work friends who bring up work (shout out to my work friends who playfully scorn me, ILY). I am also starting graduate school (Curriculum and Instruction: Reading and Writing–holla!) at the University of Colorado-Denver this fall, so I guess you could say I’m banking the R&R now in preparation. Winter is coming. You can bet between that, National Board, and teaching full time, I’ll be writing something related to keeping my head up through it all.

Also: Special shout-out to my husband, who just finished a three year-long medical residency and is now an independently practicing doctor. I have been relieved of the burden of relaxing enough for the both of us 😛 ❤

What do you think, teachers? What’s your philosophy during summer? Can you split your time effectively between new learning and rest, or are you more like me—all or nothing? Let me know your thoughts!

-SB

Day 6: What does a good mentor do?

Hey y’all! No day 5 because I forgot to take a picture of my classroom before I left the building for the weekend…but it’ll be up Monday!

“What does a good mentor do?”

Mentoring in education is pretty crucial, as it is in most professions. A good mentor can most likely impact your staying a teacher and not ditching a couple years in because you feel ineffective, unsupported, and uninspired. I have been and am still being mentored by a couple people, so here is my breakdown of what I think a good mentor does:

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Day 2: Technology

Here’s Day 2 of the TeachThought Challenge: Write about one piece of technology you would like to try out this year, and why.  

Ever since I got my interactive whiteboard (it was like Christmas came, seriously) I have been 100% down for using technology to improve instruction. While the teaching methods do not change, the delivery and efficiency does. 

I have already written about my excitements and woes about the one-to-one iPad initiative in my current district, but I really am getting more excited about this being rolled out in January. We are moving to a new school building that can support iPad use in the classroom. We’ve had trainings to help get us rolling, but of course most of this will be trial and error. 

I believe the shift in my instruction will be concentrated around workflow. Very few paper documents will be needed, because students can (theoretically) take notes with their iPads. Their readings will (theoretically) be done on iPads. Typing essays will (theoretically, cringe) be done on iPads. While we are not required to do everything on tablets, many district-purchased resources (like books) will be available for iPad only. 

Most importantly, students will be given a tool to engage with one another in a current and relevant way: discussion boards, comments, emails. I hope to start a blog where students are engaged via discussion boards on our “essential question.” Teaching them how to engage in logical discourse is important, and so much of it happens online every day. 

IPads will give me a tool to create and administer quick entrance/exit slips, as well as surveys. This will make formative assessment less hectic (too many times has a student turned in a rushed exit slip on my desk, only to be lost forever).

All in all, the content and process will be the same, but the tools will not.

What about you, teachers? What’s a piece of technology you are excited to incorporate?

-S

(P.S., day two of the challenge is pretty rough…teaching for 8 hours and a few more of work to go…)  

TeachThought Challenge: Day One

Hey y’all,

I literally just saw this challenge by TeachThought posted on Facebook a few minutes ago and decided it’s exactly what I need to do, since my blogging is dictated by things like sleep and eating. TeachThought is a cool place to connect and if you’re me, seek out solutions to classroom troubles. Their September challenge is a blog prompt a day. That’s a big step up from one post a…week? two weeks? I am most excited about meeting other bloggers through this! Also, if you’re a teacher and have been waiting around to start a blog, now is the perfect time because TeachThought tells you what to write about for the entire month.

Although my recent post did throw some goals for the school year in there, the very first prompt for the challenge is “What are your goals for the school year?” 

Goal setting has always been a problem for me; growing up I really didn’t “set goals.” I had some subliminal things that I would accomplish, but it never came down to that SMART goal process. I had a good setup that allowed me to accomplish the things I wanted to do: graduate high school, get into a good school, graduate from college, get a job…it all just happened because I figured out what I had to do, and did it. I didn’t worry about how “measurable” it was, because who cares?

Nowadays, your goals have to be measurable, and you have to monitor them. At least in teaching. This, to me, is pretty stifling. My husband makes fun of me about hating to measure things (because it’s true), but it also makes me pretty bad at measuring because I refuse to get good at it.

I just completed my “formal” goal for my teaching evaluation for this year. It goes something like this: “Students will make inferences with 80 percent accuracy by using Avid Critical Reading Strategies of Cornell Notes and Marking the Text by the end of April 2015 as measured by the Aspire Assessments.”

BLARG IT’S LIKE NAILS ON A CHALKBOARD

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Teacher Talk: To Tablet or not to Tablet?

I recently went to a training for my district for using Ipads in the classroom. Come January, we will be one-to-one Ipads, all day, e’rryday. I’m psyched because my kids will actually have a way to compose something in class on a piece of technology. I don’t ask for much. But in these trainings, the tension was thick! Many teachers think it’s a waste of money. Many see them being more of a distraction than a learning tool. Many do not believe that changing the form in which you drive instruction will make a difference. And there are just as many who disagree.

I’m not sure what camp I’m in, but I know from experience in my classroom that if we’ve got a screen then the kids don’t have to stare at me—and we’re all a bit happier for that.

It’s not easy to be beautiful at 6 a.m.

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Teacher Talk: What do you do to kick back in the summer?

Ah, summer. No papers to grade, no lessons to plan, no kids, no…anything.

Summer can get kind of boring if we don’t keep ourselves busy doing something until the bells start ringing again come August.

For me, it’s catching up on blogs that I like: The Everygirl, Apartment Therapy. Edweek. I also do some reading (this year it’s been Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy, Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, Personal Finance For Dummies, and King Lear.)

I also drink lots of coffee, though that’s not too different from normal school-year behavior. Sugarbakeshop is my favorite place to plan, blog-surf, and chill. And it is dangerously close  to our apartment.

I also like to do my fair share of running if my knees permit it, and to keep the knees happy, I do barre here. BYSE4 is my new barre home, and I love it! Taking classes always helps me remember how to be a student and follow instead of  lead. It’s great, and it’s inspiring to see a good barre teacher in action!

Summer gives me time to refocus. I get to let go of the things that aren’t important and get myself ready to work hard during the school year. It really is a great trade off. I am so excited to meet my kiddos and start feeling like I’m actually doing something again!

Teachers, what do you do on your summer break? Are you working a second job? Planning lessons from day to night? Or are you maxin’ and relaxin?

Stay tuned for some exciting news tomorrow!

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