When the economist, John Kenneth Galbraith, was asked why he chose to teach, he reportedly replied, "There are three reasons: June, July, and August." The following article, originally appearing in The Blind Teacher suggests how this "vacation" might be used profitably to minimize the work load once the academic year begins.
By the time you receive this newsletter, it will be summer. Even if you don't have the entire summer off, your teaching schedule will likely be less hectic than it is during the school year. It might be tempting to just forget about school for awhile. However, by using some of your free time constructively during the summer, you will be able to relax a little more during the school year. Here are some ideas.
Why not prepare for the first day of school right after this year's last day of school? If possible, write your lesson plans for the first week of school. Prepare handouts and other supporting materials. If you know which classroom you will have and you have a desk or cupboard that locks, stock it with the supplies you will need for the first few days of classes. Clean out your school bag and pack it with the items you will need for the first day. In short, do everything you can well in advance. When the first week of school rolls around with all its usual stress and excitement, you will be glad you did.
During the more leisurely summer months, use some of your time to plan units of study, browse teachers' catalogs, collect new teaching aids and prepare work sheets, tests, games, projects and other materials which you can use in the classroom during the coming year. Without the pressure of daily lesson preparation and correcting papers, you will have more time and energy to prepare elaborate materials. For example, why not take the time to put together a slide show with an accompanying taped sound track, complete with narration, music and sound effects? Chances are, you won't have the time to do something this ambitious during the school year. Have sighted family members help you to cut out and label pictures from National Geographic and other magazines. These can be mounted on cardboard and laminated to be used as flash cards or in bulletin board displays. Check the TV listings daily for educational programs which can be taped for classroom use. This may not be the most relaxing way to spend your summer, but the more you prepare in advance, the more you will be able to relax at the end of each long day of teaching during the school year when you will really need the rest.
Even your family vacation can be put to good use. Don't worry! I'm not suggesting that you take your students along. However, there are ways of bringing your vacation back to them. If you go to the seashore, collect interesting shells which can be used in your classroom for decoration and education. When you take that relaxing nature walk, have a sighted companion take pictures which can be developed into slides. If you visit historical sites and recording is allowed, take a cam-corder or audio tape-recorder along to record the tour guide's comments and capture the experience. If the tape turns out well, share it with your class. Don't forget to visit the gift shop where you can buy post cards, ready-made slides, books and videos which can be used in your classroom.
Summer is also the best time for repair and maintenance of the equipment that you use throughout the year. Send your Braille writer away for its yearly cleaning. Replace typewriter ribbons and cartridges and make sure that your computer and printer are in good shape. If you take good care of your equipment each summer, it will last longer and perform better.
You spend the school year educating your students. Why not spend at least part of the summer educating and enriching yourself? Read books on teaching methods that you just don't have time to read when you're teaching. Attend summer workshops and conferences for teachers. One of the best conferences you can attend is the convention of the National Association of Blind Teachers. This will give you the opportunity to participate in informative workshops and exchange ideas with other blind teachers. Take summer classes at a local college or university. These activities will give you new ideas and sharpen your skill as a teacher.
These are only a few suggestions for making your summer more productive and the following school year more relaxed, exciting and successful! I am sure that you can think of several more. As blind teachers, it often takes us longer to perform routine tasks; so, any advanced preparations will be a tremendous help. Also, any enrichment activity that sharpens our skills as teachers will help compensate for our blindness and narrow the gap between us and our sighted colleagues. Finally, however you spend your summer, don't forget to take time out for rest and relaxation. You probably need it! If you do this, you will come back to school with more energy and a fresh prospective on your work, and you will perform much better as a teacher during the coming year.
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