School’s out for summer. We’ll gratefully take the time.
From soon after the last Labor Day barbecue in 2017 until the final day we reported to our schools in June, our plates were full.
Getting to know our students and assessing their skills competed with gaining the appropriate share of their attention. Those of us in the high school division saw that the realities our students face can overwhelm them as they begin to realize adulthood is just ahead. First-year students often navigate the new environment with trepidation, while pressure mounts on juniors and seniors as they build credentials and navigate higher education admissions and the post-graduate landscape. This intensity fuels our passion as educators, but also challenges us as we deliver instruction and offer valuable and needed support.
While our students are meeting newer and greater challenges as they develop from teens to young adults, the stakes get higher. Our role as educators isn’t simply improving academics, but that’s our primary charge. Our prep periods provide planning time, but we also use time in the evenings and on weekends to support our instruction and reinforce our teaching practice.
Guiding our high school students through this precious stage in their lives is at once life-affirming and all-encompassing. Whether grading papers, researching and creating lesson plans or developing our own knowledge base and skills, even during our time off, we’re still “on.”
For many of us, our around-the-clock commitment extends beyond our assigned duties. We’re activists. We are engaged in the campaign for paid parental leave and are having critical conversations with one another as we work to keep our union strong against the Janus threat.
We lobby elected officials in our local districts and in Albany. We attend forums to ensure that our member and student issues are at the forefront of the discussion. We engage with one another at chapter meetings and serve on task forces that cover issues ranging from curriculum development to improving the admissions policy for specialized high schools.
Did I mention that we’re balancing families with children on the way, in the middle and in college, plus aging parents and partners who deserve a meaningful part of our lives?
We chose our profession and we love this work, but oftentimes, and this school year in particular, December felt like it was already June.
Our professional and personal selves need every “r” activity we can embrace this summer: reconnection, rejuvenation, relaxation, reinvention, reinforcement, reading and respite, to name a few.
Our union has fought for weekends and summer breaks. Not everyone in the country has these benefits. They are hard-fought; honor them. But staying in fighting shape takes self-care. As educator and activist Audre Lorde reminded us, “You can’t fight from a place of fury all of the time.”
For those of you who need several days in a row to recognize that you don’t have to report to school, you may need to “unplug.” Parks and beaches can align you with the natural elements and free your minds.
Give some time to organizations you’d love to help during the school year if there were more hours in a day.
Do you have a talent you haven’t nurtured? Venture to performance spaces or workshops with others who share your passion.
Travel, spend quality time with your aging parents, catch up with your children and extended family. Refresh your home. Read. Then read some more. Brush up on the latest technology.
As a student of history, I plan to tour the Whitney plantation in Wallace, Louisiana, and the new museum in Montgomery, Alabama, dedicated to the impact of lynching in our country, and to take a road trip through New Orleans. I believe I’ll emerge re-energized to fight the good fights ahead.
Many of us don’t take summers off — we take on journeys: actual, spiritual, emotional. And we’ve earned every minute.
I’ll see you in September, recharged and ready to stick with our union.