Recently I read that August is the Sunday of summer. This struck me as apt. Sunday is a day to gather and prepare, to collect ourselves for the coming time of work. So many teachers I know have spent not just this Sunday of summer but the whole time of rest – all the summer – regrouping, thinking, planning, collaborating, attending conferences, working on their classrooms. We like to explain to non-believers, those who would remind teachers that we get three months off, that we spend much of that time preparing for our coming year. It is a self-righteous, self-satisfying thing to say, and not incorrect – but not totally genuine, either.
Under the blazing sun of today as I hung clothes on the line, I stood in the spaces between the slack, damp t-shirts and enjoyed cool shade. I wondered, how much of this quiet rest time, away from the burning push of all-that-must-be-done, could we teachers really allow ourselves? My guess is, much more than most of us do.
My friend Monica helped me think about the overwhelming tasks of a teacher, especially one who has many other obligations heaped onto her plate, as separate boxes. Got a presentation to plan? That’s one box. Considering a new unit for the classroom? A different box. A paper to write for a class you’re taking? That’s a separate box. Sometimes we have multiple boxes open at once; other times we say, “I can’t open that box yet.” It’s a way of coping with the work.
What if, during summer, teachers simply proclaimed this: I will allow only three boxes this summer. Or two boxes. Or none. The remainder of our time would balloon quietly into a break of the kind that other professionals enjoy, where they don’t think about their work, where they spend meaningful time with their spouses and pets, where they lose track of the days.
What if we make summer the space between, the vacation so many people think teachers have. It is the space between up at five, bed at eleven. It is the space between school buses and copy machines. It is the space between frenzy. A space with no reminder alarms, a space with no pinching tiredness. A space with no boxes.
And August, the Sunday of summer, is simply the last third of this space between: a stretch of late mornings, laundry on the line, early afternoon drinks, and sunsets with nothing to do tomorrow.