Hello again! It’s been quiet on this little corner of the Internet for a little shy of two months now, as I took an arguably well-deserved summer vacation. A Teacher-Beth style vacation, of course, which is not necessarily recognizable as such.
First, of course, there were two weeks of designing math curriculum. My district, like many districts in many states, is in the process of adopting the Common Core State Standards, which is a topic for several dozen pain pills, an impassioned defense, and many additional blog posts, but suffice to say that there’s a good deal of non-existent stuff that needs to exist for it to go well. So, I and 20 colleagues spent the beginning part of our summers making and modifying instructional materials to help the year ahead be smoother than the year before. An inordinately large part of that involved graphic design, as we needed to make everything suitable for printing and mass distribution: sometimes, even now, I still have little nightmares about the tiny ear of corn icon that simply refused to be part of the pictograph.
So yeah, math curriculum. Followed by a month on the other side of the desk: I went to Mexico to work on my Spanish. Got home last week; this Monday launched one last week of math professional development (we’re unrolling the new curriculum and spending some time planning for the year ahead, in grade level teams, at a site level, and across sites).
It sometimes baffles people–it sometimes baffles me–when people ask how I relax during my summer vacation and I describe for them the tasks I put in front of myself. The work I do during the academic year is, frankly, exhausting: I would, I know, be utterly forgiven if I did nothing more productive for 45 days than watch internet cat videos or lay flat on a deck chair.
And yet. I think one of the biggest reasons I became a teacher is that I never, never want to stop learning myself. I love the energy, the curiosity, the raw unfettered newness that a child brings to the classroom and, ultimately, to the world. I cannot indefinitely sustain my own patience with my teaching role, but I relish the chance, each summer, to play the learner’s part. Traveling puts me in someone else’s classroom; language study gives me a purpose and a text. And needing to work so hard at something (the written and spoken word) that usually comes fairly easily to me gives me key insight into how my students approach the work ahead of them. I am finally almost able to read literature in Spanish: when I do, though, I am constantly mispronouncing things, confusing a word with another word, skimming past something that I don’t understand. I am, I realize, at the independent reading level for Spanish nursery rhymes, the instructional reading level for young adult fiction, and the frustration reading level for pretty much anything I actually want to read. When I feel myself disengaging from a Spanish newspaper article that makes no sense to me, I can better understand what grade-level text is like for Yosef.
And when, as a traveler, I struggle to make sense of the rules and routines around me, I get a little closer to knowing what it might feel like to be a parent of a child with special needs, sitting at an IEP meeting surrounded by “experts”, trying to understand how it all might play out. I can only hope that I show to my parents a small amount of the grace shown to me over the past several weeks as I missed buses and blocked entrances, jammed various machines and made terrible faces and asked the same questions again and again. The only way, I think, to be comfortable instead of insufferable when you are in your element is to hold the memory of what it’s like to be completely out of said element: when it comes to me and travel, humility is the gift that will always keep on giving.
And so I have returned from another summer travel adventure, happy to have exercised my brain in different ways. Ready, or at least as ready as I am likely to get, for the year ahead of me, which I hope to blog at least as diligently as I did the last one. Thankful for the folks who come along for the ride.