- Don’t Expect Your Students to Attend Your Funeral - March 2, 2022
- Teachers Have Known This for Years: A Generation Hollowed Out - August 3, 2021
- Opinion: After Trump, Civics Can NEVER Be the Same - January 16, 2021
- FIVE Miserable COVID Truths Teachers Don’t Say Out Loud - December 18, 2020
- A Message from the Year 2040: How a Year of COVID Learning Forever Changed My Life - November 23, 2020
- Zooming into the Abyss: The VANISHING AMERICAN STUDENT - October 16, 2020
- DON’T BE FOOLED: The Fall Will Be Difficult, But Teachers Were Demoralized Long Before COVID-19 - August 13, 2020
- Teaching in the Midst of the Corona Crisis - March 18, 2020
- Five OUTRAGEOUSLY OUTDATED Things in Modern Education - October 4, 2019
- It’s Time to Replace the Fourth of July (Kind Of) - September 17, 2019
Oh July! How I love thee!
The previous school year is in the rear-view mirror and thankfully getting smaller by the day. The next school year feels far off and gleefully removed; after all, a school year only becomes real when it has long enough tentacles to plant the birth pangs of stress in my teacher psyche.
But in early July nothing can touch me—except for my pool and the stack of books I collect for the other nine months a year.
The picture I paint, of course, is the envy of every non-teacher in the world and is perhaps the central reason why teachers are often ignored when we try to explain the monumental difficulties of being a teacher in modern America. I come from a family of teachers: summers are a time to travel widely and read voraciously, watch baseball games late into the evening and pursue the projects of self-improvement that seem impossible to achieve in the maelstrom of the academic year.
Surprisingly, however, I have discovered in the middle age of my teaching career a sublime joy in July that has nothing to do with Mai Tais or vacations to the Maldives. July is a perfect time to partake in the most important activity of teachers who long to perfect their craft: an honest assessment of the last year’s successes and failures and a corresponding attempt to remedy the wrongs and fortify the successes.
The end of the school year is often a phantasmagoria of frustration accompanied by a hyper-kinetic run to the finish line. The beginning of the next school year is filled with the minutiae of survival—meetings, paperwork, and unending errands. Neither is a time for deep and honest reflection of the teacher you were or, more importantly, the teacher you wish to become.
Wait until August/September and your ambitions will be fanciful. Honesty in June is likely to be covered in the membrane of cynicism and frustration.
But July is a perfect time to be honest with yourself.
As I write these words I stand on the cusp of learning my AP results for the 2014-2015 school year. This time tomorrow I will be “in the know.” If I had to guess I will be mildly pleased or mildly disappointed. But who knows? What I do know for certain is I will look at my scores one time and take the next few days to mentally digest what it means for the teacher I want to be.
Am I on the right track and simply need to “tweak” a handful of assignments? Am I closer to the ever-fleeting goal of perfection? Or, do I need to qualitatively change the way I approach the craft of teaching? Do I need to watch Dead Poet’s Society, Stand and Deliver, and Mr. Holland’s Opus back-to-back for 10 nights straight?
The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. And this is why the need for July introspection is so important.
We cannot right the wrongs of last year but we can resolve to help the students we have yet to meet. None of us have a telescopic capacity to know the difficulties that await, but we do have the power to plan, grow, and fashion new skill sets.
Ultimately, to teach is to declare that one life can matter to another, that teachers can serve as boulders in the stream of our students’ lives, redirecting them towards the sun, in the hopes that tomorrow can always be better today.
Unless we look in the mirror we will not be the teachers we dream of becoming. Other professions are not afforded the privilege of introspection akin to ours. Take advantage of July. Swim. Travel. Enjoy. But don’t forget to do the most important thing of all: look in the mirror.