What to Do?

By Kendall Vogts

What to do? As a teacher, enjoying his or her summer break, that seems to be a question that comes up often and is usually followed by a smile or smirk and glazed over eyes as they wander off into the world of beautiful, student-free possibilities.

From the months of August through May, teachers are busy with everything school, but in June and July, things are different!

Now, as an auntie of young and school-aged children, I understand perfectly, have seen and have experienced summer activities for children. The goal is to keep the kids busy with fun, adventurous, silly, outdoorsy, educational and time-consuming activities. This list might include trips to the pool, the zoo, children’s museums or the park.

Parents or caretakers plan crafts like painting, sidewalk chalk and making your own silly putty. There might even be that carpooling parent, like my oldest sister, who spends time shuttling kids to library time, swimming lessons, dance lessons and gymnastics.

Needless to say, painting a picture of what students do during summer break could be pretty easy.

But what about the educators? What do we do? For some non-educators, I think they picture us sleeping in, shopping, eating out and watching TV. While those things might happen a smidge of the time, there are many other things we enjoy doing or must do in order to prepare for the next school year.

To start out, on our time off, we travel! We plan vacations with our loved ones, and we let loose a bit. My husband and I will be heading to Kansas City to Schlitterbahn with friends and will take an anniversary vacation. We also hop in the car and visit our family members. By the time summer is over, I will have visited my oldest sister and her family in Minnesota. I will have driven south to Oklahoma to visit my middle sister’s family. And I will have made it to my hometown to see all of the family that live there.

Also, we work on our homes. During the school year, there is a lot of time spent away from our houses. I don’t think people realize this, but most days, I spend more time at school than I do my own home! Sometimes, educators are lucky just to make supper for our families and spend a couple hours with them before we head to bed, only to start the routine over again.

So during the summer, we garden, paint walls, re-arrange furniture, finally complete that Pinterest craft we’ve had our eyes on, de-clutter and enjoy being able to live in our own space and not our classrooms.

Next, we prepare for the next school year. While at the beginning of our summer vacation, we want to be as far away from anything school related as possible; however, we eventually have to bite the bullet in order to be fully ready for our next round of kids. We meet with our partner teachers to plan lessons, we set up our classrooms, we copy notes and forms that each student will need, number our books, set up our progress monitoring tools and so much more.

Finally, this year especially and in the state of Kansas, teachers on their summer vacations have worried about their jobs and the future of education. Teaching is my and my husband’s job. We need our jobs to pay off student debt (which will increase because to make gains in this profession, you must continue your education), to pay for our cars, insurance, our new home and the other means by which we live.

I can see how, looking from an outsider’s perspective could be considered selfish. “They are only teaching for the money.” At that I might give a chuckle because of the amount on the paystub I get each month.

But the questions remain: Didn’t I get into education for the kids? To teach them English, as well as how to be contributing, awesome members of society? And the answer to all those question is yes! And that is why as teachers during this summer vacation we are concerned about the future of education in the State of Kansas. We are required to do so much, with students who may or may not even what to be there, with so, so little in the way of support and supplies. Public education is important. School is the safest, most consistent place for a majority of students out there.

Parents and guardians, think about those things while our kids and teachers are on summer vacation.

Regardless of the role — parent, student, or educator — summer vacation is a special time. It gives everyone the opportunity to relax, decompress, make memories and prepare for the upcoming school year.

As you are helping your student get ready for 2016-17 school session, remember their teachers. Their summers are spent doing much more than wondering, “What to do?”.

Kendall Vogts lives and teaches in Central Kansas. She is married to WFM publisher Todd Vogts.

Love’s Languages

By Ian Anderson

communicationI earn my living trying to teach high school students how to use language. This includes lessons on grammar and mechanics, but mainly my message is this: they must know how to communicate well.

In other words, if they can use English effectively, they will be better for it in their professional and personal lives.

This is especially true, I tell them, with regard to what they meant to say or write and what they actually said or wrote.

Often we think we’ve been clear — it’s in black and white in our own heads, after all — when what we’ve actually communicated is something different. Tone is a whole other matter and complicates things further. And if these things are true about the words we use in everyday language, that they can communicate in ways we don’t intend, what about love languages?

Every so often, I’m reminded that I need a refresher course in foreign language: how to speak love to my wife.

English may be our first language, but we’re from vastly different lands when it comes to communicating love. We’ve been married over a decade, so it might be easy to assume that I’m skilled in getting to her heart. Alas, I’m a slow learner, and I need constant teaching.

Words are important to me, and I receive love in the form of encouragement — or at least words are the main way — and my wife likes the occasional compliment, too. However, words are not what sink down and stay with her; she hears love most loudly in a different way.

Of course, as in any misunderstanding, the difficulty is that I can’t wrap my mind around her perspective. Because love has to do with losing my appetite for myself, indeed, with placing myself behind my wife, I have to realize that speaking my own love language communicates a weak message to her. Sometimes, the message I intend is not heard, and the most painful part is that I think I’ve given love when I have not.

I’m still better at speaking my own language. I’m just like my students, who, upon writing a sentence they’re sure is clear, continue to argue they’ve presented content that simply isn’t there.

Intention isn’t enough.

Clarity is only valuable when it’s universal, not just in my own mind.

The lesson I need this February is the lesson of diversity of language — that my wife is different, and that I must relearn how to best love her. I must unravel first myself, and then widen my narrow concept of communicating.

Perhaps each time I have to correct a student’s paper I’ll remember: it’s not just in grammar we need practice. Love’s languages are also many, and they’re worth understanding and refining.

Ian Anderson is a teacher, a husband, and a dad. He lives with his family in Central Kansas. Occasionally, he tweets here: @ian_writes.