A Teacher’s Summer Vacation

What do teachers do over summer vacation?  I can really only speak for myself, but I find that I am thinking of school.  All.  The.  Time.  No matter what I’m doing, it’s always there running around in the back of my mind.  Last year I transitioned back into the classroom after five years of teaching reading intervention.  This coming year I will again be changing assignments.  Our second and third grades are becoming departmentalized, and I will be on a three teacher team.  One teacher will teach reading to all three classes, one will teach math, and I will be teaching science and social studies.  I am very excited about all of the hands-on project possibilities, but also a little overwhelmed.

To be honest, the just-completed school year really kicked my butt.  I was exhausted by the time it was over. I knew that moving back to a classroom after five years of teaching groups of 5-7 students at a time would be a big change, but there were lots of other challenges as well.  Our school was in the process of changing over to the Common Core, but because the state tests haven’t caught up yet, we would still need to cover a lot of the old standards.  Luckily I was familiar with the second grade reading series because I had taught reading in second grade, but the math series had only been in use for one year and was completely different from the one I had used my last time in the classroom.  On top of that, as a grade level it was decided that instead of teaching through both series more or less “in order,” supplementing and adapting as we went, we were going to pull everything apart, add things, take things out, and generally completely rearrange them.  Now, most teachers would tell you they don’t use any series as a be-all end-all, but I like to look at them as a good jumping off point.  They have a lot of material and activities right there, ready to go.  I always felt that having a certain amount of material on hand gave me more freedom to create the additional lessons that I wanted or needed.  I know several teachers who don’t feel right unless they have created every single lesson from scratch themselves.  Not me.  I am all about the hunt.  Google is my best friend.  All those ideas running around in the back of my mind?  Well, every once in a while one of them pokes its way to the front.  Sometimes its pretty fully formed, other times not.  On those occasions, I usually know what I want to accomplish, but maybe not how to go about it.  Google to the rescue!  After scouring and scavenging web pages and blogs, I choose the best ideas and put together my own little lesson.  It’s kind of like going to a flea market and scoring hidden treasure, or bringing home a beat up old dresser and transforming it with some paint, paper and Mod Podge.  (I don’t really do that myself, but I’ve seen it on Pinterest! 🙂 )  This year, I just did not have the time or energy for that.  Keeping up with the changes we were making in our basic curriculum was hard enough.  I feel like I got the basics covered, but didn’t have a lot of time for the “extras.”

I am already hard at work on next year’s material, taking the science and social studies standards (or content statements, as they’re called here in Ohio) and working on a pacing chart, developing essential questions, and gathering ideas for lessons.  Pinterest is a big help here.  Whereas I use Google to refine or streamline a specific idea, Pinterest is excellent for general trawling.  We have quite a few social studies standards dealing with maps, so one of the things I have done is go to the official website for every state in the union and request travel information.  It’s free!  I’ve got travel brochures and maps, maps, and more maps from all over!

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The two blue file jackets in front are full of just maps, and I’ve got about half that many again that don’t fit in the folders.  Minnesota, South Carolina, and Oregon have been especially prolific in the amount of material they’ve sent.  They reeeeeallly want me to visit.  I’ve gotten some very interesting material too.  I’ve got a skill-rated motorcycle map of the Black Hills of South Dakota; an airport guide from North Carolina, with aerial photos and details on all of their small airports; I’ve got truck driver handbooks and maps of national parks.  I did realize that I’m going to have to do a more thorough reading of all the brochures, however, when I came across the one from Atlantic City, New Jersey that had a fairly robust section on “adult” entertainment!

Second grade science focuses quite a bit on weather, so I’m looking forward to making weather instruments such as sundials, anemometers, barometers, and others with the students.  We also have several standards to cover on forces and motion, so we’ll be making marble rallies, Angry Bird-type structures, and stick bombs.  Hmm, with a “zero tolerance” policy on weapons, maybe we’ll rename the stick bombs.  They are awesome, though.  Watch this…

I’m looking forward to next year, and with June already over, it is fast approaching!

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