For accountants, it ends in Mid-April.
For teachers, it ends in June.
Anyway, it's at this time of the year - about a week before the end of school - that mild panic starts to set in for most of us. We've spent the whole year, thinking of Summer Vacation as some sort of Three Month, stress-free, empty expanse of time, during which we can do all the home improvement projects we've been putting off, get in shape, recharge, reconnect with our families (who, at this point, only vaguely remember who we are) and tackle all the projects we've been putting off all year. (Which is to say, since September.)
What we fail to remember - and what most of the general public doesn't realize - is that Summer Vacation is NOT three months long. For teachers, it lasts about six weeks. (Mind you, I'm NOT complaining; I know how thrilled most people would be for six weeks of vacation.) During this time, we need to get all our ducks in a row for the Fall AND take classes AND go to conferences AND do our summer reading AND...
Well, simply put, this is the week when we realize that there probably won't be as much hammock-lying-while-drinking-cocktails-from-coconuts-while-being-fanned-by-Raul-the-pool-boy (or in my particular case, Minnie Driver) in our immediate future as we had hoped.
Here's what I DO plan on doing this summer:
ISTE Conference in Denver - A few years ago, I went to the NECC Conference in Atlanta and it was awesome - crowded, but awesome. Being with 16,000 teachers and technology people in one place, at one time was an amazing experience. The following year in San Antonio, the numbers had grown to 18,000+ and it was slightly less awesome; I couldn't get into most of the sessions I wanted to and things were just really, really crowded. (On the plus side, I had a week of life-changing Mexican food.)
So, last year, I skipped the conference (now called ISTE) and I really regretted it. I'm going to the conference in Denver this June. What I've learned since San Antonio is that the official presentations are really not the most important aspect of the conference - that it's all about networking. I've established some online relationships with teachers from around the country and ISTE provides a unique opportunity to meet them face to face and collaborate on projects.
Which leads me to..
Overly-Ambitious Project #1 - A few months ago, I was looking for a video of food historian Jennifer 8 Lee to use in a lesson and stumbled upon a video in a series by the 92nd Street YMCA in New York where they ask famous local people to show them what is in their refrigerators.
This seems like genius.
I'd like to have my 7th grade students do some sort of inventory of their refrigerators next fall and map where everything came from. Or maybe where all the ingredients in one of the foods came from. Or something. (This project is obviously still in its embryonic stage.) I'd like to collaborate with other classrooms around the country; I think it would be fascinating for my very, VERY sheltered, white bread kids to see what other kids in other parts of the country consider normal food. I'd like to call it something like, "Bridges 2 Fridges". We could connect to each other via Skype or collaborate on a GoogleMap or... um... or something.
(By the way, let me know if you want in on this.)
Overly Ambitious Project #2 - I've been listening to the A History of the World in 100 Objects podcast from the BBC for a few months, and I'm kind of hooked. They look at a variety of objects in the British Museum and examine what we can learn about a particular period in history from it. Fascinating!
Unfortunately, it's pretty dense stuff, even for an adult and I won't be able to use it in my classroom. But I got to thinking - what if there was something like this that was aimed at Middle Schoolers, centered around American History?
"What if?", indeed.
So, what I'd like to do this summer, is get in touch with other teachers, history professors and non-classroom-smart-people and have each of them pick an object from American History that sheds light on an important moment in our development as a nation or as a culture. I wouldn't be looking for objects that are famous in-and-of themselves, such as the Liberty Bell, or the pistol that shot Lincoln, but ones that reflect a broader scope of history - slave chains, a Sears-Roebuck catalog, a corset, a "No Irish Need Apply" sign - things like that.
I could show my 8th grade class a picture of one of these objects on a given day and we could have a discussion about what they think it is and why someone thinks it's historically important. Then we could read or listen to the contributor's essay and discuss that. I think it would be a cool resource. This could be a good jumping-off point for a high school class, particularly an AP class to pick objects and write essays of their own.
(Again, get in touch if you want to be part of this one, too.)
Reading - I'm going to be taking on an additional class this Fall - 7th Grade World Studies, which will involve Roman and Medieval History, which will, in turn involve a lot of reading this summer. I'm starting with this.
Writing Curriculum for the Same - Working on that. Also still embryonic.
Presenting a Couple of Workshops - At this point, this is fun and relaxing.
Exercise and Weight Loss - I've been on a pretty serious diet since January and I've been pretty successful; I'm down about 60 lbs, which puts me just over half-way to my goal. Unfortunately, I suspect the first half was the easy part.
(I actually had a colleague tell me last week that losing the first 60 pounds was easy because I'm a man and that kind of thing is easy for men. She knows because she herself once lost fifteen pounds. I carefully refrained from choking the living snot out of her on the spot or from commenting on what she knows about being easy. I think I get extra Kharma points.)
Anyway, I've been trying to be conscientious about exercising. I've managed to get out and walk three miles or so three or four mornings a week, but it's been tough. My commute and schedule take up so much time that the only I can go walking is early in the morning, which means getting up at 2:30.
So, sometimes I don't do it.
Anyway, I'd like to ramp up the exercise this summer and try to walk five or six miles a day, which will allow me to...
Work on My Cocktail Blog - Last summer's project was to work my way through the rum section of the Mr. Boston Bartending Guide. I blogged about my efforts on my Mr. B & Me website. I'd like to continue with that - this time with a calorie count and what I did to burn off enough calories to earn each cocktail. This may involve a couple of field trips to specialty liquor stores. Again, I'm not complaining.
Learn Spanish - I've wanted to learn Spanish for a long time now. This year, I really want to make a start. Wish me buena suerte.
Cook Ten New Curries
Fast for Ramadan - A few weeks ago I was chatting with my doctor, who happens to be Muslim and I mentioned that I'd heard it would be a tough Ramadan this year, falling in August/September. She said yes and she really wasn't looking forward to it - very long days without food or water and this being New Hampshire, not much support from the people around her.
I think I was as surprised as she was to hear myself say, "Well, let me know when it is and I'll fast with you."
I thought she'd take this as a polite pleasantry, but within a day or two, I started getting email updates and links to "Getting Through Ramadan" websites, so I guess I'm committed. (My wife, by the way, finds this almost poetically gratifying and is way too amused by the whole situation.)
What's been surprising to me as I discuss this with people though, is the number of very intelligent people with very odd ideas about Ramadan. They seem to look on this as a strange, ill-advised fringe practice of some sort, instead of something that 1.3 billion people do each year.
"Well, that CAN'T be good for you!"
"You know, I could never do that because I need to be on a schedule or I just don't feel right."
"I don't think most of those Muslim people actually go the WHOLE day without eating - just the extremists."
So now, I'm REALLY committed to doing this. I feel like I need a little bit of insight into this aspect of Islam. I'm not a terribly spiritual person and I don't intend to convert or anything, but I feel like I have a need to do this.
Just don't do anything annoying around me late in the afternoon in late August.