“It was in the summertime that we could simply be.” ~ Laura Thompson
A cool breeze wafts through my classroom window, a large pine tree has blown over in the school yard, students have said their goodbyes, and I sit at my computer not quite adjusted to the idea that summer is here. I listened to 39 speeches today and 74 yesterday about my tenth graders’ beliefs. They each were asked to write a 350-500 word “This I Believe” essay, and then to present their beliefs to the class. I learned details about my students that I hadn’t known even after a full school year of reading their writing and talking with them each day. It made me realize I still want to know more about these young people and what they have to say.
When checking my e-mail this morning, I read a message from a parent who thanked me for helping her son and invited me to lunch. “Enjoy your free summer,” she noted. I laughed and cringed a bit, too, because many parents don’t realize that teachers’ summers are anything but free. Amy and I will teach a digital storytelling class at Northern Michigan University this month; I’ll teach an English credit recovery class at our high school in July; and Amy and I will lead a summer seminar on Holocaust education in Kalamazoo with our teacher friend Corey Harbaugh in August. Additionally, teachers often take classes in the summer for continuing education credits to maintain their certification. I’ll need to have six credits to renew my license next June. Free? Not exactly. I enjoy busy summers, but like most working parents I do dream of having an entire summer with no specific plans other than to spend precious time with my family.
In her “This I Believe” essay, sophomore Laura Thompson captures what many of us – students, parents, and teachers alike – feel on this last day of school before summer vacation:
Summer Days by Laura Thompson
I remember the summer mornings when my sister and I would wake up early and climb onto the tin roof of the woodshed. We would invent games and make up stories while perched way up high on the cool metal surface. Once the sun began to make the roof too hot for bare legs and feet, we would clamber down to discover what the day had in store for us. Most often we would venture to the woods to play make-believe, grasping sticks in our little hands, wielding them as swords and riding them like broomsticks.
Other activities that filled out free time included kicking up dust clouds in our driveway, diving for badminton birdies, lying on the ground inhaling the scent of mowed grass, watching the clouds roll by overhead, and searching for critters to capture and proudly present to Dad. It was in this time, this world, that my sister and I could just live for the present. It was in the summertime that we could simply be. We didn’t have to impress anyone, follow any rules or guidelines, or worry about school. There were no expectations or limitations. We were free to carry out the plans we had made for ourselves, not be pulled into others’. It is because of my childhood experiences that I believe in summer.
I believe in spending hours catching butterflies and climbing trees and going for long bike rides. I believe in living off s’mores, fresh picked berries, lemonade, and cookouts. I believe in the freedom to do as you please. I believe in summer.
It seems that through the years, the concept of summer has begun to change. College prep, jobs, and sports have overtaken the carefree months of camping, swimming, and basking on beaches. Instead of enjoying the freedom and simple joys of playing with your older sister, people are overworking themselves, studying, and ignoring the nagging memories of how summer used to be. I realize that we are no longer the small children we used to be, the children who were engulfed by the magic that fell from the lofty green trees the instant the last day of school came to a close.
However, I believe that the magic we felt when summer was upon us still exists; we just have to rediscover it – even if that means taking a half hour out of a summer day to just lie in the grass and stare at the clouds, eat a s’more, and drink some lemonade. To me, summer still means two sisters playing on the roof of a woodshed. Summer means freedom and fun and hanging out with friends. I believe in summer.