Ah, summer -- those lovely eight weeks or so of freedom from a bell schedule, from assessing student work, from an alarm that goes off way too early some days. I sleep late, throw my hair into a messy bun, wear flip flops, and soak in the lack of structure. Sounds like a teacher taking the summer off, right?
Except I don't. Here's why:
1) Summer = Premium Professional Learning Time
I'm not saying I don't learn during the school year. I do. Only during the summer, I don't have other classroom duties. I can select a handful of great PD books to work through. I can read articles from my Twitter PLN every day. Think about it -- if I'm reading one article a day, six days a week, for eight weeks, that's forty-eight new ideas or perspectives to take back to the classroom in the fall (okay, in August . . . you know, when it will still be a hundred degrees here). I read all sorts of professional literature during the school year, but somehow, my summer professional learning sticks a little better. Might have something to do with not looking at over a hundred pieces of student work every day.
2) Summer = Optimum Planning for Improvement
I realize my plans will change during the school year as I meet my students, start assessing their needs, and make alterations accordingly. At the same time, I also realize that without a plan, I'm not as focused as I can be in the classroom. It's like the house my husband and I are building. We have made changes along the way, but we are adhering to the original plan, which maintains structural integrity.
My plans work the same way. I have a year-long plan and unit plans, and in May, I have a year's worth of reflection on what worked and what didn't. So I spend an hour or so every day during the summer tweaking lesson plans and creating new materials. It's all about maintaining the structural integrity of my instruction.
3) Summer = Modeling the Way
I want my students to keep learning each summer, yes? Well, if I ask them to read or listen or write, I need to be doing the same thing. I didn't assign summer homework this year, but I did ask kids to read. I'm a big believer in doing what I ask my students to do. So if they're reading, I'm reading. If they're listening, I'm listening. And if they're writing, I'm writing.
What about you? Taking the summer off or still working at teaching? What are your reasons?
In early August, I will begin the new school year with approximately 100 teenagers, a new grade-level team, a co-teacher . . . and a student teacher. I'm okay with the 100 kids, the new team, the new co-teacher, but the student teacher part scares me. Why?
Because I'm afraid I might fail her.
See, with those 100 kids, I have standards that I know backwards and forwards as well as a plethora of strategies and a wealth of experience upon which to draw. I already know how I will group and differentiate, how I will move them through all the processes embedded in those standards. I know how to plan for them, how to assess them, how to grow them.
With that new grade-level team and the co-teacher . . . well, I know how to play well with others and be an effective part of a team.
With the student teacher, I'm flooded with the memories of being a really, really bad beginning teacher and how challenging and different my first three years in the classroom were versus my very successful student teaching experience. I'm flooded with all the statistics on how many beginning teachers leave the classroom in the first five years. I'm flooded with the various conversations I've had lately with experienced educators about how our new teachers often enter the classroom unprepared for the reality of teaching.
I want to mentor this new teacher, help her fall in love with difficult students and differentiation and data and all the other daily challenges that don't defeat us as teachers, but rather make us stronger and better all the time.
So, first, I want to ask you to mentor me. What are the dos and don'ts of mentoring a student teacher? What do you wish your mentor had done? Or not done? Share your advice in the comment section.