Tag Archives: Vacation

Summer Fades and Reality Lurks: Year Three on the Horizon

My last blog entry was about the gloriousness and bliss associated with summer break as a public school teacher. This one is about how this same  majestic summer of 2011 seems to be vanishing – slipping right out of my hands before I’m ready for it to be over.

"Nooooooooo!!!!!...Ohh Nooooooooo!!!!!"

In my summer soaked mind (which has become so accustomed staying up late and waking up, well – whenever),  it’s starting to feel like one of those cliché action movie scenes where the summer is tumbling off a cliff and I’ve dived and caught it by one hand at the last second. Our hands are gripped tightly, but of course, with sweat appearing to loosen us at our fingers, we’re gradually slipping away inch by inch.

On September 9th, when students begin to ascend those grey concrete stairs to the fourth floor once again, summer’s sweaty metaphorical hand will have left mine, and it will fall, and be pronounced dead until next June. R.I.P.

Alright, I admit that got a little weird. Sorry, I hope we can move on. You get the point though – summer has been lovely, albeit fleeting, but it’s now time to look forward to teaching.

My third year as a teacher (believe it or not) is right around the corner, and quite frankly, it still hasn’t actually hit me yet. We’ve had some of the most beautiful days I’ve ever seen in New York lately, and the thought of being back in front of the class saying “I’ll wait as long as I have to until we’re ready to start the lesson” seems as foreign to me as Amharic (the Ethiopian language that sounds like made-up clicking).

I'm trying not to curse. This blog is family friendly.

In addition, a wave of uncontrollable and instantaneous anger fills my body when I see a JC Penny Back-to-School advertisement, or hear a Staples radio bit. No lie, it has actually taken me minutes to snap out of this intense feeling, and remind myself that I’m supposed to be an education advocate, dying to get back in there and continue fighting against the achievement gap with my students. This is what the summer has done to me, but I’m sure that it will only take a few days to get back in the swing of things, but it’s so odd to be away from it for so long.

This past week I attended a bunch of professional development classes (teacher classes that we are paid to go to – score). The result was that I started to get my brain semi-ready for school by attending some wonderful meetings about curriculum and reading strategies! More importantly, I started the process of re-learning that I hate having to wake up early.

I think that the only thing better than the invention of the snooze button (which has to be on my top five inventions of all time) was the invention of the ‘I can sleep until I want to wake up button’.

Next week I’ll go back into school for the first time since June. Seeing all the co-workers will definitely be exciting, and I think that one of the most understated aspects of my job (in my blog), is how lucky I am to work in an environment where a majority of the faculty are good friends. I’m also pumped to meet all of the new personalities coming in to teach, as we are adding seven or eight newbies because our school is continually growing. Usually you can count on a handful of great new people, and a few wild-cards who may just provide some entertainment.

A smiling manatee for your enjoyment.

Hopefully everyone else is enjoying the summer while it still lasts, teacher or not. I’ll be posting as I prepare for the real first days of students. Until then, keep living it up, and thanks for all the support at the one-year anniversary of the blog!


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Vacation Bliss: A Teacher’s Summer Break

How can I fit my July into a blog entry? It will probably be the most challenging thing that I’ve had to do in weeks. That last sentence alone says a lot. But as Chris Kattan’s Antonio Banderas always said, “But I must”.

"But I Must"

School ended in the early part of the final week of June. If you haven’t read my last few entries, then I can assure you now that the 2010-2011 academic year had run its course weeks prior to the official end. Students left skipping (as middle schoolers routinely do) with smiles on their smaller-than-adult-sized faces, while teachers swept the classrooms and hallways of their belongings. A few hours after soaking in the serenity of a quiet, empty fourth floor, teachers began to exit the building in jovial fashion, with a communal feeling of freedom and relaxation.

Usually, I wouldn’t dare speak for all public school teachers in the city, let along the entire country. That would be irresponsible and wrong. I’m also pretty sure that what goes on inside my loony mind (a love for strange garage sales, Vietnamese spring rolls, and cute animals wearing costumes of other animals), would not be a good spokesperson for the average (and more experienced) teacher out there on the grind.

"Be quiet, moose in the bathroom!"

I can however, speak for approximately ninety-eight percent of teachers (leaving out two percent for the alien-teacher population of course), when I say that summer vacation is the most blissful time in the life of an educator.

I tried to choose my words wisely on this one, and notice I did not say “greatest”, “happiest”, or “most wonderful” time. In a perfect reality, those moments could, and should be shared with learning students in the classroom.

The word I’m using for two months of paid freedom is blissful, because that is exactly what summer break is for an individual who, by a majority of professional accounts is too often stressed, frustrated, and underpaid.

To me, bliss is this sense of earned euphoria. I know the word has this sort of spiritual connotation to it, and maybe that’s why it seems right to me. I believe our summer break is a fair and beautiful prize for the exhausting days you worked through without a single break, to the nights you sat down to watch a sitcom and realized that you needed a lesson plan for the next day. For exhausting days of trying to engage students’ interest in a topic they despise, to blockading school hallways to control loud and excited adolescent crowds.

Google-image search "Bliss" and you get 100 versions of this desktop background field. I guess it kinda works though.

All of the exciting and tiring work of teaching young adults from the beginning of September to the end of June results in a complete and absolute stoppage of work and class for the two steamy months in summer. I could go on about how our current system of having two months off is actually very detrimental to students learning, but let’s keep this post is about the positive. Either way, I have no control over the macro issues, and I’d rather rejoice in the summer.

These hot months (try 110 degrees hot) for teachers, mean that checks continue to come in every fifteen days (I wanted to try to start a holiday for July 15 for the Annual Teacher Summer Paycheck Day). The rest of one’s plans is up to their own desires. Personally, I’ve tried to fill my time with fun activities – Coney Island, Mets games, restaurants, sports, and enjoying family and friends. While I’ve had some graduate school stuff to finally finish up, as well as a move of apartments to nearby neighborhood, most of my time has been spent relaxing, having fun, and resting up.

As the school year approaches, I’ll hopefully be recharged, wiser, and ready for it to all start-up again in early September. What I’ll miss the most is my I-Cal schedule full of empty white boxes, free from the multi-colored, appointment/meeting/reminder clutter of the year. But for now, it’s time to continue to make the most of them.

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Deep Exhale, School’s Out

The Close of Year 2. The Glorious, Glorious End.


The last week of school, aside from the mind-numbing proctoring (see previous post), was a week that can be summed up by three letters, two of which are the same letter : D. V. and D.

I shouldn’t really divulge too deeply into the truth behind the mysterious final week of the school because, quite frankly, it would be a bit embarrassing.

The school that I work at is a very productive and goal-driven school. The teachers work incredibly hard, and most of the students, many of whom struggle with major problems in school and at home, do improve and master grade level standards. I hope that this fact comes across in my blog (although I have the tendency to exaggerate the uncomfortable or challenging times).  At the end of the day, I am proud to be a part of the school.

This sappiness all being said, when our schedule called for teacher’s grades to be in a good week before the end of the year, there ended up being a good deal of potentially painful free time during the last week.

Our options as middle school teachers were as follows:

1) Press students to complete academic work while fighting student anxiousness for the beginning of summer.

2) Show Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Monster’s Inc, Shrek the Third, Tangled, Despicable Me, How to Train Your Dragon, and even such classics as Jack Black’s Guilliver’s Travels and the new Narnia movies.

The moment the giant DVD binder hit the table in the communal teacher hang out room, the decision had to have weighed heavily over many of us for at least five to ten seconds.

By choosing option one, the students would obviously be thrilled! They would surely be compliant with completing assignments that they knew could not effect their already submitted grades. And there would be no way their anxiousness for summer freedom would turn into frustration or anger toward teachers right?

While many classes I was a part of did a nice job of finishing up their work and completing portfolios of student work, most teachers absolutely choose option two. I knew this because of my incredible detective skills. The first clue was my raided DVD binder I tidied up at end of each school day. I also know most teachers chose DVDs by walking around to a quiet school lit only by the changing shades of blue hue and the sounds of projectors spilling out into the hallways. Most teachers chose movies, but not without caution.

The DVD option usually works for the occasional class period during the year, as a supplement to a unit of study, or to celebrate an academic success. But the major problem would be continued viewing of movies in multiple classes, multiple days in a row. This was a dilemma that most of us were prepared for, and I would say that a few days of watching movies with the students was a very calming way to end of the year.

Matter fact, I might throw this one in right now...

I remember last year where we had to battle our students until the final bell. While I know that I could have done a better job at bringing my classes to a more complete finish, it was difficult because many of my students are ninth graders, and were finished with school a week before. Like I said before, it was an interesting atmosphere during the final week of school.

My only regret is that we didn’t get to watch Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole – those medieval Owl’s look so wise.

I actually forgot that there were THAT many animated, Pixar, Sony, and Disney movies out there. But sure enough there are, and we showed them all.

On the second to last day of school, the 8th graders were rewarded for their hard work with a trip to the one and only  Six Flags Great Adventure (well not really because there are like ten of them).

I cannot say how much of a joy it is to go on a trip with students who are mature enough to behave themselves on a field trip. In addition, because we disallowed a few of the more combative attitudes from going on the trip, we only took those who had the ability to return to a designated spot at the end of the day at a theme park.

KingDa Ka is the green one...45 stories high

Besides a few students who we kept an eye out on, this trip to Six Flags was full of teacher and student fun. Myself, along with a few teacher buddies, overcame some fears to ride on the mighty KingDa Ka.

Sending them off to summer.

Finally, I had to make sure to say my heartfelt goodbyes to many of my students on a staggered basis. Since my high schoolers left earlier, I tried to see them before and after their tests to find out what their summer plans were. As the last few weeks seemingly came out of nowhere, I started to really recognize how much I enjoyed teaching and supporting my ninth graders. Most will be back for next year, and I know that it will be good to be around to help them out again.

As for the eighth graders, handfuls are moving on to new high schools next year, and it was sad to see many of them for the last time. It will be a great experience for many of them, and quite frankly, some need to have a new atmosphere. A few of my most challenging and comical students (who’ve I taught for two years now), will be missed. But in the end, I think that a separation for a while could do us all some good.

Happy tears

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