Posted by José Luis Vilson on Monday, 07/08/2013
It feels like I'll see nothing but trail mix and boarding tickets for the next few months. I just got back from the Aspen Ideas Festival last week, going to Cocoa Beach / NASA next week, Orlando the following week, and San Francisco in August, interspersed with the PRAXIS math exam to judge my 7th-12th grade math competency (a little rusty), and school meetings to plan for the upcoming school year.
Now, I've always believed that I'm at one extreme of the "work all year" spectrum, but then I think of how often I've worked through the actual year, not just the academic year. During my first three years of teaching, I took classes to get my masters. During the next five years, I was attending professional development sessions, conferences, and writing curriculum. Some of it, I picked up from colleagues in my school, others from my virtual PLN (professional learning network).
Even in my worst year, I used the summer to reflect, and become a stronger teacher. That alone was worth two months.
In the midst of the conversation about longer and more school days, we need to remind people who aren't teachers exactly what we do during the summer. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) sat on stage with former NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and current LAUSD superintendent telling the approving audience that we need to extend time for students, especially those with less opportunities to learn.
While that sounds like a plausible idea, we actually need to reconsider how we look at time in school. According to many reports (including some that US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan quotes), the United States already has the highest teacher-to-student time in minutes in the entire world. Where high-performing countries beat us (I won't use that one country, but yes ...) is in the way they use time. Give professional educators the time and resources to a) be themselves and b) work on the actual school year makes a lot of sense. During the school year, we make adjustments and gain new information, but the summer is really where good plans come together.
So we're #HerePastJune, working on becoming better teachers, even when students are still weeks away ...
* #HerePastJune is a United for Public Schools production.