Tag Archives: summer

The Joys of Summer

By Destinee Hodge June 10th, 2014 4:15 PM

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say, “Teachers are so lucky, they get the summer off! I wish I got that long vacation at my job” or “Why do you all get such a long break? I need one as much as you.”

I usually just chuckle and brush it off in a weak effort to mask my condescension. Anyone who teaches knows that summer break is not a privilege; it’s a necessity.  It’s a time for teachers to do whatever they need to do in order to reflect and prepare for the upcoming year. So as a teacher, what can you do over your almost two-month break? From my perspective, that depends on your own needs and preferences. I usually separate my options into two buckets: “Make Money” or “Make Memories.”

Make Money

Teach Summer School: Yes, I know, it’s not for everyone. For some people the thought of teaching during the summer is not even a consideration— but there are some pros. First, most teachers in D.C. are paid year-round (despite having the summer off). This means that teaching summer school feels like making twice the money you would normally make for working similar hours. Second, you have the option to teach in an environment that’s different from your current school. This is a refreshing and eye opening experience, and I’ve always learned new strategies that I can take back with me to my own classroom.

Find Another Job: Perhaps you like the idea of more money, but you really value that break from teaching. For those of you in this category, there are many part-time jobs that you can look into. Once you’re okay with running into a student as you work the floor at a local museum, taking on a job keeps you occupied and is a refreshing change from the hustle and bustle of the school year.

Internships: this is something I wish someone would have mentioned my first year teaching. DC is an internship hub. While the pay may not be fantastic, you have the option of gaining valuable experience without leaving your actual job behind. For example, one person I know who wanted to explore education policy worked at an education non-profit as an intern during the summer. Just remember, if you want to do an internship, it may require that you apply during the fall or spring.

Make Memories

Travel: This option happens to be my personal favorite because there’s nothing like a great summer adventure. Usually at the beginning of the year, I start planning where I want to go and put things in place to get tickets and hotels.  There are also a lot of tour companies that have good prices (i.e. GLOBUS). For example, last year I did a tour of Spain with a friend of mine. We went everywhere, including the cities of Madrid, Seville, and Barcelona.  More than just adding a notch to my travel belt, I was able to share those experiences with my students and provide more authentic exposure to a different culture in my lessons. Even if you can’t go out of the country, a trip to Mount Rushmore can be just as exciting as a trip to the Eiffel Tower.

Rest and be a Tourist: D.C. is a great place to call home and summer is a fantastic season to live here. There are endless festivities and enough museums for you to go somewhere different every day. The great thing is that many of the museums are free or offer discounts to educators.

DC Summer Events:

You may not know what summer holds, but you can be confident that the course of summer is entirely in your hands!


Sunshine, Ocean Breezes, and Lesson Planning

By Sean McGrath May 22nd, 2014 5:30 PM

The sun taunts me from the frosted windows of my classroom. The birds chirp an openly-mocking song and the voices from the sidewalks in front of my school have a sardonic lilt to them. May is officially here, which means June is right around the corner, which means it’s time to cue up that Alice Cooper classic, bust down the front doors, speed home and never return… for two months.

During my first year as a teacher, I couldn’t wait for the summer. I was considered lucky by my friends and peers for having two months to seemingly relax. After all, the common assumption is that teachers not only work fewer hours per day than their colleagues but get to enjoy the lazy days of summer, too. What kind of scam is the Department of Education running here?

To answer that question, I hearken back to my days as a novice educator with rose-colored glasses and a lack of depth and full understanding about the roles and responsibilities of the nuances of the teaching position. June 18th arrived faster than I thought possible, and by June 19th, I was sleeping until 11am, catching up on reading, and lounging by the pool I had at the time. My first year, unsurprisingly, was quite difficult, and I believed that I owed it to myself to spend some time not even thinking about the classroom.

By the time I came back in August, I was rested, refreshed, and eager to begin the school year. But, I was far from ready. Typical middle school behaviors: talking back, sarcastic comments, tossing paper into garbage cans at inappropriate times all caught me off-guard. Additionally, the lessons that I had planned in my first year remained the unrefined lessons of a first-year teacher. Although I had gained confidence over the summer, I had not grown as an educator. Taking those two months off proved to be a huge mistake, and I spent most of that year staying up late fixing lesson plans and altering worksheets, not to mention creating new lessons, assessments, and grading rubrics.

I knew that, come the following summer, I couldn’t afford to lounge by my pool and play video games. Since my second year, I have willingly spent 3 – 4 hours per day altering my entire units of study, taking advantage of the growth opportunities that availed themselves over the course of 180 days. I have replaced entire lessons, prepared my classroom, planned the first two weeks of the school year, and sent emails to incoming eighth grade parents so that they, like me, are prepared for the fall. I find that each year I engage in this process, I enter the classroom with a confidence completely unlike the kind I thought I had after my first year. The swagger that comes with being just-about fully planned for most of the year is incomparable. It frees up time that I would have used planning for engaging in other school-based ventures: this blog, for one, but also groups like the Chancellor’s Cabinet, the personnel committee, student government advisor, and the culture and leadership team committee. Ultimately, it is by participating in these extracurricular activities that my knowledge base (and resume) grows. This not only means that I evolve as an educator, but that, best of all, my students benefit from my acquired abilities.

So, this summer, I will absolutely spend time traveling, catching up on reading, and lounging by the pool, but I will just as absolutely have my lesson plans with me.