It is a rather controversial thing in many political circles, the face that teachers are not in the classroom for a significant period in the hottest part of the year. I suppose it is just conceivable that there are some people who close the classroom or office door in the building and the brain and don't think again about teaching or research or enrichment of their classes until the first day of work in August, but I don't think I know any.
What the summer is for me is a chance to catch my breath (resetting my time clock to a more late-night schedule than is allowed during the academic year), figure out (with the benefit of distance in time and space) what I can do to improve my teaching, read the textbooks (new edition of one which will necessitate redoing the powerpoints essentially from scratch and new editions for a second class that are completely different sets of essays, so reading those rather than just reskimming the older articles), and return to research, the thing that makes me up to date and involved in the field I teach.
Of course, these are broad goals, and I am going to have a more complicated summer than just that set of activities would indicate. As I head into the summer, I thought I would lay out the plans for the coming months and invite discussion about what a summer should be for a teacher, whether primary, secondary, or tertiary. Follow me below the squiggly bits for the meat of the matter.
I started out today purchasing a carboard-covered composition book with lined pages. It will be a journal of sorts. I will make sure that my purse or bag is big enough to hold its 9.75x7.5 inch bulk. The journal will be where I take notes at the conference and any workshops I attend (the cardboard cover assures that I do not have to have a table to write on), and the 100 sheets (200 pages, front and back) will allow me to jot down comments, thoughts, to-do lists, email addresses and reminders. I have a lot of reading to do before the summer productivity begins and this purchase of a cardboard book with a cactus and rolling hillsides that look like an orange baseball mitt, with a floral coyote howling against a yellow sky (the idea is that this shows the recycled papers that could have been used in the largely post-consumer fiber that went into the book) will help me keep all my notes in one place, all together.
I have two trips lined up this summer, in addition to a few excursions to the town my parents still live in. In June I am off to the business meeting for an academic organization for which I have just stepped up to become an officer. The conference-lite meeting is in Los Angeles (Santa Ana, actually) in June, just at the time of NN. The flights will take a full day each way, from there to my small town in Missouri. I have four full days on the ground, three and a half of which will be take up completely by the meeting. The other half day might turn into a visit to a local museum. Unfortunately the major museums I want to see (LACMA, the Getty Villa, and the La Brea Tarpits) are all on the opposite side of the city and when you talk about a city the size of LA the other side is frighteningly far away. It just won't be practical to visit any of them!
The other major trip is to Denver, for my brother's fiftieth birthday. I will be driving out there so I can bring a fountain from my parents' house. It is something they must have gotten when they moved into this house, in the late 1950s. He has the yard to set it up and I hope he enjoys it for the next 50 years. I am looking forward to the trip, and although it will be a long drive I might stop in one or two places along the way, eat a bit of fried chicken, maybe, or see a few local museums (I am teaching museums again in the fall, so it is all part of the work I will be doing this summer -- no one said summer work couldn't be fun!).
There are two major research/writing projects lined up for the summer. I am co-editing a publication on best practices in undergraduate research in the arts and humanities and finally settling down to finish a site report on archaeological work done in the 1990s. For the latter the first stage is going to be to reread the chapters that were written and revised by a couple of authors (me included) and to make a list of what needs to be done. I have done this over and over by now, and I have done some of my bit and not finished any of it completely. And there are others I will assign bits to; hopefully we will get most of the rest of the book written this summer and what isn't done will be very clearly assigned and planned for the next year. All of us have full time jobs that do not involve writing books (primarily, anyway), so this is being fit into those time spans that do not require attention to other things.
We are also doing a revision of our major (we have proposed it and it kicks in for the fall) that adds a track focused more on practical applications of the degree. Although none of our senior majors are chosing to take that track in the fall we have also changed the capstone assessment so that it is not part of the whole department but is more relevant to our majors (thus, for example, instead of how to put together a portfolio of your studio work we are planning on having our students do practice interviews for jobs). This will involve some consultation with the career center and coordination with the colleague I share responsibility for the capstone class, all to be done over the summer.
So my summer has just started. It will not of course be all work. I will be walking to and from the square in the afternoons, sometimes for ice cream, or a movie, or just to hang out with friends in a coffee shop. I will wander out to the lake or through small towns or to a country auction or craft show. I will start back to putting in an hour at the gym at least five times a week and occasionally I will read a book... sometimes even just for fun! (my reading list includes WWI novels and Jasper Fforde and the next Daniel Silva, for which I will set aside a day of nothing but Gabriel Allon).
But in spite of what anyone might say, my summer is not a summer "off" -- it is a summer "on" to do the things I need to do to get ready for the fall and to make sure my scholarship (both disciplinary and pedagogical) is where it should be so that my students benefit from someone up to date with a solid knowledge of the field so that they are secure in what they themselves are learning. Yes, I will set my own schedule and goals, and I don't have to answer officially to much of anyone, but I will be working nonetheless. Most teachers work over the summer, even if they don't teach summer school or have to get another job to make ends meet. Don't let your state legislators tell you any differently.
So... What are you doing to "earn your keep"?
(and as an aside, this will be the last regular Teachers' Lounge until mid August when we are back to work on my campus. I may write a few diaries on teaching and I certainly will be hanging out with the Great Orange Satan's minions, but I won't be keeping to this Saturday schedule through the summer months. Anyone else should feel free to jump in if he or she wants; I'll just reclaim the moth-eaten, badly-needs-to-drycleaned mantle in the fall.)