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Behind the Scenes: What Teachers Really Do in the Summer

Let’s take a sneak peek into what teachers really do with all that time off in the summer. This venture may not sound as cool as getting to visit behind the scenes of your favorite movie set, but I guarantee there is as much action taking place. I’m beginning my 14th year as an educator, so I am very familiar with what teachers do with their summers. Follow me as I take you along the refreshing waves of summer vacation from the eyes of a teacher.

The number one item on my summer shopping list: a new school planner. Planning begins day one! Literally. Many teams of teachers meet as soon as the students leave to map out next year’s scope and sequence. This allows lesson planning and new curriculum projects to be divided among the educators on the team. Summer is a time to study revised teaching standards and to get to know team members better. There is plenty of collaboration- even if some of it does take place poolside. Hey- teachers have to switch it up in the summer, too!

Oftentimes teachers change grade levels, schools, or have to move their classrooms. Luckily there is a little bit of time to help with the transition. If you’ve ever moved- you know how much work goes into it. Many teachers use summer to get organized or clean up files after a fast-paced school year. Things have to be in place and ready to roll as soon as students step foot into classrooms this fall. Ready or not! Here they come!

There are a multitude of professional development options in the summer that teachers attend, which could be required or completely voluntary. These trainings cover everything from new textbook adoptions to innovative classroom technology integration. I have attended national conferences and even presented at them, and, like my peers, we pay to attend these opportunities out of our own pockets. I have been heavily involved in my state’s trainings around the updated academic standards. Sometimes with combined trainings and presentations, I travel the state for up to four weeks. It can be exhausting at times, but it’s also exhilarating to share ideas with other passionate teachers, and I know it’s important to ensure that teachers across Tennessee are equipped to deliver quality aligned instruction.

This summer I am serving as one of more than 200 educators on a state textbook committee. We will review textbooks against a rigorous 100-indicator rubric to see if the curricula are aligned to the high academic standards of our state. It is exciting to be a part of the alignment work to help guarantee our students are challenged with appropriate teaching materials and assessments. Some colleagues are on the state assessment committee that meets this summer to make certain our assessments are standards aligned and free of bias. A teacher’s work is never done, but I am proud that our state takes teacher input in every process so seriously.

But summers aren’t just about work, and teachers do make sure there is a bit of time squeezed in for our own families, too. Today I saw two fellow educators with their children at the local library’s story time. Our library supports students in a summer reading program to help combat summer slide. One can bet while picking out books for their kiddos- these teachers happen to place a few in their bag to preview for their classrooms next year, too. I know teachers who travel in the summer and bring back wonderful stories and souvenirs to spark their students’ interest on a more global scale, too. Our profession is always on the back of our minds- even if it looks like all fun and relaxation to outsiders.

Everyone looks forward to summer break: the students, their families, the school administrators, and the teachers. Summer is a time to reflect and reset. It sets the stage for a fresh start next school year. Teachers ask themselves how they can make next year even better than the last. You might have been surprised to consider how little of a “break” there really is for educators because of how much is happening behind the scenes to ensure a great new school year in the fall. All times are busy teacher times- summer included. Here’s to a great fall, y’all!

Dr. Rachel Peay Cornett is an Academic Interventionist at Brown’s Chapel Elementary. Here she teaches rising readers and future mathematicians in grades K-5. Rachel had been teaching for 13 years, previously having taught 1st grade. Dr. Cornett also teaches intervention pedagogy to preservice educators at a local university.