Making Your Vocation your Vacation: Giving Your Students Something to Take Home Other than Homework

For the past four years I have volunteered to teach summer school. I know what all you other teachers out there are thinking… ARE YOU CRAZY? At times, I’d say that I am. But when you love what you do, you take any chance to fulfill your dreams. I first started teaching summer school to help me get my foot in the door for supply teaching. I quickly became a permanent teacher but I did not step away from teaching that extra month. Truthfully, it has gotten harder and harder to watch my teacher friends enjoy their summer month… looking rested, relaxed and bronzed when we get together throughout the month of July. This year was my hardest year if I am being honest, I just felt so run down from the year that I needed a break. And so it was more difficult for me at first to find a groove with my students these past four weeks. The first week with them was like pulling teeth as none of us wanted to be in this classroom, the curtains drawn with the bright July summer sunshine shining through tempting us with the outside world.

Both student and teacher alike were actively resisting the bond that is formed in a classroom outside of the learning, but then something changed. It happened rather quickly and none of us caught on to the shift because it was happening subtly. Through spending 6 consecutive hours together each day, we were undoubtedly forming an attachment. We started laughing more and making the best out of our daily volunteer incarceration. We started sharing stories and getting to know each other outside of the books we were studying. More importantly, the daily meditation I do with all my classes started resonating with these kids. The start of each day gave them something to look forward to. Friendships were made among my students and finally real learning was occurring. I realized that without a positive attitude or the forming of these relationships between themselves and their teachers, students will not be able to effectively learn. Students need to look forward to coming to class each day and so they need an environment in which they will be able to thrive. Ultimately, this environment is formed by the teacher!

I’ve always said that I have the best job in the world: I get to hang out with teenagers all day and they feel safe enough to share their hopes and dreams with me. I laugh all day long  because if you haven’t noticed, teenagers are hilarious. I learn more from them than they do from me and they don’t even know it: I learn to be carefree and humble, I learn to be honest and easy going, I learn to laugh at the small stuff and even the big stuff too. Most of all I learn to be compassionate and I am able to once again see the world through their eyes. When life wasn’t about paying bills and starting a family, and instead is about enjoying time with family and friends or getting a ride to your sports tournament. All of these reasons make teaching summer school worth it. Furthermore, my students tell me how much they look forward to our daily meditation and sharing sessions so I know that they too are learning something more important from me than a text book can teach them. So today I say goodbye to 21 kids who have changed my life in ways they maybe will never know, but I’ll remember them for a lifetime.

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