I’m a teacher and I’m on summer vacation. This sounds wonderful if you’re not a teacher, but if you are you know it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. I’m busy. Busy doing the all things I didn’t get done through the school year because I was busy doing things for school. When I’m not doing that I’m busy doing things for the next school year, because when school starts I’ll be too busy to do them.
My students have a different perspective about summer vacation. For many it’s as if the gates of heaven have opened wide. There are few times in life we’re happier than when the last bell rings on the last day of school.
Teachers worry about all this time off. We know, and research backs us up, that a lot of things fall out of kids’ heads over the summer. Still, I think it’s good for them.
On summer vacation kids can learn lessons not usually offered in any class. How to be independent, for example. There is no freedom like the freedom experienced by a child waking up on the first day of summer vacation. For them, the start of school is an abstraction far off in the distance. There is a sea of time before them and all things seem possible.
What to do with your summer vacation becomes an exercise in self-discovery. A lot of kids have their summer structured, and for some it might be a good idea- but I’m in favor of kids making their own choices about what to do with all that time. Not every kid is cut out for camp.
Summer is a time to do what you want to do because you want to do it. I spent my summers playing baseball and mowing lawns for money. No one told me I had to, I wanted to- and it taught me responsibility and gave me a chance to have fun with my friends. One summer I decided to participate in the local library’s reading contest. There was a list of books they put out and you were supposed to read as many as you could. I read most of them. I don’t remember winning anything, but I don’t care. That was some of the best reading I’ve done before or sense. If I could manage it I’d spend a summer doing it again.
Every kid should use the summer as a chance to explore their neighborhood. What’s in that patch of woods behind the playground that the recess supervisors never let you see? Now’s the time to find out. Chances are that what’s in that patch of woods is an acre of poison ivy and you’ll be itching for the rest of the summer, but at least you’ve cured the itch in your curiosity.
When we get older summer seems less and less of a magical time. At a certain point we mature enough to see the end of summer clearly at the beginning of it. Possibilities are not endless- there’s only a short time ahead, and lots to do- kind of like life.
It’s too bad really, and I wish I could recapture the summers of my youth. Maybe I can try. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go exploring.
Wait. Do we have any calamine lotion?
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