Above all else, it is an understanding of just how awesome summer break is. It's something, I'd wager, many adults tend to forget. I mean, first and foremost, it is long. It's not as long as Phineas and Ferb would have us believe, but I'm at day 60 today and still looking forward to a few more weeks off. This sort of thing is unheard of in modern America where people work far, far too much. Taking notice of the number of days I actually do not have to go into work, has a powerful effect. It is a relevant activity that causes me to realize a few things.
I love my job, like, so much.
There are parts of it I despise. Sure. In a perfect world I wouldn't have to do anything but sit on my back porch, grill, drink beer, and watch the world spin by. In a not-quite-as-perfect world I would be making enough money writing so I didn't have to do anything else. I'd be Stephen-freaking-King. But I'm not him and if all I did was sit in my backyard my kids wouldn't eat and I'd run out of things to grill.
So I teach.
I spent from the ages of 15-25 doing many, many unproductive things (see my idea of a perfect world above). I started a family at a young age and I have mouths to feed. So after graduating college I found something I knew I enjoyed and could do well. Standing in front of a classroom, teaching students new understandings, helping them create art . . . that is simply amazing. The summers off are, of course, a fantastic perk. They aren't what led me down the path of education but they are definitely not going to lead me away from that path either.
Summer break is a big deal, yo.
Yes good teachers work hard the rest of the year, really, really hard. Many of us spend far in excess of the 40 hours a week required by the rest of the workforce . . . except doctors, lawyers, restaurant managers, small business owners, etc, etc. who all also work 40+ hours a week. I'm all for teacher rights and I support my profession to no end. However, the cry that we work more than 40 hours a week as though this is some kind of unique trait these days is simply erroneous. I have a legitimate problem with how much Americans work (not just teachers)--us Americans working our damn lives away, it's awful. But that's a different post.
So, so many people work more than 40 hours a week. Those people do not get summers off.
We do. It is a big deal. It is. Deal with it.
We must make it count.
I work through it. For instance, this summer, I taught an online course at UNO, which I am again teaching this fall. Also, I am in the process of restructuring my filmmaking and design classes and coming up with new rubrics for yearbook and video yearbook. I meet with my editors about the direction of the 2014-15 yearbook and video yearbook. I do some independent research on filmmaking and photography. In short, I take the time to better myself as an educator. But that's not all!
Relaxation is key.
Since we get these summers off we must make them count. Like I said above, we must use them to become better teachers. A teacher that is not also a scholar, is no teacher at all. That said, we must relax. Summers are a cosmic gift and we must use this gift wisely. For my part, I take advantage of the free time to sleep in, go to the pool, relax, drink, and soak up summer the way I did as a child. I enjoy it and I make no bones about it. I will enjoy it until the day I quit teaching. Every year this helps me become a better teacher. Having this down time, these few weeks to simply do nothing educational, is worth so much more than most of us realize.
Let me say this again. Summer break is a gift. Taking advantage of it is my right as an educator. In today's political climate, being a teacher can be stressful in ways that have nothing to do with what is actually happening in the classroom. Summer is our one chance to let it go. I have no trouble letting it go. I do things I enjoy. I write, I submit stories to publications, I spend time with my children hanging out at the pool, playing with my dogs, visiting my grandma, wandering aimlessly on my motorcycle with my dad on his beside me, eating (and drinking) unhealthy summertime snacks, going to concerts, and generally enjoying my lack of work.
To prove this, here are the aforementioned photos: