...you know, to not have to work all summer and all." "You teachers have it so easy, I wish I had 8 weeks off every year." "You must be so happy!"
So summer vacation is upon us. It has been less than a week and I am already tired of hearing these remarks from various friends and family. For the most part, they mean well. Some people are, I suppose, a tad envious of the schedule. And yes, I am happy to be on vacation, just like any hard working adult is when her vacation time finally arrives. But its not all that simple.
First, there is the very real worry for the safety and well being of my students over such an extended break. For a good number of them, school is where they eat. Sadly some of them go home and do not get dinner or a bed time snack. What happens to them over the summer? Sure, the city has a free lunch program for all residents under 18 in various locations over the entire summer. Do my students' parents know about it? Do they have access to the locations where lunch is being served? And for the families who really do struggle and desperately need this assistance, will one meal a day be enough to sustain a healthy child?
What about less tangible, but just as important things? What about the students who seem so desperately to need love, positive attention of any kind? I spent the days helping these students to realize their own potential and giving them all the positive attention that I could. And I saw how different they were on Monday morning versus Friday afternoon. They came in looking tired and forlorn, and sometimes fearful. As the day wore on, they began to flourish, to open up to me and their peers, to bask in the warm praise used to acknowledge their best efforts. As Friday approached, they became wide-eyed and anxious. Many of them expressed not wanting to go home for a weekend and a few even expressed worry about being on summer break for "all those days."
Even though each student was sent on with a summer packet, I worry about regression. Will the students who are moving on to new classes in the fall regress over the summer? Will their future teachers look down on them or on me? What about the students who will spend another year with me, will I spend the beginning of the year reteaching them skills I thought that they had already mastered?
Then I have the challenge of finding meaningful professional development activities for either the summer or the fall. I will admit that this is challenge is somewhat my own fault. My principal has urged us all to seek off site professional development and he recognized that he cannot and will not provide professional development that is relevant to either special education or early childhood education. I usually, with his permission, opt to take classes off site because their is a chance that something of my own choosing will be more meaningful and relevant to me. I got caught up in other things, like teaching and inspiring young minds, and neglected this task somewhat. When I finally started working on it, I was dismayed to learn that many of the classes were already filled. I am sure that I will find something, but until I do, the task looms over my head.
So it is with all of these thoughts and worries that I started my vacation a few days ago. Yes, I am excited to be on vacation, but that is secondary in comparison to the worry I feel for many of my students.