Today is the fortieth day of my summer vacation. Unlike Phineas and Ferb – who live world of a hundred and four days of summer vacation, mine ebbs and flows depending on the school district’s calendar. This year summer break is eighty days long, last year summer break was seventy days and the year I began Making the Days Count dot org, it was eighty-two days. Today, I am in the first half of summer vacation and when tomorrow comes, it will be the first day of the second half and the countdown to the first day of school will be on.
I am home for a few more days, O’s team won their game last night in an 18-9 win, the girls played well and O had a three RBI double up the middle in her second at bat. It was a great hit at the right time and the other team never got any closer. She also played well in the field. The team plays for the championship Saturday morning and afterwards, we’ll load up and head back to the lake for the rest of summer. I love summer; it doesn’t get any better.
I realize I live in a unique world, the world of school where learning is important and growing is even more important. The folks who don’t teach, don’t understand, or simply don’t get it. They argue that teachers don’t get it, either; but I do. You see before I became a teacher, I worked and I had a job in the private sector. I worked for a restaurant company and after thirteen years, I had three weeks of vacation. I had a flexible schedule and could take a weekend off or ‘make’ a three-day weekend when I needed one. Then I decided I wanted more and I quit my job and went back to school. W came along that first year in school, I student taught, I waited tables and we made ends meet, I graduated, found a teaching job and have been teaching ever since. I would like to believe I’ve been teaching my entire life, but I’ve been doing so professionally, since 1999. It sounds like a fairy tale or good luck, but it isn’t; it came from hard work and doing what needed to be done, when it needed to be done.
I have learned, after thirteen years, teaching isn’t easy and kids don’t necessarily understand (or accept) why they are in school, so I need to teach a bit differently to every kid, because they don’t all learn the same way. It might have to do with the grade level I teach, seventh grade, where kids are grappling with themselves and growing socially, emotionally, physically, and intellectually all at different rates and times. Some kids take school at face value and do it because it is what they were told to do and challenging authority is not part of their makeup, yet. Some kids try to cheat the system and take short cuts and only want to learn what is on the test so they can get a good grade, and some kids just have to learn it the old-fashioned way – the hard way, where experience is the teacher. I don’t know what kind of student you were, but the best students are a combination of all three, I definitely learned the hard way and experience has taught me there are no shortcuts, only short ways back to where I was in the first place. So, it is a lot easier to work hard, do the reading, answer the questions, and use a strategy to use what I am learning in a different way. Because school isn’t about getting good grades and getting it done, it is about learning ways to solve the problems that come your way after school and using what you learned to get ahead.
Which gets me to my point, at least I think I have one. I began summer with a few modest goals: (in no particular order)
- Read (at least) twenty books – books for kids in middle school
- swim the mile again
- Lose weight and get in shape
- Help B around the house and complete some of the ‘when summer comes’ projects
- gain control of my desk and organization
- Help the kids – W and O – with their summer
- Plan for the coming year and organize my teaching world
- Update the websites I run – the scout troop and the teaching association
- Keep Making the Days Count dot org running
- Write, blog, and increase readership
- Have fun
So far, I am keeping up. I have been reading and I swam the mile. I have lost a little bit of weight and I feel a bit better, but I have a long way to go and many habits to break. Every summer is a little bit different and experience has taught me I need to work harder and stay focused on my goals.
Right now, O is sleeping upstairs, the water is running and the plants are getting a good drink, the birds are playing in the sprinklers, Ivy is looking and dreaming out the window, and I’m writing about learning and applying what I’ve learned. I learn through hard work and stories. Sometimes the stories are written, some are told, and some are visual. Often it’s a movie with a great theme or sometimes it is a commercial like the ones produced by the Foundation for Better Life, and sometimes it’s just a great commercial. I love football and I am sad when the Super Bowl comes along because it means the season is over until next year. It also means the Super Bowl advertisements will be on and even though some of the ads are very ridiculous ads, it is all about consumerism – buying more because it is cool. However, occasionally there is ad that resonates with me and I want to figure a way to use it as a teaching tool, sometimes I can and other times I have to wait for the right moment.
Now is the right moment, this year Chrysler produced an ad for the super bowl and it is called ‘Halftime in America’ and it aired at the end of halftime, just as the third quarter was about to begin. I am certain a few people missed it, but it caused quite a furor – right wingers called it an Obama ad, left-wingers called it a right wing ad, but it was simply an ad for a car company and it pulled at our emotions. Narrated by Clint Eastwood in his gravelly voice, the ad asks the viewer to think of how America and Americans have endured, grown, and overcome adversity. At the time, the score was 10-9 Patriots leading the Giants. The commercial alluded to the struggles America has endured over the past decade – unemployment, permanent loss of manufacturing jobs, malaise, and loss of ‘American prestige’ at home and abroad. The message was simple, after much adversity Chrysler and Detroit are making a comeback and are going to better than ever. It’s a wonderful commercial, two minutes long and finishes with Clint speaking to us all; “Yeah, it’s halftime, America, and our second half is about to begin.” Watch for yourself.
Well, my second half is about to begin, too. Today is the figurative final play of the first half and tomorrow, the kickoff of the second half of my summer. My second half is gonna be a great one and today is gonna be a great day, I know it. So, I’d better jump up, jump in, and seize the day, today is gonna be a great day! Making the Days Count, one day at a time.
What do you remember about a comeback in your life? What did it teach you? What have you tried to pass on to others?