The seven weeks of summer holiday with which I am about to be blessed are, of course, very welcome. I could also add words like ‘well-deserved’, and spout cliches like ‘time to recharge batteries’,’take stock’ and I’m sure, various others. Their overuse should not dilute their importance.
What is very clear, however, and always has been, is that the summer holiday, perhaps, highlights the greatest of social divisions in education. For, while better off families holiday in wonderful cities around the globe, visiting historical sights and experiencing other cultures, the less well off forget about school and learning altogether, relieved at the six-week release.
I’ve been thinking about a summer project for some of my senior pupils but the obstacles can seem like too much at times. My school does not start a new timetable in June so I have no idea who will be sitting in front of me in August – school structures don’t really provide the conditions to make summer projects possible.
Even so, if I’m expecting students to continue to learn over Summer, should I do the same? Do we teachers view the six or seven weeks holiday as a break from everything? Should we? Or should we set ourselves a project? I don’t mean school work but something that engages and excites us. Lifelong learning is for all of us after all and we must model good learning for our students.
I’ve written recently about how this year has been one of the most stimulating of my teaching career. I am exhausted, however, and in need of a break from school but I would argue that the most exhausting part of teaching is not the preparation and the marking; it is the every day performance, the standing up in front of an audience all day, every day, forbidden from having an ‘off day’ in front of your students. I find this the most exhausting part of my job and the prime justification for a lengthy holiday. Even so, if learning is so important, I must try and be a good model.
A challenge, then. For those of you about to go on holiday – in Scotland – and those with holidays on the horizon, what about giving yourself three learning targets. Forget school, but focus on learning how to do three things you’ve always wanted to do. Blog about your experiences if you like but of course that’s not necessary. Reflect on the experience though; become a learner again.
By August I will have taken my first piano lesson.
By August I will be able to bake great bread.
By August I will make something amazing out of wood.
Like all New Year’s Resolutions, I’m starting with real enthusiasm and good intentions. These are
genuinely things I’d like to learn to do. I hope to continue blogging over the summer and will, no doubt writes about my progress. For now, however, I’m away for a lie down.
It has been almost a week since my first Teachmeet – tmlothians11 – and I’m only now beginning to reflect on the experience. The night itself, while being a thrill from start to finish, seemed a blur at the time; it was only when I watched myself on the recording the next morning that I realised what I had said and how I had said it. (my spot comes about 2 hours 55 minutes in if you want to scroll forward on the playback ). The talk itself was not particularly ground-breaking; it won’t change the world but the huge personal satisfaction it has given me is very important. And it comes at the end of the most important, exciting year of my teaching career.
A year ago I would never have been able to stand up and do that. I didn’t have the confidence, was in awe of those who could, and really didn’t think I had anything interesting to say. Two things changed all that.
Almost a year ago to the day I had a conversation with a non-teaching friend about Twitter, a conversation during which I smirked and dismissed this new fangled kid speak. Why would I want to tell people what I was up to? By the time I returned to school in August, however, I had signed up and it completely changed my career.
The contacts I have met through Twitter – too numerous to mention here; I’d hate to leave anyone out – have enhanced my teaching life, given me the confidence to share my ideas and to believe in the possibility of a truly bright future for education in Scotland and the wider world. It has been the greatest Professional Development tool, the best Inservice Day, the most fulfilling Departmental Meeting, the most helpful support system I could ever have imagined.
I ‘met’ educators who shared my beliefs and thought the same things about education as I did. These great people blogged and tweeted, tweeted and blogged and, on January 1st, as part of a vaguely negotiated resolution package (don’t ask) I began blogging.
‘How can I tell what I think until I see what I say?’ said E.M Forster and never a truer word has been said, in terms of Writing.
Just Trying to be Better that Yesterday will never be a great blog but it is mine and I’m very proud of it. It has allowed me to get things off my chest, to articulate learning occurring in my classroom and to focus on ideas which I’ve been playing around with. It has made me a better teacher. It brought me to the Scottish Book Trust in Edinburgh on Tuesday night, presenting my thoughts to a room full of great people.
While I’m looking forward to a well-earned summer break, I’m already mentally planning for August. Teachmeet was a wonderful way to bring this year to an end. I cannot wait for the next one.