So, to start, this is my experience. I know others approach things differently, and it's ok that I don't understand that approach. With that out of the way, let's talk about summer. Schools are off, and so are teachers, right? I know that in my time in the classroom that certainly wasn't the case, and I am going to use this blog to convince you that it isn't. If you're a teacher, summer should be a time for work, but it's finally time to work at your own pace. If you use summer correctly, it also means that some of the garbage that you have to do during the school year is worthless. Maybe if we change the perception, we can change that.
In all my year's in the classroom, I only came into one where I was not a coach. I coached football, wrestling, and one fateful year of lacrosse. I also wanted to be a good teacher, though. It means that if I did not plan in the summer, I was pretty much screwed. There was no chance I could plan effectively during the school year and put in the time that I needed as a coach. It meant summer was work, and I accepted that. I could finally make my own schedule.
I don't understand the teachers that take the whole summer off, and I think the number of ones that do who are also good at what they do is limited. Summer absolutely needs to be a time to decompress, but if I can take some of that time to create original experiences for my students, I am going to do that. I want to do that. I want to get ahead, so I am not scrambling during the school year. It doesn't mean I won't have to make some adjustments, and it doesn't mean I will finish my lesson planning. It just means I will have a great head start.
If everyone took the summer planning approach, though, it means administration and leadership teams would need to look at things differently. PLC's have some value, but they also take away creativity. Forcing teachers to "co-plan" in them means they could lay out the best-laid plans in the summer to just have them thrown out. Why are we forcing them to do that? Teachers have different strengths, and they should be able to use them to get the most out of their students.
It doesn't mean PLC's don't have value though. To start, they should be almost entirely virtual. Why are we wasting teacher valuable time during the year when we could set them up in a great virtual way that lets them share with each other even in the summer months. Yes, it takes training for folks to do it effectively, but it would also make them better using virtual platforms which every school now has with Learning Mangement systems.
I also think PLC's need to do a better job of getting together like-minded teachers. Just because teachers teach the same subject, it does not mean they teach the same way. I know I had a PLC one year where I was having students create with video, and I had to partner with a teacher who had just gotten their first cellphone....in 2010. I would have benefited much more from being with a teacher who thought the same way I did about student creation. It could have even been a teacher of a different subject. With all the practical methods of connecting, why aren't we letting teachers do that?
I also think we need to have a renewed emphasis on teacher PD in the summer. Guess what? Most teachers aren't going to give two thoughts about PD that comes in and tries to happen during their regular school process. There just isn't enough time, and they have too many other cares (I don't include coaching in this as it's a different kind of support.) You have to be able to pull out of the environment and focus on your own learning.
What better way to do it than the summer? We need to provide teachers the opportunity to do it. It could be as severe as finding the money to send them to a big conference like ISTE, or as easy as setting up ways for the best teachers to show off what they are doing. It's really up to you.
With all that I am trying to say make the most of your summer. Use it to be less crazy during the year, and to make yourself better. If your admin doesn't support that, then you need to tell them why they should.