We come again to the month of Juno, and in addition to inputting final grades, throwing out old projects, cleaning up the classroom, and checking out with administrators, some teachers may still be pondering how to gainfully employ themselves through the summer. Indeed, as a new teacher several years ago, I debated my options anxiously. I asked many colleagues how they used their time, and I encountered a wide variety of responses, each with its own particular merit.
I discovered that many teachers use the summertime to deal with all the ‘stuff’ that doesn’t fit in comfortably into their busy school year. They re-roof their houses, spend time with children and family or work on their passion for pottery. Other teachers don’t do much of anything. I have heard some espouse the virtue of sitting on a hammock near a dog with a glass of lemonade; when a spouse discovers the summering teacher at the end of the day, she inevitably wonders has he moved since this morning?
A different option for the summer involves travel. Some teachers give themselves a budget and head off into a journey of discovery. My favorite sorts of trips to hear about are those which involve long, overly-ambitious schemes to cycle across the entire country. Still others combine learning and travel, going solo to significant sites or taking part in teacher education programs. There are some terrific classically minded opportunities with the American Academy in Rome as well as a tours and programs at the Getty Villa in California. There are also exciting opportunities closer to home, such as the CANE Summer Institute (linked on this site), the American Classical League Institute, and through the Paideia Institute, with both in-person and online programs.
Teaching summer school or working at summer camps is another popular choice. In addition to providing an educator with a different teaching experience from the regular school year, this option has an added benefit of extra income. However, as I myself have discovered, teaching over the summer and into the following school year may simply feel overwhelming.
For many, gainly employment over the summer is obligatory. After all, teachers’ salaries in the United States compare unfavorably to full-time workers with similar education levels in other fields. Student loans, mortgages, car payments, and school tuition payments add up, and working through the summer might be a fact of life. However, it is not necessarily a woeful necessity. Varied employment outside of the classroom can provide a much needed mental respite from the complicated demands of the school year.
Whatever you do, I hope you relish the change of pace! And if you were facing an existential crisis about what the summer means to you, I hope that I have by now reassured you that there is no right answer and no wrong one. Make a decision that seems right for now and forge ahead. fortuna fortem adiuvat!