The other day, I noticed a new hashtag on the Twitterz: #eduoffseason. It seems to be about all the things we should all do in the “off season” so we can be better teachers come September. Ok. I’ll play. Here’s your off-season training plan, friends. This is the plan I intend to follow, to make myself a better, stronger, kinder, smarter, teacher and administrator in September. It’s pretty rigorous, and it is important that you fully commit to the program. If you cannot complete any of the assignments, I expect that you will substitute them with alternates that are of equal quality, quantity, and rigor. Items may be completed alone, or in collaboration with others. Collaboration with peers outside of the educational community is strongly encouraged. Your friends and family are permitted to help you with any of the assignments, as long as their participation will enhance (and not hinder) your own participation. After the first item, other tasks may be completed in the order of your choosing.
On the first day that teachers are off but the rest of the world isn’t, go for breakfast/brunch with as many teacher friends as you can. Sit in the restaurant for as long as you want, talking and laughing. Have appetizers AND dessert AND coffee AND wine.
Go to a zoo or wildlife park.
Go to a matinée movie during the week when hardly anyone else is there, and eat a big bag of popcorn.
Take a nap. Take several naps. Take several naps a day if you want.
Go on a road trip, even if it is just a one-day jaunt to the next town over.
Give yourself a quest to find the best SOMETHING in your area. Vanilla latte, chocolate milkshake, hamburger, crab cakes, whatever. Use this quest as a way to go places in your town that you have never been before.
Stay in your pyjamas as long as you want. Do this as often as you want.
Take a walk every day. Unless it is a pyjama day, then you don’t have to.
Eat meals outside as often as you can.
Plant something and watch it grow.
Take at least a 3 day break from screen-based technology.
Go to a parade.
Go to a country/county/state/local fair/carnival/festival type event.
Stay up all night because you can’t put down your book.
Go out for a nice dinner on a weeknight.
Watch fireworks at every opportunity.
Go swimming outside, preferably NOT in a swimming pool. Let your hair dry in the sun.
Buy lunch for a friend who has to work all summer, especially if that work involves wearing business wear when it’s 847 degrees.
Pack an adventure bag with a water bottle, a snack, some band aids, a book, sunscreen, bug spray, and flip-flops, so you are always prepared to have an adventure, given the opportunity. Keep a towel and a hoodie in the car, for the same reason.
If your school has a teacher dress code, put your work clothes away in the back of your closet and do not look at them.
Spend an entire day with just ONE child, of the age group of your choice, and do whatever that child chooses, with no learning outcomes or objectives or assessments or checklists (Who wants to loan me a toddler?).
On a rainy day, binge watch a TV show that you have been meaning to check out. (Mad Men. Or maybe Lost, all over again from the beginning…)
Read exactly whatever catches your fancy. Read trash if you want because it is all your brain can handle (Hello, James Patterson, how nice to see you again…) . Read heavy literary fiction because your brain can’t handle it during school (Working my way through the Giller prize nominees). Read non-fiction about some obscure (this means NOT ABOUT EDUCATION) interest (Tudor England! Primate rescue! The social construction of childhood throughout history!).
There. You have 8 weeks to complete all the tasks. Or not. Document your progress, your process, and your product. Or don’t. Tweet, Facebook, Pin, and Instagram your results. Or keep them all to yourself.
It’s YOUR summer. Do what it takes to be a happier, healthier, kinder, stronger, smarter, HUMAN BEING by September, and I PROMISE that you will also be a better teacher.
Now, go find your pyjamas and get started.
(This post was inspired by a homework assignment I gave to a student a few years ago, so: go find a heart-shaped rock.)
I just realised that, in writing about the BEST parts of 2013, I included 2 of the WORST parts: the flood, and losing Skip. I hadn’t wanted to write about heartbreak, fear, tears, anger, here. Both of those events – one so hugely public, the other so intensely private – shook me to my very core, brought me to my knees, and are indelible marks of what 2013 meant. I’m not going to go down the trite, condescending, smug, road of silver linings or closed doors/opened windows. But I will say this:
Yeah, I did it. I made everyone brag for this week’s (now last week’s… what can I say, I was IN VEGAS, and too busy BEING IN VEGAS to finish my post on time…) #kinderblog2013 challenge. Now that it is my turn to write, I’m not sure what I was thinking… So, I think I will just pound this out as a random list, and call it done. Here you go:
10 things I am really very good at:
Spelling. I am a nearly perfect speller, and always have been. I don’t know what it is about my brain that I remember the spelling of nearly every word I have ever read, but it seems that is how things work up in there. I never studied for a single spelling test, and I nearly always got 100%. (This is significantly LESS true in my second language…)
Sleeping on planes. I am a world champion at plane-sleeping. No matter what time of the day or night, I can be sound asleep before we reach cruising altitude, and stay that way for 2+ hours. This is a VERY USEFUL talent.
Road trips. I can stare out the window in blissful silence for HOURS. I know how to read maps. I am not scared of freeways, and I understand how the exits are numbered. I pack good snacks. I have a teacher’s bladder.I have a soft spot for Motel 6.
Keeping my lunch down. I never get motion sick. Seriously. The closest I have ever come was when Papa John (founder of Coppercreek Camp) took me up in a small plane he was piloting, and sometimes we banked steeply enough that I lost track of the horizon, and my stomach got a little floppy. Other than that: never. Not on car rides, plane rides, boat rides, amusement park rides. I CAN READ IN A MOVING VEHICLE, and… nothing.
Making and keeping friends. It was actually my mom who pointed this out to me. As much as I am an introvert down to my very toenails, I’m pretty good at finding My People wherever I go, and at keeping those people in my life even when time and geography conspire against us. This also: very useful talent.
Setting boundaries. I am increasingly aware that this is a really difficult thing for many people. I am not afraid to say “no” if something will put too much on my plate, or come at a cost to something else that is a bigger priority. I am a master of the phrase “let me think about it;” which gives me time to THINK ABOUT IT, and formulate a gentle, reasonable, inarguable “no,” if “now” is really the best answer for me. (Note: this does NOT mean that “let me think about it” is code for “I’m going to say no later.” I really AM thinking. I promise. And as often as I can, I say yes.)
Writing. I am, I think, a good writer. I can write in a way that makes people think, makes people feel, and is true to my actual voice. I write the way I talk, talk the way I write. Words are my friends. I am grateful for this gift every single day, and I never take it for granted.
Talking. I’m starting to think that maybe I am a good public speaker. I can repeat a variation of the same talk or presentation, and have it sound natural each time. I think people feel welcome and included when I speak, comfortable asking questions, and that maybe I am interesting when I talk.
Loving the tough-to-love. I am really, really good with really, really tough kids. The Billys and the Braydens and the Sarahs of the world are the kids who hold my heart in their hands. The kids who push me away the hardest are the ones I hold onto the tightest, the ones I fight for and fight with, and I am really, REALLY good at that kind of fighting.
Liking the tough-to-like. I’m good with difficult parents. Maybe this is because I am also good with words. Maybe it is because I am good with difficult kids (who sometimes have difficult parents). But somehow, I am able to establish myself as a credible expert in a way that convinces parents WE ARE ON THE SAME TEAM.
There. Not too shabby, right? So why am I so relieved that it’s over?
Stay tuned – this week’s prompt is CHANGE. I have a feeling that post will be a little less fluffy…