Since it’s July, your answer might be “on summer vacation!” Although we are not physically on campus (generally) during the month of July, our thoughts rarely ever leave the classroom, but the pace is dramatically different. July is the most reflective month of the year for educators.
For fifty years, I have experienced “summer vacations,” the last thirty-four years as a teacher. July is when we briefly lose track of time and clear our heads of all the noise from the previous school year. However, our minds never stray from thinking about teaching and learning. This is evident by our main topic of conversation in social settings. Have you ever been around an educator that doesn’t dominate the conversation about students, content, curriculum or pedagogy?
Charlotte Danielson once said, “Teaching is a thinking person’s job.” Since I read this statement nearly fifteen years ago, it has never left the forefront of my mind. We are in a constant state of cognitive dissonance, a little less in July, when multi-tasking through procedures and instruction, preparing under pressure and worrying about whether we are doing what is right for our students. It’s true, teaching is a thinking person’s job for eleven straight months.
Eleven, you wonder? Don’t educators have three months of summer vacation, you ask? This is one of the biggest misconceptions about teaching. It has always been difficult to explain to the non-educator. Most of the public believes that if the students are not in school, the teachers must not be working. Even after our students say good-bye for the summer, we have a myriad of responsibilities to rebuild curriculum, learn how to advance strategies or strengthen our knowledge of content and pedagogy, to name a few.
I have always thought of teaching as a seasonal profession. The fall brings new energy with a great deal of uncertainty of how the year will play out. When we enter into the winter months, we have established our routines but worry can burrow deeply within us about how to accomplish all that is expected. By spring, we are exhausted, however our resilience goes into overdrive. When summer arrives, in June we are finishing the responsibilities of the past school year and in August, we are starting the responsibilities of the next school year. July is different.
Without July, we would not be able to regenerate our energy or reflect on our purpose. In July, we transform our personal and professional selves. July allows us to clearly envision what we have done well and what we need to improve on. We need July so we can emerge from a metamorphosis stage and be the best educators for our next class of students.
My mentor, Jackie Drummer, once shared this simile: June is like a Friday, July is like a Saturday and August is like a Sunday. It’s Saturday. We’ll be back on Sunday.
Written by: Lynda Sullivan, M.A. in Education (Wisconsin) Program Director