By Ian Anderson
Teachers have it easy, and I can say so because I am one. Of all the professions, teaching allows for a whole season of escape. I’ve heard rumors of year-round school, and talk of ridding the system of the old agrarian way of doing education. We simply do not need summers off because so few engage in farming anymore. That’s how the talk goes, and there’s more about the benefits of a year-round schedule, how students are more likely to hold on to what they’ve learned if the long summer break doesn’t interrupt the flow of learning.
The advantages of year-round school aside, I have something to say about summer — especially because the school year approaches so quickly, and I want to cling to it a little longer.
There are different kinds of leisure, two that float up before me. One includes swimming, books, and long naps; the other kind isn’t one that we think of quite as quickly — it’s work that doesn’t require much of our brain.
The first is what we all want right when the last school bell rings in May, even those of us who haven’t had a proper summer break since school days. The heat and the water call to us, or maybe it’s the hum of the air conditioner or the sound of a fishing reel. Memories forged from the unforgiving July sky aren’t readily forgotten. This kind of rest gives the mind a fresh starting place for the flurry of the fall.
As a student I didn’t see my summer painting job as a leisure activity, but I see it now. In between lifting weights and running for fall sports, I did the slow work of rolling and brushing paint on thirsty walls. I would wake early and work long hours, sometimes outside in the heat, sometimes inside. I could let my mind wander while my arms and hands did the work. Even now, similar tasks at home allow me the space my mind needs to have ideas and think through problems. Often it’s during these times that I pray, too.
Perhaps our nation has outgrown the original purpose of summer break, but perhaps not. Students and teachers alike not only need time to choose their own reading, or do a bit of sleeping in, but also the opportunity to work at things that allow for reflective thought. As the school year energy begins to flow, I wonder whether it would come without summer break; I don’t want to find out.
Ian Anderson is a teacher, a husband, and a dad. He lives with his family in Central Kansas. Occasionally, he tweets here: @ian_writes.