Summer Sabbatical (Not Just Vacation)

Last Summer at Long Bech, photo by Samantha Mosher

I may get a view like this occasionally, but most days I’ll be hard at work.

As a teacher you always hear from friends, family, and even complete strangers you just happen to be chatting with at a gym or at a barbecue: “Wow. A teacher’s summer vacation. That must be really nice. It must be your favorite part of the job.” I think it’s this misconception about teachers’ summer vacation that lead Justin Tarte to post this, which I adored. It got me thinking, do we as educators need to reframe how we talk to others about summer vacation? We know all the time we spend prepping and learning for, or just plain sitting and thinking or daydreaming about, our next school year. All the time we spend learning both teaching skills and content that we’ll pass on to our students, or having experiences out in the world that we can turn into amazing classroom experiences for our kids. Teachers’ summer vacations aren’t vacations. They’re sabbaticals, where we learn and grow as professionals and prepare for the next school year. I think the point Justin Tarte was making in his post is that sometimes we focus on the other benefits of summer vacation, rather than the other aspects and it could give others the wrong impression.

This teacher's summer vacation means fresh baked scones for breakfast

ah, the luxury of baking scones for breakfast

And, you know what, I’m not ashamed to admit that  teachers’ summer vacations are nice. I can wake up when my body tells me it’s time, instead of when my alarm starts blaring around 5:30 AM. I can exercise more frequently, and have the occasional leisurely breakfast (like the one to the right) or go wait in line for Shakespeare in the Park tickets, and maybe, like Justin Tarte suggested, I guilty of talking about those things and giving others the wrong impression of what teachers do in the summer. I definitely spend a good portion of my summer, like most teachers, working. It may not be the same summer camp and summer school jobs I took early in my career to make ends meet, but I am working nonetheless. It is different work than during the school year, but it’s good work and necessary work.

Most teachers love to learn, and during the summer I get to indulge my inner learner full-time. Don’t get me wrong, during the school year I am constantly learning from my colleagues, from my students, from research I’m doing to improve my own practice, but summer moves at a different pace and my learning can be more self-directed and I have the time to follow all of those ideas down various rabbit holes where I don’t have the time to go during the school year.

I generally set goals to keep myself on track. This summer I’m hoping to take my professional learning–my summer sabbatical–to new places by becoming a more connected educator, both through this blog and through other platforms like Twitter. But in addition to the blogging and tweet-chatting I really hope to:

Read all of the books I bought at ASCD 2014 (and then some)
Summer reading

All of the books…

I have quite an ambitious list. I don’t know if I’ll get through them all, but I’m excited to try. The first set on my list are:

  • The ASCD Aria Self-Regulated Learning for Academic Success by Catherine Germeroth and Crystal Day-Heiss. I’m a big fan of the SRSD writing approach and want to start including more self-regulation work in my classes across subject areas (and especially in math).
  • Memory at Work in the Classroom by Francis Bailey and Ken Pransky: Memory is often an area where students who I teach struggle, and I always feel like I don’t have enough strategies for them. I’m hoping this will help me.
  • Close Reading of Informational Texts  by Sunday Cummins: I’ve been reading a lot about the potential close reading has for improving reading comprehension with struggling students and I’m hoping to add more of it to my practice next year.
Learn a lot about curriculum design at the CGC conference

I was really excited when my principal selected me to be one of the school’s representatives at the Common Ground Collaborative‘s conference in Miami in July. This group includes teachers and administrators from international schools who are working to create a more inclusive, understanding-based curriculum. I’m even more excited now that I’ve started doing some of my homework.

Rethink my classroom design

This past school year was my first year at my school. I didn’t love the way I ended up setting up my small intervention classroom/office. I’m not sure if it’s conducive to the type of work I want to do with students (and I certainly am not set up to store all of this).

Make the two day summer workshop happen!

My friend and colleague Pooja Patel and I proposed this idea last year (well, Pooja came up with the idea and asked if I was interested and then let me propose it with her): to run a summer institute for teachers who are graduates of our program to summarize the latest research and methods in literacy instruction, assessment, and intervention. And over a year later, it has been brought to life: Cutting Edge Reading & Writing Instruction for Teachers. If you’re in NYC in late July, you should come.

Rethink the sequence and delivery of the curriculum for my graduate class

This is going to be a process. Class doesn’t start up again until January, but I really want to get my students thinking more diagnostically and using more observational data to decide where to go next in their interventions. I’d like to spend some time chatting with other teacher educators and reflecting a bit more on what worked and what didn’t this past year. May was not a time when this could happen, but June and July are.

Of course, I may get to a beach and I’m definitely headed out of town for a wedding or two and to visit family. Maybe I’ll take a few hikes and knit up some sweaters for the fall, but I can’t wait to start my summer sabbatical and engage in some professional learning.

How do you use your summers? Any interesting professional learning lined up?

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