Last summer my pool was somewhat useless. We couldn’t get the chemicals to cooperate, forcing us to look at a really giant green lake. Then there was the pool turtle. This creature stayed so long we should have collected rent. By the time we got the pool suitable for summer fun, it was time for school to start again. (It’s totally insane that Alabama schools started back the first week of August. At least kids have two more weeks this summer!) One of the reasons this house appealed to me when we bought it was how wonderful it would be to take a little “vacation” to the backyard every day in the summer.
This summer the pool is totally ready for action. The water is clear and has been since before school was out. No creatures have invaded our crystal lake causing us to run and take cover. The weather has been blistering hot and hardly any rain has threatened to spoil the vacation to the backyard. I have new pool toys, a new swimsuit, and virtually no distractions to keep me from jumping in. And I haven’t step foot in the pool yet. What’s up with that?
Is this true? The more we have, the less we appreciate and use what we have. Is it human nature to take special things for granted? All of us have something that we begged for, longed for, saved for, and promised ourselves we’d use everyday. Those things end up collecting dust, pushed in the corner of the attic, or worse – sold at a yard sale. (My list includes a treadmill, air hockey table, various kitchen electrics, and the fish aquarium.) Each item experienced at least one day of exceptional value. The desire to own and use it WAS great. This frightens me. And here’s why.
The coming school year I will have my dream classroom. I will have a 1:1 classroom with desktops, a projection system with Smart® technologies (Board, Document Camera, and Slate), and a giant multimedia display. New furniture – excellent computer tables and chairs, and round tables for group work – await me and my students. I am in a “non-traffic” area of the building. And I’m teaching 9th grade English and history and 11th English – which is really perfect for me. I’ve spent twenty years longing for this and now I have it. WOW! So, how to I keep from letting a single day go to waste? How do I maintain my enthusiasm and sheer joy for living what I swore was my dream? How do I make sure that absolutely NONE of this equipment ends up dusty, unused, and ready for the next trash pick-up? Here are a few commitments I will make to myself:
- Prepare myself. Plan, plan, and plan some more. Stay out of the pool this summer and get prepared to have vacation all year around in my dream space.
- Stay deeply involved with those who do not have what I have. Constantly see what it is like to be without your dream in order to appreciate being with your dream.
- Allow students to get from my class what I get from teaching it. I want autonomy in planning and teaching. I want challenging, exciting work. I want a strong relationship between my efforts and my rewards. Focus on making sure students have that as well. If that happens, this 21st Century classroom will naturally become extraordinarily useful for them.
So, now I’m looking for your suggestions. How do you avoid taking something for granted? What have you done to make the most of having your ideal classroom? Can’t wait to hear from you!
2 thoughts on “The 187 Day Dream Vacation”
Thanks for sharing your story. I think it applies to so many of us. When I read your first tip to yourself about “staying out of the pool” an inner voice inside me cried out, “No! Your best ideas will come to you during play and relaxation.”
As someone who has a hard time letting go and not planning, planning, I would highly recommend that you balance that planning for next year with recharging time. The best way to not take the new tech for granted is to plan in small steps how you will incorporate each “gift” into your routines.
Congrats on what sounds like such a wonderful setting to be the wonderful teacher I know you are. I always enjoy your reflections!
Thanks, Joan. You are so right. Some of my best ideas/insights do occur through play and relaxation. And luckily I’m married to one of the most playful people in the world, making it impossible for me to go an entire summer without chilling out a bit.
Maybe I should restate my commitment this way: I will begin the school year as prepared as I can possibly be without sacrificing the mental and physical break I need to refresh and recharge myself.
Excellent. I feel better for stating it that way already. Thanks for your insights, Joan. You never fail to provide encouragement and I’m grateful that you are a part of my PLN. I hope you have a wonderful break yourself!