MY WORD: Teachers aren’t sleeping right now

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By Ryan S. Allan

There are many metaphors to describe the idea that something big is coming. Sleeping dogs. Sleeping giants. Runaway trains. Quiet volcanoes. Rechargeable batteries….wait, what?

Well, admittedly rechargeable batteries don’t have the poetic value of the others, but the idea remains. Rechargeable batteries are energy accumulators. When recharging, they are gearing up for the work they must perform in the future. When recharging, they are preparing for the moment when they can transfer their stored energy. When recharging, they are building and growing.

The rechargeable battery is a good metaphor for our teachers in the summer months.

I know this feeling of expectancy well. My years in the classroom gave me the opportunity to enjoy a summer of recharging. Having come to teaching as a second career, I relished the time that I could spend with my daughters and wife… for a little while. In truth though, (and I know this seems impossible to anyone outside looking in,) the summer months for a teacher are not the ideal vacation that most people picture. A teacher’s mind is never off. “What if I tried this? What if I explore that? What if this technique makes a difference? How can I be better next year?” The summer months are full of what ifs. Teachers in Shelby County are recharging right now, but none of them are in shut down mode.

I’m a realist enough to know that many of you reading this are questioning the idea. “I’d love to have a couple of months ‘off’ every summer,” you’re no doubt saying to yourself. Don’t get me wrong; it’s nice to recharge, and for batteries that are wearing down, it’s necessary.

However, it is an absolute myth to think that educators see this time as vacation. Consider the heavy reality that awaits the nearly 500 certified employees as they come back to school in a few weeks. I guarantee you they are considering it. This time spent away from students is more frustrating to a teacher than any other point in the year. This is because they are very aware of the task they must perform.

A teacher is graded on his/her ability to move a student “one year’s growth in one year’s time,” and anything less than that is teacher failure. Teachers are keenly aware of this responsibility, and if it doesn’t happen, then it is their fault.

This reality creates a drive in teachers. It is what keeps them awake at night. It is what inspires them to spend extra hours creating amazing lessons. It is the reason they do not view summer in the same light as the rest of the world. See, regression can be an unfortunate reality. Regression is the fact that some children come back after summer vacation and are academically behind where they were when they left. Regression is why educators are recharging right now. Regression is why they cannot wait to get started.

On Aug. 8, our new school year will begin and with it the release of weeks of accumulated energy. The metaphors I could use…floodgates, powder keg, volcanic eruption…all create a visual that is appropriate. We are going to rise. We are going to unleash. We are going to ignite!

Parents, keep your children reading and help avoid the summer slump. Teachers, keep the hounds restrained for a few more weeks. Shelby County, like Paul Revere in his midnight ride, hear me herald…something big is coming!


Ryan S. Allan is public relations coordinator for Shelby County Public Schools.