It's evening in late July, and an all-too-familiar panic is rising in my chest. A quick glance at the clock tells me that it's 8pm on a Sunday: the magic time for teacher panic during the school year, and a time I rarely ever notice during the summer. But it's late July. Late July means my brain starts to shift from "I'm going to accomplish these things this summer" to "I don't have time to accomplish what I want this summer!" I mean, I only have a few weeks left to keep plugging away at my 7th grade writer's workshop curriculum (that is nowhere near finished), read the book to prepare me for being a model teacher (how do I fit it in with the other three books I'm currently rotating?), plan out the Cross Country workouts for this season, and downsize/reorganize my closet (okay, not school related, but the summer project that's been on my list for ten years)?
The panic sets in because this is the time during summer when I have to admit to myself that, despite my best intentions, I am not going to do it all. I just can't. Not while still enjoying my time off. Not while maintaining sanity and peace. While the beginning of summer starts with goals and optimism, midsummer calls for practicality and prioritizing.
Priority #1: Curriculum...to a point
I've done a lot of thinking and planning on 7th grade writer's workshop this summer, but I'm nowhere near finished. Before school starts, I need to make sure I have it set through November. That will take me through the first trimester and will ensure that I won't be scrambling with lesson plans and cross country season at the same time. A three month cushion on the planning will be enough to stop me from abandoning the changes I so desperately want to make in favor of taking an easier route. I don't need to go into the school year with everything perfectly in place; I know enough to know that the best laid plans will change as soon as things get rolling, anyway.
Priority #2: Cross Country
I never put sports before school. I actively despise teachers who put coaching ahead of their classroom teaching duties. The pull of the season is hard to ignore, though. The great thing about a running sport is that the season is something you can map out in advance; I know when I want kids to build and strengthen and taper for peak performance. The difficult thing is that I always feel a twinge of guilt when I put work on a sport ahead of work for school. Sitting down to finalize XC season plans means that I have to take that time away from other work goals. The sooner I get to it, the sooner I can focus back on my classroom.
Priority #3: Life
I still need to have a summer. I still need to do my usual (pathetic) attempt to clean my closet. I need to put a lot of miles on my shoes and bike. I need to watch 30 hours of Bob's Burgers on Netflix. Enjoying the last few weeks of summer is just as important as cramming the work in. I don't want to start the year bitter because I was working when I should have been recharging. Teachers need summer, and I don't want to spend so much energy worrying that it's almost gone that I forget to enjoy it while it's still here.
I know writing these things down won't stop the panic from entering my mind in small bursts in the days leading up to school, but it's a start. Midsummer is the chance to refine and reprioritize goals. Keeping these tasks at the forefront will keep the full-on panic at bay until mid-August, where it belongs.
I teach 7th and 8th grade English in rural Iowa and hope to reflect, connect, and share with other English teachers. Iowa Council of Teachers of English Executive Board member. Iowa Writing Project superfan. UNI MA:TESS graduate.