The school supplies are coming! The school supplies are coming!
You’ve seen this, right? You walk around the corner, minding your own business with a cart full of summer clearance items (I know, I know…there’s a reason the summer items are on clearance) and BAM! Pencil themed signage and endless bins designed to heighten the appeal of protractors, highlighters, and color coordinated glitter glue. (That last one should sell itself, no?)
Don’t get me wrong. I love me some school supplies. I still get excited to line them all up, to organize them, to dream of a perfectly categorized school year when I can find everything I need, revolutionize my post-it note-taking system (They are everywhere. Every. Where.), and create the equivalent of a zen garden on my desk with pretty pen holders and file folders.
But, I’m not ready. Hear that, corporate America? I’m not ready to go back.
You’re stressing me out. Your Hello Kitty backpack pushing, pink eraser wielding, bento box my lunches mid-July attack on my summer is not welcome.
Truth be told, I need more time. I need more time for two very important things:
- To get lost. A few weeks back, I wrote about remaining calm through mindfulness and embracing summer by being kind to yourself. When I will actually get around to taking my own advice remains to be seen, but thankfully, I have great friends, and one of the best said something just this past week that reminded me of something I really needed to hear: “There’s plenty of time to get lost.” He is so right. There’s plenty of time to get lost in more books, lost in the garden, lost at the movies, lost in my writer’s notebook, lost on the patio with great friends, lost in thought about nothing at all.
- To be found. Despite everything I’ve written so far, or maybe because of it, I do get excited to get back to the classroom. Honestly, the rejuvenation I seek isn’t about checking out, it’s about checking back in with fresh eyes and a full heart for the coming year. I love to lose time on Twitter searching the ideas of amazing educators. I love the stack of pedagogy books I get to tackle, and after Shana’s post last week, I think I need to add Rewriting by Joseph Harris. I love learning alongside educators whose enthusiasm for choice, talk, and student voice will inspire me the whole year through.
So summer is a balancing act. A mix of letting go of school, to again embrace it as a teacher who is grounded in passion and emboldened by a capacity to grow, change, and reinvent myself. To be both lost and found, I return again and again to the possibilities presented to teachers and students when the classroom focus is to build readers and writers.
I find myself thinking this week, post emotional meltdown in front of a Target employee, about a piece I read from
“Our students need to be taught how to see, not what to say.”
This thought has been ringing in my ears for days. In context, I found it to be a brilliant way to suggest a necessary departure from formulaic writing instruction. Beyond that, I find it resonating with my continued desire to be both lost and found during this blessing that we call summer vacation.
The duality of a “vacation” that often serves as just more time to work and prepare for the upcoming school year in the traditional (formulaic) sense, can also be a time to stop and look around at how experience, observance, and appreciation can mold our practice in the coming year.
The same duality exists in workshop. The rules for school (the guidelines, the philosophies for best practice, etc.) need to apply to all stakeholders in the literacy education of our students, not just to the students. As Amy said a few weeks back, “Every Teacher of Reader. Every Teacher a Writer.” In this case, it’s every teacher a seer too.
I’m taking time this week to really see (and again, mindfully appreciate) the possibilities: The English Journal read out on the patio in the sunshine, the extra time to write about everything and nothing at all, the planning meetings at a coffee shop instead of deep in the windowless conference rooms many of us are familiar with. I want to really reflect on how these more relaxed approaches to learning can inspire some of what I will ask my students to do and how I want them to see getting lost and found in our time together. I want them to see reading, writing, and talking about their ideas as opportunities to lose themselves in reflection, and find themselves there too.
So, no. I am not ready to go back, but I am ready to see both the lost (escaping into some poetry writing inspired by Iron and Wine’s Endless Numbered Days album) and the found (I just read Anne Whitney’s piece on authenticity in the classroom in the July release of the English Journal – blew my mind in a thousand amazing ways) of this summer.
The school year may loom large, and in truth, much of what I want to work on the rest of the summer does have to do with school, but I’m not on anyone else’s timetable yet. The bins of washable markers can wait. I still have a stack of books to get lost in, moscow mules to sip, and animal-shaped clouds to count, and even that (at least the first one) will make me a better teacher come fall.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Enjoy. Again, you deserve it.
How are you leaving time to get lost and enjoy? How are you ramping up for the start of school?
Lisa Dennis teaches English and leads a department of incredible English educators at Franklin High School near Milwaukee. This post was finished in front of a bonfire in our backyard, after a day spent reading at the pool. Cheers to summer. Follow Lisa on Twitter @LDennibaum
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I hear you, Sheri. You are not alone (both in the anxiety and the recovering perfectionism)! Thank you so much for reading and for commenting.
Thanks for this post, Lisa. I am feeling like I need much more time to get lost with my family, and also time to get lost in the books and thinking that will make me a better teacher.
It’s difficult to balance true rest during the summer with the work that I need to do if I am going to continue to grow and embrace changes that are in the best interest of students.
Currently, I’m doing an independent study framed around the Civil Rights movement and the 1960’s for middle school students, so I’d love suggestions for either books or visual texts. 🙂
I just read a great new book by the amazing Tonya Bolden called Crossing Ebenezer Creek, that illustrates how much former slaves had to struggle to define their freedom and identities at the end of the Civil War. I’m going to include that on my booklist, even though it doesn’t take place during the ’60’s, because it recounts a little known incident in the history of the fight for liberty and true citizenship.
Thank you again for another thought provoking post! 🙂
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The balance is SO hard! I know that Amy Estersohn teaches middle school and might have some great ideas for you! Thank YOU for reading and commenting.
I’m not ready to go back. I’m just getting into the swing of getting lost in a good book, being a mom, creating quilts, and breathing. I’m having a love/hate relationship with going back to school. I’ve been reading all this good stuff about teaching writing (I only teach writing), but am struggling in how to make it a reality in my classroom. Being a recovering perfectionist, I want to do it right the first time, but yet I know that’s not possible. The messiness of growing as a teacher is uncomfortable. I need to put words to paper and try. If it’s messy, that’s just the way it is, and we try again in a different way. This is the way of learning.