Summer. To a teacher, what a magic word that is. Freedom and slowing down from the frenetic pace of a school year, to focus on other important parts of our lives: family and relationships, rest and wellness, and maybe finally getting to that reading or workshop you haven’t had time for.
It’s a common myth that teachers don’t do anything in the summer, as Melinda Gates illustrates in this video. The context is different from that of international schools teachers, but the essence of the experience may be the same.
One thing that resonated with me in the video is when a teachers says, “In the summer…I love to learn.”
The freedom and slowing down in the summer creates opportunity for learning, self-directed learning that adults prefer over training that someone else has created. The self-directed learning is often reflective of personal priorities for growth that a teacher has identified and firmly decided.
Shawn Achor in his book Before Happiness; The five hidden keys to achieving success, spreading happiness and sustaining positive change talks about the choice of an “alternative reality” as a source of purpose and meaning. What he means by alternative reality is not a woo-woo idea, but a reframing of something. Think about how a sculpture looks to you when you stand in front of it. Then, what happens to how it looks when you walk around it. Think also of how learning changes when the context that frames it changes.
When a sense of meaning rises to awareness, it leads to a greater appreciation of life and a sense of personal mastery over the self and life.
The self-chosen tasks over the summer also give a teacher challenge. Not the paralysing challenge of trying to shove one more thing into a packed schedule, but the type of challenge that creates optimal amounts of the hormones that are released during stressful moments – at a zone of proximal development and not at boredom or frustration levels.
Stress that’s just right.
This optimal point of challenge can boost growth hormones, rebuild cells, synthesise protein and enhance immunity. The perception people have about the challenge is what changes how its presence affects us. The enhancing conditions of a self-chosen challenge are:
- be aware of its presence
- find the meaning it holds
- use it to channel motivation and productivity
Happy people, Shawn Achor has shown in his research, are the most productive people.
So it is not a surprise that summer, a time when we can learn whatever we want, at the pace and depth that we need, is such a magical time for teachers.
I wish you a restful and productive summer. Before you go, would you do me a favour and let me know what your next year’s implementation goals are? Please take this short quiz on exactly that. And, by participating in this quiz, you’re helping a lot of other team leaders and coordinators with the materials that we’ll be putting together based on your feedback, which will be waiting for you when you get back in the fall.
Thanks, and enjoy your break.
Achor, S. (2013). Before Happiness; The five hidden keys to achieving success, spreading happiness and sustaining positive change. NY: Crown.