Although I reside in upstate New York, my family from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has been visiting, so I appropriated y’all into my vernacular. (Please forgive my misuse of this enjoyable phrase.)
For most teachers, July is the golden, sacred month that school does not touch. Many schools across the country end in May or June and begin in August or September, making July the happiest time of the year (unless you are teaching summer school).
[I know many people enjoy summer school. I have taught summer school for over twenty summers. I have found gratification in teaching summer school, but that is for another article.]
My school ended on July 25, 2021, making me a short-timer in this summer of recovery, as I am calling it. Every day, I check in with myself to see if I have begun to heal from the school year that I refer to as Voldemort; I wondered how other teachers were fairing during this month of respite?
July is when we try not to check our email. Maybe, like me, you have seen family, relishing in mask-less social intimacy. Hopefully, some of you have vacationed. I have seen evidence on social media of happy family reunions and trips to beaches.
July is abundant with fresh produce and sweet, later awakenings. July is a time to take walks, hikes, and swims. It is a month of calm in the storm that is our profession. It gives us the hope of healing and renewal.
Unfortunately, July is also when teachers sit on interview committees, possibly for the thirtieth administrator they will report to in their twenty-six-year career. The revolving door of leadership persists in many school buildings.
July might include a week-long professional development or curriculum work with a colleague. Both of these will be unpaid, but no one expects teachers’ intellectual labor compensated. Because this is also the month where the green-eyed monster of envy illicit comments like: “It must be nice to have the summers off.” You and I, however, fully realize that we are never quite “turned-off.” Like the actor in the made for the television movie Electric Grandmother, awaiting our next task.
July 2021 has included headlines about state legislators regulating how the teaching of the history and social science curriculums must praise the United States. A vocal minority with an absence of teaching expertise continues to attack the subjects I hold dear as a veteran social studies teacher. I try to ignore their noise, but it seeps in like the back-to-school ads. Furthermore, I try not to get annoyed when teachers celebrate buying their classroom supplies with these incredible sales. I attempt to mind my business but cringe at a system that continues to exalt the martyr teacher. As a colleague reminded me this year–Covid brought new problems, but the old issues remain.
July also scares me. I wonder if I can muster up the energy needed to be the teacher I expect myself to be? Enthusiasm for my subject matter (the one under attack across the country) has consistently helped me love instructing students. Connection with my students has continually enabled me to get out of bed every school day. But, what if I can’t do that next year, or for the next seven years that I have before I am eligible for retirement?
How do I continue giving my best self when this year depleted my soul?
How do I find my way back to thriving in a job that so many people ridicule, demean, regulate, and defund?
How do we teachers reclaim our power in a broken system?
Am I alone in my July thoughts, or maybe these are questions best answered in August, y’all?