When I was a kid, I spent summer exploring my suburban neighborhood. My friends and I migrated as a herd from house to house, yard to yard, woods to river to library to pool. No matter where we went, mothers made food for us and fathers set up backyard games. In the summer I became a better bike rider, a stronger swimmer, a more creative artist, a practiced game player, a knowledgeable naturalist, and an experienced reader. That is really how it was in my neighborhood. I’m not making it up. Kids went home at the end of the day tired and eager for tomorrow. That’s community. Summer was great.
I just finished a one-week professional development opportunity for English teachers. The “Governor’s Academy” goal was to improve instruction by developing specific links between state-wide Core Learning Goals and assignments and assessments. It was a great class for me, because I was surrounded by teachers who had a lot more experience and knowledge. I’ve only been teaching English two years, and my college degree is in Anthropology. I am well-read, and can discuss literature easily. I love language. I’m a writer. But I have had to learn the appropriate and correct use of academic terms like style, tone, synthesis, and theme. During this four-day training I refined my knowledge and expanded my methods for sharing this knowledge with students. I became a better English teacher.
When I go to these kinds of professional development programs I look like a really experienced teacher. I’m almost 48, so my status as a “young” teacher isn’t obvious. Sometimes I wonder if people think “Wow, she isn’t very smart, because she’s asking very basic questions”. Of course I am smart because I ask basic questions. And sometimes I just gotta laugh and admit that I have no idea what the other participants are talking about, and explain how I became an English teacher. I took the road less traveled to high school.
This professional development program was worth a summer week. You know what I mean. Teachers need the summer to rest and frankly, to take care of other things we don’t have time for during the year. I have boxes of stuff to go through. I have family to visit. I have books to read. I’m sure you do, too. So when I am asked to attend a workshop or class in the summer, I want to know it’s worth it. Will I learn something new and useful? Will I get copies of graphic organizers and lesson plan materials? Will I bring home new books? A program is worth it if I can use what I learned with my students. This program was worth it.
We worked hard, and I met teachers from other schools and districts. We were friendly, and shared ideas and tips and struggles. We worked in teams to develop a basic lesson plan to use this year. We’ll meet again to review how the lesson went, and improve it. Eventually this lesson plan will available to other teachers to use.
We explored, we exercised our minds, and we shared creative ideas. We even ate lunch together. We went home at the end of the week tired, but eager for the new school year. That’s professional community. Summer is great.