from a public HS teacher (Gov't, Religion, Soc. Issues), who is eclectic (Dem-leaning) politically and Quaker (& open) on everything else. Hope you enjoy what you find here.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

A teacher’s life - the summer 

Far too often people think teachers have it easy. After all, we get two months off in the summer, right? Well, we get two months when we do not have students in our classroom, but we are rarely completely off. So I thought I would make some comments about this teacher and his summer.

For the record - I am offering this as the perspective and experience of one teacher, and make no claims that my experience can be generalized, although certainly parts of it can.

And also for the record, I see much of what I do during the summers as related to what I teach (Government), and acknowledge that some might not view all of what I list as relevant to my teaching. I think it is, so I will describe it.

Regular readers know that even before the school year was out I flew to Las Vegas for the 4 days of Yearlykos. Remember, I teach about government and politics, and this event - while certainly also a community gathering - was about both. And I had proposed the idea of a session on education and been charged with putting it together. Certainly that relates to my teaching, both because I am an educator and because it is a critical public policy matter that is addressed at all levels of government, local, state and national (and gee, my non-AP classes just so happened to be titled Local, State and National Government!).

I returned early that Monday morning for my last two days of school - without students - to pack up my room, deciding what I needed to take with me to have access during the summer (more than you might imagine). This overlapped with the last two days of the Virginia Senate primary in which I as a supporter of Jim Webb had an active role. Since part of what I attempt to impart to my students is the importance of being an actively involved citizen, this, too is related to my teaching.

During the rest of that week I took about half of the time off. That is, the reading I did bore little relationship to my teaching. But I was still organizing materials, going through things I had set aside to consider how or if to use them in my instruction. I also was preparing for this past Monday, when one of my AP parents had invited me to come talk to their city council work session about open government and reaching out to the community. I was asked because of my role as a teacher, and as such was expected to be prepared. For the 20 minutes I spent talking with them I spent about 6 hours in preparation - reading their city charter, exchanging ideas with the council member who had invited me, examining things from experts on Maryland Government.

Also last week I was getting organized for where I am now. For the next four weeks, starting this evening, I am participating in a National Endowment for the Humanities seminar for teachers. The subject of our seminar is the Separation of Church and State, always a timely issue and one which I of course address in my teaching. There will 15 teachers, and our instructor is James Harris, head of the Philosophy department at William & Mary. I head reading to do, organizing to do, materials to purchase, etc. This will be an intense, graduate level seminar. Admission to these is quite competitive. And when I return I will have only 3 weeks until my school year begins again, with preseason soccer on August 15.

It is normal that during the summer I am educating myself so that I can better educate my students. Some years it is systematic reading. One year during a 4 week period I read and digested 25 books. I may be scouting out possible places for field trips, or rounding up possible guest speakers. One year I went to THREE workshops, ranging in length from 2 days to one week, all of which required competitive admission.

I last had a real vacation of more than a week without being involved with school in the summer of 2000. Far too often there is not enough time during the school year to be able to reflect on what has been happening, or to think about different ways of approaching the same material, or adding or removing material to make the course more relevant and meaningful for the students. All of that gets done during breaks -- but during winter and spring breaks often we are buried under correcting papers and tests, and in the winter doing recommendations for college applications if we have not yet been able to complete them.

Any major updating of the webpage I use to support my instruction must be done during the summer. It is the only point in the year (unless we are closed for a week because of snow, which did happen once) where I can find the uninterrupted period of time necessary for doing so. I am hoping to be able to squeeze that in during the final week before soccer practice, because my webpage is old, clunky and not particularly appealing.

Oh, and during the summers is when I have to catch up on dental appointments, on fixing things around the house that simply have to be postponed during the course of long days and weeks while school is in session.

I am fortunate. There are many teachers who during the summer must take on additional employment in order to pay their bills. My wife is a GS-13, I get paid on a Masters + 60 credits schedule that is adequate, and having achieved my National Board Certification (some of the work for which was done the summer of 2004) I get an additional $5,000 this school year and $4,000 for each of the next 9, by which time I will be approaching my 70th birthday. I do not have to take on extra employment. I won’t be working in a store or a restaurant when students or parents come in as often happens to some of my contemporaries around the country.

This summer I will have one additional task. Shortly our AP scores will arrive. As soon as my seminar is over i will have to sit down and analyze the results. This year was the first time I taught AP. We did a debrief after the test (legal not on the next day but anytime after that) and most of my students felt fairly well prepared. But until I see the scores I won’t know. And then I will need to use whatever information is available to QUICKLY start make adjustments in how I will do the course this year -- I cannot simply do the same things again. I already know some things I have to change simply because they were not effective.

There are down times during the summer. My wife and I will see more movies, takes some drives in the country, go out to eat, get together more often with friends and family. During the summer my average workweek is only about 40 hours, not the 70-80 it is during the school year.

But I don’t have my summer “off.” Just thought you might like to know.

Comments, suggestions and even rude remarks are welcomed!
Email accepted at "kber at earthlink dot net"
Preface email messages with "teacherken" so I know they are not spam.
Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?