Thursday, August 4, 2011

Summer Blues

Around this time of summer, many of us teachers feel a bit of summertime blues. It's not that I'm begging to go back to working my long hours, or I'm not grateful for this reprieve to read and plan for the upcoming year so I actually have time to have a life once the school bell rings, but I feel a bit of emptiness right now without a seeming purpose each morning. Am I waking up to teach my students about great literature, or showing to them how to relate the classroom to their futures? Nope. And the lack of this is a kind of withdrawal.

I'm not trying to compare teaching to drug usage, of course, but the withdrawal from both I think speaks to the kind of dependence we teachers have on our profession. We didn't enter into it to clock a 9-5 and "put in our time," and anyone who gets into the profession for that should be extracted. True teachers enter into this profession to make a difference and try to preserve (or hopefully resurrect) an enjoyment (or love) of learning and, for me, literature.

Without this constant struggle and the persistent energy put into it, I feel like my adrenaline is waning to the point of near-depression, i.e. summer blues. Which inevitably brings me to a solution to the summer blues: year-round teaching, which also means year-round schooling.

I like to say I'm an advocate for year-round schooling, but I don't know enough about it to 100% support it--how would it change the curriculum for teachers and for students? How would transitions, jobs, ceremonies (graduations, games), etc. all work out? What about length of individual school day in relation to longer school year? Regardless, I think it's necessary and our country is moving closer to acceptance of the idea of year-round schooling: few kids still help out on the family farms during the summer; we're losing ground on other countries every year in terms of memory, test scores and achievement; and there is far too much downtime for our students.

Would it be easier for both students and teachers to receive a couple weeks off steadily throughout an entire year or is it better to lop off the end of the school year with a 2 1/2 month vacation? Is it better mentally to give less opportunity for students to forget what they've learned? Is it better for an educator to stay in this mode of persistence and, over time, would it make the struggle easier?

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