Voices from a Teacher’s Summer…

I have been meaning to write this post for over a decade. But I am a slow learner and it has taken that long for me to figure out how to respond to people who still believe that teacher’s get 3 months off. Well… it doesn’t quite work that way. When we stop teaching for the summer (which many of us are actually teaching summer school) we begin some intensive learning. Not that we are not learning during the academic calendar year as well but… let me explain.

Almost every teacher I know right now is working on something. Whether they are attending mandatory or voluntary professional development, teaching other teachers, attending, presenting, or organizing conferences… Teachers all across America are LEARNING how to become better teachers, better people, for our students.

Some examples.

A colleague of mine is facilitating working sessions at UCLA for teachers to develop their abilities to teach Computer Science (in between helping to put on an amazing Game Jam AND running a CS camp for our summer bridge program where she teaches kids to code and build robots!) She recently posted this on social media:

Hearing a teacher say “race is not an issue” in lieu of everything going on in our country right now filled me anger. Knowing that my views influence how my students perform, I found myself full of anxiety. How do I address this as a teacher guiding other teachers? I can’t shut voices down. There’s no chance for growth if I do. It’s tough to wait. To listen. To validate. Even when I don’t agree. To choose my words with deliberateness and intentionality to frame the discussion and steer the conversation in a way that challenges current belief systems. How do I empower teachers to learn computer science content and equitable pedagogy strategies within the bigger picture of addressing structural and historical inequities. The same way I must design lessons so students understand why they’re learning what I’m teaching, I have to design discussions so teachers understand the importance and urgency of teaching with equity and inquiry to broaden the participation of female, latino, and african american students in computer science. Guys. It’s fucking Tuesday.

Another colleague of mine recently returned from what I could only gather was an AMAZING time in Chicago with Action Civics LA and the Mikva Challenge conference on New Civics. He wrote this email about another upcoming set of workshops around incorporating Urban Ecology into the Science and Social Studies curriculum. Imagine the power of BOTH of these pedagogical approaches combined!

Hi Mark,
I’m all signed up and pumped up for it.
Hope to see you there!

Still others are leaving conferences feeling empowered, inspired, and rejuvenated to evolve their pedagogy towards more transformative aims.

Leaving the 2015 Institute for Teachers of Color Committed to Racial Justice Conference with a full heart. Thank you 2015 Fellows for your brilliance and corazón. You inspire us beyond words. You are our (r)evolution.

I could go on for days, posting about bookclubs (i know its a conference but don’t tell them that! 😉 and MOOCS that teachers are immersing themselves in. Online discussions and researching other people’s ideas for syllabi here, here, and here. And on this historic day we look for ways to engage our students with our changing notions of civic identity, political involvement, and progress.

Teachers are catching up with old students, scheduling lunches together and talking about college and the future. I spent part of this week in the wilderness, enjoying family and friends… and the FIRST conversation I happened to hear stopping into an Applebee’s in Visalia was a teacher – identifiable by the “excellent teacher” shirt he was wearing – talking about his work that week. Undoubtedly an excellent teacher.

Even those of us who are traveling or taking time at home to rest… we are learning about ourselves, reflecting on who we are and why we are like that, which will ultimately translate into being better versions of ourselves when we re-enter the classroom. As evidenced here by another colleague, a media arts teacher:

Havana has been unlike any other city to me in that I have made crazy connections in a very short time by simply walking through the city. Sitting on the Malecon ended up being a day being led through a bar and an arts space. Another Malecon encounter was during a shoot I was doing with my futurstic lightpainting tool called the Pixelstick, when a Woodbury University professor who knows Jocelyn showed up!! I found a screenprinting studio with decades of history while checking out Habana Vieja. The artists welcomed me immediately and 10 days later I have almost finished print runs of three designs. Another art space I found led to being presented with a soccer and art project proposal. And I also walked right up to a capoeria practice which I had heard may be active in a park near the Morro. They welcomed me in and I got to play in my first practice and roda abroad.
While sitting in a tiny food spot the Cuban next to me asked how my chicken was, and after introductions a day later we began a collaboration with his high school students using the dispoable (sic) cameras I brought. That led to me today sitting in Old Havana´s chocolate shop doing interviews I scheduled, one of which is dance portraiture for a new company that wants to ensure Cubans have access to dance classes that presently are only available to tourists. On the way home I then ended up location scouting for the dance images, making images of the narrow streets with the old buildings that are labeled things like ¨Ano 1904¨ as I walked. One more week to stroll!!!

Teachers… we just don’t take summers off. We are always thinking about how to be better teachers. We are always thinking about students and learning. What are you doing for your summer?

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