For most people summer is the season of family trips, Slip-and-Slides and staying up late, but it’s no “all play and no work” time for teachers. Even though school isn’t in session, teachers have a variety of education-related activities keeping them busy.
Less than a week after the regular school year concluded, summer school was up and running in my building. Remediation and Government classes were offered. The most popular, however, was the summer gym course, with two sessions serving over 100 students each. Physical Education teachers reached for their sunblock as they taught 8:00-1:00, five days a week, three weeks for two summer sessions. The second session just ended, so teachers who taught both sessions are only just getting away from school this week.
Many teachers aren’t in front of a class of students during the summer, but are still in school frequently. Like me, some teachers spend hours at school digging out of the paperwork that went unsorted and unfiled throughout the previous school year. Others spend hours in the classroom getting everything set up for the coming year. Teachers often change buildings, grade levels and subjects from one year to the next, so summer provides the time to get everything prepped for the following year.
Very few teachers hold permanent teaching certificates anymore, so summer also offers the time to take professional development courses needed to renew teaching licenses. I spent the past week in a meeting room with close to 30 other teachers in a continuing education course. I may have missed the opportunity to work on my tan, but it was a great chance to meet other educators, learn about what is going on in their districts, and collaborate and share ideas about meeting the new education standards.
Speaking of the new education standards, the biggest change — the education piece that my colleagues are more involved in than anything else — is getting ready for the implementation of the Common Core Standards. In my district, teachers are working together to align the curriculum at both the high schools and junior high levels, and making sure the Common Core standards are covered at the appropriate grade level. Many, like those in my English department, are already taking the next step in anticipation of when the standards are aligned, creating common diagnostic assessments to give to students at the beginning of the year, to know what skills they have mastered and what skills we need to concentrate on teaching. We are also creating lessons and units, which we share on our district server — then we all have access to each other’s resources, to most effectively reach students.
While some teachers focus on prepping for the mandates of education reform, others are active in shaping the education reform itself, through association or political work. About 300 Ohio educators attended the NEA Convention in Atlanta, along with 7,000 other delegates from across the nation. While there was fun to be had, this was certainly a working vacation. For an entire week, including July 4, convention delegates engaged in debates and listened to education leaders 8-10 hours a day.
As far as political efforts, there are numerous activities I’ve seen educators work on this summer. Just because there isn’t a presidential election coming up this fall, doesn’t mean there is a lack of ways to engage politically. The month of June was spent lobbying legislators for adequate school funding in the biennial budget. Teachers, like my friend Perry Lefevre, are running for local offices. I am part of a group of educators that is working to develop a grass-roots education advocacy network. Just this past week, we held meetings in Toledo, Cleveland and Fort Wayne to form mission statements and establish regional “Friends of Public Education” groups.
The bells may be turned off in school buildings across the state and yellow buses may be nestled in garages, but teachers are certainly not lounging in hammocks during June, July and August. Whether it’s prepping for courses, gaining additional training or advocating for public schools, there has been plenty of action in the education community this summer.
By Dan Greenberg, Sylvania Education Association