We’ve all heard the very well-known joke which goes as follows: there are three very good reasons to become a teacher: Christmas, Easter and Summer. In my opinion with the recent changes in the way teachers get paid and the inevitable changes the credit crunch has brought on to the way the unemployment benefit is given, this does not apply to Greek foreign language school teachers. There are those who think that teachers have far too many holidays but as professionals we all know that these days many teachers in Greece willing to work in summer, rather than penny-pinch. On the other hand there should be a limit to that. Teaching, when done well, is an all-consuming activity that drains the body and the mind. Therefore, a pause is necessary and should be seen as a chance to put some distance between ourselves and our teaching and review what we have done in order to go further. Personally, I sometimes feel that I have not used my summers well-enough. What with thinking that there is always time to do really creative things or with the feeling of boredom that sometimes overcomes me I do not really have to show up for work, summer gets wasted. Worse of all, I get this feeling that once again lots of opportunities for learning during a dead time have been lost. My thoughts about some things we could do during summer are listed below. Make no mistake, I do not purport that I have done all these. I am just copying my to-do list from the notice board on to this note.
a) Teachers usually subscribe to digital or hard copy magazines. These are seldom read in detail although they contain treasures. Most importantly when we need to find references we are lost in the sea of newsletters to the extent that the elusive article cannot be found. A clever idea to tackle this is to put the magazines in chronological order and find two or three articles from each that appear interesting. Secondly, we can scan the table of contents of each magazine and make a PDF file with the issue number and the magazine title. Next time we need the article, there it will be.
b) Every teacher has pet habits for eliciting, practising, drilling or presenting material. We usually grow so accustomed to these that we do not vary our ”diet” a lot. The summer is a great time to research. Using the internet or reading printed material can help us reform our old tricks. Apart from pleasantly surprising our learners, this kind of reading that is not rushed or stressful leads to better understanding of the material and makes us feel more eager to go back to teaching with a fresh set of tools and ideas.
c) During the academic year most teachers produce tons of material. Unfortunately, very few of us organise it well into files and folders. I am not really sure how many out there still print (I do, I am afraid) but problems can be occur even with digital files. Also, there are cases of material that worked well, but.. Summer is the perfect time to rethink of this material. It will definitely be re-examined when it is to be used in class so that the learners’ needs are taken into consideration but going through the enormity of the material and putting it in a sensible order can be really interesting, inspiring and quite refreshing. Not to mention the fact that we are doing ourselves a huge favour because when September comes we will know exactly what we have and where it is.
d) Creating a file with representative samples of student work produced based on our material/ the material we helped develop can be great for our teacher’s portfolio. These pieces of work can be photocopied before they are returned to their rightful owner and we can create files with the whole series of worksheets, activities and ideas that led to this writing/ project or presentation. You might wonder what that will be useful for. Imagine using it to promote the kind of work the school does or using it next time you go for an interview. There is nothing that convinces and impresses people more that actual, existing samples of work. On the other hand, nine times out of ten people who do this kind of work find out that they have the necessary material for a session and go ahead to present it at TESOL.
f) After so much reading and delving into the secrets of ELT one feels the need to express oneself. For this reason, perhaps the summer might be the best time to start a new blog. Using the blog as a means of recording ones thoughts or just touching base with the others professionals out there might be one way of looking at it. For me a blog is a corner where one can become a writer, an editor, a publisher and a promoter of oneself and one’s career in an inexpensive and flexible way. Anyway we look at it, it is worth it!
Perhaps the best thing to do during summer is to lie on the beach and do nothing. Sure thing! I bet my bottom euro, though, that most teachers out there feel the need to do something more creative, because creativity, much like ELT are in our veins all seasons of the year. Happy splashing and ELT tidying up!