We all remember those summers of old, when we were kids or when we first started teaching. We counted the days until the end of the school year, eager for the peace and quiet, with no assignments to complete and no deadlines, just hours and hours of time. When I first started teaching, summer was a wonderful time of dropping all of the balls that I juggled during the year. I walked away from my classroom, having refiled all of the papers and organized all of the book shelves. I was done until I started again in the Fall. I closed the door and didn’t look back. Summer was for refreshment, to reenergize after the months of focusing on kids and their needs. It was time for myself, for reading books that captured my imagination but had little intellectual value; for gardening and pruning; for spending time with friends and talking over tall glasses of iced tea. I am not sure where that summer went, but it has flown into a distant past.
In today’s world of 2.0 learning and change, summer is a time to catch up on all that I need and want to learn before it is time to start back in the classroom again. I have lists of articles to read, dozens saved in my Diigo files that I bookmarked all year. There are tools to experiment with and websites to build. I have two week-long conferences to attend, 3 workshops to teach, an online course to complete and a new curriculum to develop, all before Labor Day. And I do not think that I am unusual.
Teachers in today’s world have to use their summers for professional development and enrichment. It is imperative for us to stay abreast of the latest thinking about how to educate the students in our classrooms. We do not know the world that they will look for jobs in, because it does not exist yet. If we want to give them our best, we need to be constant students ourselves, modeling active learning so they will know how to grow and adapt to their changing world.
If we take off a year or two from learning what is out there for education or if we simply stay with what is already familiar, we will not be able to provide what is the best for our students. As Alvin Toffler said, “The illiterate of the 21st century are not those that cannot read or write, but those that can not learn, unlearn and relearn.” We need to commit ourselves to being active learners, pushing beyond our own boundaries, unlearning the parts that no longer best support our students, and adding what will accomplish it. We need to stop allowing ourselves to teach our students skills of the 20th century, because we were not willing to learn the ones of the 21st.
I used to struggle in August with how I would pick up all of the balls that I had so eagerly let fall to the ground when I left school in June. From the 1st of August on, the task loomed over me, knowing that somehow I had to get them all flying again. Now I am finding that I have to find time to say “Stop,” to carve out time when my hands aren’t flying over my keyboard, communicating with people around the globe on how we can best do our jobs. Summer has become my designated time to be a learner, a student once again. And now part of my task is to remember to take the Down Time, because the learning and sharing is exhilarating work! I hope you will all join me in it! Please, let me know how you grow and learn in your times off!