People who don't teach can joke all they want to about teachers' summertime schedules. Anybody actually in the classroom knows, however, that those jokers are clueless. In this week's voice of experience, Max Fischer reflects on the key role summertime plays in restoring tattered psyches, reviving tired lessons, and regenerating passion. Included: Web sites to help teachers assess and reflect on their teaching skills.
You have probably seen that age-old quip on a novelty sign or T-shirt. Or someone at a party has shared it with you. I have no idea who originated that quote, but that person doesn't have a clue when it comes to the teaching profession.
Max W. Fischer
Those who carp about the supposed "good life" of teachers and their in-built "summer benefit" don't realize that teaching is probably the most demanding interpersonal profession; think of it...one teacher face to face with 20 to 30 students from 8:30 to 3:00 every day.
Most teachers are not equipped with the stamina of the Energizer bunny. The need to recharge our individual batteries -- not to mention our psyches -- requires more than ritual weekend breaks. The summer downtime constitutes a significant opportunity for vital renewal.
Summertime travel is one way to renew the spirit, and travel adventures can readily translate into valuable classroom lessons. As a social studies teacher, travel adds to my geographic, economic, and historic knowledge. To have firsthand stories to tell with enthusiasm is to bring curriculum to life.
Summer jobs that teach new skills, or simply help make ends meet, often prove beneficial to our teaching. For me, a stint as a camp counselor in the Maine woods not only brought me closer to nature, it also honed my skills in dealing one-on-one with students' personal issues. A summer working in a camp for special-needs kids developed my appreciation for educators who work with developmentally handicapped or multiply handicapped clientele. Several summers spent as a radio announcer and disc jockey led to the "Fischer School of Broadcasting," a language arts/music program for sixth graders. And my years as a baseball/softball umpire cultivated greater patience for dealing with thorny colleagues and parents. Even a two-summer stretch as a voluntary laborer on a friend's farm developed a greater understanding of botanical science and rural economics.
During the past ten years, I've used my summers to write material either for publication or for the curriculum; to prepare new lessons; or to rejuvenate old lessons by building in more creativity. I have relished the summertime opportunity to gather my thoughts and build upon them to improve my classroom instruction.
Taking ownership of one's classroom is vital for any teacher. Real teachers bring parts of themselves into the classroom each day, and leave parts of themselves there at the end of each day. Taking advantage of summer vacation is essential to developing those unique qualities that make our classrooms true reflections of ourselves.
The Energizer bunny flaunts a perpetual power supply, but, for teachers, summertime -- however it manifests itself -- is the power substation. Summer experiences recharge dedicated professionals' passion for teaching.
June, July, and August are not the best parts of the job, but they are essential to preparing teachers to do their best at the job.
A teacher for nearly three decades, Max Fischer currently teaches seventh graders the marvels of ancient history. A National Board certified teacher in the area of early adolescence social studies/history, Max has authored nine resource books for teachers in the fields of social studies, health, and math. You can read a previously published article about Fischer: Simulations Engage Students in Active Learning.