For someone who stresses always having a purpose for writing when teaching my student-writers, I admit that this summer (so far) has put me at a loss for what to write about here. Even as I debated what to post tonight, I kept coming back to What is my purpose for writing this? I don't have a solid answer yet. Maybe my purpose tonight is that I have something to prove.
As usual, I start the summer with high hopes for productivity. As usual, the first few weeks of June have fallen short of those goals. I haven't avoided school work completely, but I haven't come close to achieving my "one hour per day" standard. Today I started to mildly panic, in a lazy summer kind of way. This is most likely spurred on by the date. It's June 24th. The first day of school is August 24th. That means I have exactly two months to be ready for school to start. The last week of June is usually a wake-up call for me. I've had a mostly lazy month, and I'll have vacation in another month. Now is when I need to do some serious work if I'm going to be ready for August. So maybe my purpose for writing today is to simply prove to myself that I have been working, even if it doesn't seem like it. Getting started is always the biggest part of the battle for me.
School-related stuff I've done so far this summer:
1. Attended ENG-Camp
I kicked off the summer by attending ICTE's ENG-Camp in Cedar Rapids. I took tons of notes about new ideas for my classroom. And I've ignored them since.
2. Summer XC workouts
I think one of the main reasons I haven't stuck to my "one hour of school work per day" rule is because I've actually been spending that time at school. This fall will be my first year as the CGD Cross Country coach, and I've been holding optional summer practices from 8:30-10am on Mondays-Thursdays. We've been running, doing yoga, and weightlifting. I've been beating myself up for not doing classroom/teaching work over the summer, but I have been putting in quite a few hours doing the coaching thing.
3. Stealing every idea Kelly Gallagher has ever printed
Have I mentioned before how much I love Kelly G.? Oh, I have? When do you think it will get to the point where he's creeped out and needs a restraining order? Well, until then, let me just repeat again how much I love his books. I always come back to Teaching Adolescent Writers and Write Like This for practical, immediately-usable writing ideas for my classroom. My current plan is to restructure my first trimester of 7th grade around the "Explorations" Gallagher gives on p104-105 of Teaching Adolescent Writers. I love giving my students freedom, but I realize that the beginning of 7th is a rough transition for kids who aren't used to having total freedom of topic choice. I think his week-by-week topic ideas will provide a nice transition into my classroom. Every English teacher needs Kelly on his or her professional bookshelf.
School-related stuff I still really need to do this summer:
1. Grammar video lessons
I've already outlined a week-by-week plan of attack for grammar video lessons and corresponding quizzes in Google Forms. Now I need to actually make the lessons. This will save me time during the school year if I can just buckle down and record a few per day. Come on, self: get it together!
2. Apply ENG-Camp ideas
I need to go back to all those great notes and ideas I had back on June 6th and actually do something with them. I can't tell you how many times I've attended a conference or an Ed-camp, felt inspired, made grand plans, and then done absolutely nothing with those plans (or completely lost them somewhere in Google Drive). Not this time. I need to act now while they're still fresh.
3. Finish Notice and Note
I started reading Notice and Note by Beers and Probst last week. I need to finish it and incorporate it's ideas into my plans. I love it so far, but my problem is this: I've always focused more on the writing side of language arts than the reading. We read all the time in my class, but since my students also have a separate reading class and teacher, I don't explicitly teach reading skills as much as a I should. I need to improve. Writing is my teaching forte, but it doesn't mean I can ignore it's equally important counterpart. Beers and Probst are the keynote speakers at the ICTE Fall Conference this year, so I also want to be ready to absorb as much from their talk as I can. That means I want to finish the book and implement its ideas before I see the authors in person.
That's it for now. There are other things on my list, but I'm trying to be practical. If I accomplish all three things, it will be a successful summer of work. If I want to do more, then I can easily come up with three more. Now that I've put it in writing, I know what my purpose for today was: to hold myself to it. It's easy enough to ignore my personal list in Evernote that piles up each year. It's a lot harder to ignore when I hit publish.
I wrote last week on the eve before the last day with students, and now I'm sitting in my room, finishing off my last contract day for the '14-15 school year. The room is empty except for my laptop and ipad, and the stacks of books that I'm taking home to read (and steal ideas from) over the summer.
I'm not one to dwell on packing my room up for the summer. I know many teachers who spend days and weeks past the end of contract time to make sure everything finds its proper spot. Those people are organized. I am not one of those people.
I have cupboards. I shove stuff in them. I am done.
I had my checkout meeting with my principal this morning. It was a great year for me. Big changes are coming next year and he's confident I will be able to handle them. I know I will, too, but nervousness is a good thing when it forces me to stay on my toes.
I have a summer full of school work ahead of me: summer training/stepping into my role as the new Head Cross Country coach, ENGCamp (You should come! Four locations throughout Iowa!), flipping grammar lessons, and scouring professional literature for new ways to make writing fun. Don't worry: I'm not a martyr. I will work this summer, but I will not sacrifice so much that I fail to enjoy the break. I tell myself that I have to do at least one hour of something productive for school (not counting XC practice) each day. If I'm on a roll, I keep going. If it's a slog, then I stop. An hour is enough.
I've accomplished many things this year, but the thing I'm always most proud of is when I get something like this:
A sticky note, pressed into my desk without a word. A girl who's fallen in love with writing because of me. A girl who went out on a limb to tell me that she loves me, not just my class or my content. That means something. I entered this profession to spread my love of language. I did that for this girl (and hopefully many others). I did more than just share my love of language.
This note isn't any less important:
Even the small ones count as victories, right?
There's no other job in the world that can do what teaching does. I'll remember that when it's time to come back in August.
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.