The verbs jump from the calendar as I turn the page to August. Yes, yes, yes! Kelly Rae Roberts may not be a classroom teacher, but her artwork aligns with exactly what I’m feeling this month as I transition away from my only school-free days (July) and into a month of endings, movement, preparation and goodbyes.
Summer is a teacher’s curse and blessing, all wrapped up in one big present you’re not always sure you want to open. For teachers, summer isn’t just for vacation.
I’ve always lived by the school calendar; I’ve never had a ‘real’ job that wasn’t in education, and I mark the passing of time by the start and end of the academic year. January may be the time for most people to make new year’s resolutions, to reflect and reminisce and plan and prepare, but for teachers, that happens as the August days sizzle, the vacations are in the rear-view mirror and the summer mornings still offer time for quiet contemplation.
Since my first official teaching year started in 1991, August has been bittersweet; the slowness of hot July days or travel to exciting locations has dwindled into something realer. The teacher dreams begin, so familiar yet absurd; not being able to find my classroom, suddenly teaching Spanish, or being unable to literally see my students due to the reconfigured classroom and the complete classroom chaos caused by custodians insisting on vacuuming in the middle of class to prepare for the ‘dress rehearsal’ haunt my sleep. The summer to-do list, looking so ambitious and completely possible in mid-June, now is merely a half completed reminder of all I didn’t do. I quickly count down the ‘free’ days I have left, knowing that most of them will be consumed with lesson planning and classroom cleaning and meetings and meetings and more meetings, until one day the alarm will scream and I’m back in the rhythm of school.
At the risk of sounding ungrateful for the summertime freedom, I am not – without the unscheduled days of July I’m not sure I could have sustained this job for two decades. After nine months of living by school bells that tell me when to talk, when to move, when to pee and when to eat, the endless moments of absolutely no expectation are sheer bliss.
They are the days I grow and dream, the hours I discover myself again away from my ‘teacher’ persona. They are the moments for my children, for me, for feeling alive and allowing my passions to bloom outside of the classroom. Summer mornings spent digging in the dirt of my garden, righting the chaos I allowed to grow forth in the spring, rejuvenate my spirit. Hiking seaside trails with my children, the wind on my face and the sun on my shoulders, restores my connection to the world. Baking bread and cookies and creating a meal full of love, my daughter by my side, deepens my relationships.
Summer squashes into six to eight weeks of restoration, moments of anticipation that began last October. That’s when the back-to-school adrenaline usually wears off (for me and the students) and I begin making my ‘that-can-wait-til-vacation’ list, tasks that require more concentration/dedication/money/brain power than the weekends from September to June offer. Teaching isn’t just a 7-3 kind of a job, after all.
So as I turn the calendar one more page, I’m struggling with what-has-yet-to-be-done. The to-do list sits half completed. The days with my girl dwindle before she moves away again, and I find myself choosing between her and it. I know the moments are precious; I know that the filing can wait. I trust that I still have growing and dreaming and discovering to do.
Summer isn’t just for vacation. Summer is for feeling alive, for blooming back into me.