Summer Off?

LadybugI’m always a bit bemused when non-educators talk about school folk having the “summer off.” Sometimes it’s said with enviable longing (“how I wish I got the summer off!”) — and sometimes with a critical disdain (“They get the summer off. That’s barely working!”). The image conjured is one of teachers across the land lounging in chaises — fruity drink and junky summer novel in hand.

This bemuses me because it is not really about a “summer off” at all, but rather a “summer on.” For folks in the school world, summer might be about supplementing income: teaching summer school, working at a summer camp, temping at an office, waiting table, lifeguarding, providing live-in childcare, painting houses, or mowing lawns. It might be about deepening professional skills in ways that just aren’t possible during the school year: attending intensive summer programs, pursuing graduate study, refining old course materials and developing new ones, or traveling to deepen a particular field of study. And for administration and staff, it’s about readying the school building and performing all of the often invisible work that happens when school is “closed.”

Whatever the case, summer for school folks is not time off but time changed — a break from the relentless schedule of the school year and the particular intensity that goes with it; an opportunity to wear different clothes, to have a different schedule, perhaps to be in a different community; and to occupy our hands and minds in qualitatively different ways. This changed-time, incredibly active yet incredibly different, makes it possible for schools and those in them to reflect, recharge, and reframe what it is we do and why and how we do it.

This changed-time of year is here once again. May you embrace and be enriched by your “summer on.”