RSB Blog Post: June 28, 2016
Six Wise Teacher Strategies to Stretch the Summer
Strategy 1: Eyes-Open Planning
If your summer household is anything like ours, your summer plans began months ago while crawling out of bed before the sun to get your kids off to school before heading there yourself. I began first by counting months, then weeks, and then days until this euphoric freedom of summer would be upon our family. I could taste it: no backpacks to hunt down, no homework pressures, no lunches (to pack, argue about, or forget), and oh, those longer days of carefree lightness. I surely did a number on myself, crafting a vision of summer that frankly, is turning out to be impossible for me to achieve.
It’s been almost a month and later this week, summer school is actually over and July 4 begins, marking the turning point of this long-awaited season. I finally made time to catch ten miles of walking yesterday, the first time this summer. As I walked, I noticed that those roses on my route, just tight buds a few weeks ago are now in full, riotous bloom. Oops. When did that happen? Have I literally missed this summer for which I so long waited? It definitely feels like summer is careening past me much too quickly. Sure, at Teacher Peach, we work ahead: we planned summer in February, and back-to-school has been waiting in the wings since April. So I expected this feeling at work, but somehow, not at home.
As I’ve been chatting with teachers these past weeks, I’ve learned I’m certainly not alone in this feeling, so I asked for advice. Some told me, “It’s the calendar. It feels shorter because it is.” Others said, “It’s always this way. “ And still another wise teacher said, “No matter the number of actual days, we always only get so many days of summer, so it’s all in what we do with them.” Hmmm. No secret why that teacher does what she does for a living! I certainly learned from her. For many teachers, school is still in session, albeit the more relaxed, it’s-even-ok-to-wear-flip-flops more casual summer school. In many districts, this, too, ends in a matter of days and the very rare “It’s July” window opens.
July. Beginning with a patriotic bang and ending with bittersweet excitement about the start of in-service days and classrooms to organize. So, in a rather rare burst of extreme wisdom and maturity, I decided that I just can’t waste a moment being sad about the already spent days of June. When I look back, our team did a lot of amazing work and my family had some very special occasions. This Thursday, I’ll even juggle my entire work day around a mid-morning dance performance sure to run the gamut from modern to jazz and lyrical to hip hop, performed by kids ages seven to ten—forty minutes I wouldn’t miss for anything. I can only imagine the number of curtain calls in that not-quite-air-conditioned classroom.
Our family does carve out a few weeks to visit a lake each summer. Based on the constancy of its timing, that window marks both the pinnacle of summer and the transition back to school. Yesterday, a really close friend had occasion to visit that area and texted me the most stunning sunset photo at the top of this post. It was a sunset on MY lake, as I tend to claim it. So many comical thoughts ran through my head. “Wow. I guess that lake really is there all year and those incredible sunsets happen even on all the days I’m not there.” Seriously? Yes, for a fleeting second. Then, I felt that vacation calm, that slowing down of the pace wash over me as I stared at the image, making it my new screen saver. That’s when it hit me. “I still have time to savor this summer. We’ve got weeks till we head to the lake. I can enjoy this before that—if I do it right.”
I decided that right means being grateful for the almost subtle launch to this particular summer. Instead of thinking of it as speeding past me, I’m choosing instead to decide that it has served me well, leading to this great opportunity to savor the summer days that still remain. I decided to make this next month really count by applying the range of advice I got from those teachers I met.
So, I created six strategies to share with you in hopes that a few of these might work for both of us. I’m going to try them all, but maybe one or two might spark you, too. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I actually had ten different strategies, but decided that was a set up even for me! I’ll be lucky if I can make three of the six stick, so I settled on this number, hopefully stacking the deck in my favor. After all, who wants to fail their own enjoy-the-summer strategy? I certainly don’t.)
So, every few days in this coming month, I’ll share one of these six strategies. I’ll space them out so you have a few days to try them on for size. I’ll be doing the same and I’ll definitely report on my own progress. (Notice that confidence!)
Of course, I so hope you’ll post a comment and let me know what you think of this idea and share any of your own summer stretches. Welcome to Strategy 1.
Eyes-Open Planning: No Rear-View Mirrors or Telescopes
Reflection is a very powerful tool, and as you can deduce from my post today, actually served me well—leading to these actionable strategies. However, this first strategy is not about looking back. It’s not about thinking about my summer expectations. It’s also not about using a telescope to look far into the future.
It’s about showing up—now—and using THIS day well.
While most of us have the luxury of very few truly “lazy days of summer” given day jobs and lives, summer is different and the extra hours of light can help to stretch these days—if, as wise teachers tell me, we pay attention.
I used to get irked when people would tell me to “be present.” (“Be present? Really? I work in a company that has to run 6 to 10 months ahead of the calendar, I’m a planner by nature, and as for history, well, beyond knowing there is something powerful to be learned, which there always is, I don’t rewind all that much.) I do think it irked me mostly because I’m pretty clueless as to how to really do that.
Ironically, though, that’s my first strategy: to keep my eyes open to what I can do TODAY. I’m going to work to do that “be present” thing. If I’m not yet adept enough to be present in only this day, I’m going to give myself room to be present in only this week. I’m personally scheduling only through Monday’s fireworks. Of course, I’ll let you know how that goes.
I’m beginning to think a lot of us don’t really know what it means to be present. I’ve personally got very little experience in the matter. I suppose it means choosing music I really like while walking, instead of trying to add notes and reminders, listen to a business audiobook, make phone calls, or run errands along the way. It could even mean no music at all, just birds chirping, but that feels way too extreme for a “be present” rookie like me. I also have a nagging hunch that my penchant for multi-tasking might need to go right out of that open summer window. Even I get the fact that it is hard to be fully present when one is assembling boxes, trimming pages, or making a salad while doing anything else. OK, so I’ll try that, too.
By focusing only on this coming week and holiday weekend, I’m hoping I will follow a bit of my own advice, and DRINK IT ALL IN as our water bottle says, slowing myself and hence it all down even just a bit. I’m also going to keep my eyes trained on that sunset image if I get stuck. After all, as the wise teacher said, “That sun’s going to set whether I’m watching it or not.” Think I’ll fill up my water bottle, catch a slightly earlier train today, and pull up a chair.