This has been the longest year of my teaching career. Quite honestly, it feels like it’s stretched on for 24 long months. Last year never really ended, summer never really happened, and this year has been a constant struggle to do what needs to be done. I. Am. Exhausted.
And I know I’m not alone.
I talk to colleagues both within my district and beyond. I talk to kids in my building. Even the administration is nodding in agreement. This has been one incredibly long year.
And yet another year is coming.
One thing I know beyond a shadow of a doubt: in order to support my teachers, in order to make a difference for kids, in order to bring my best self to the job and support my administration, I have to take time to recharge.
Coffee on the deck, time to tend my flowers, lunch with the girls, walks with the dog.
Down time is necessary, but it’s not enough. In order to come back stronger and better than ever, I have to seek inspiration. I have to figure out what will light my fire next year. I would argue that educators of all stripes need the same. We need the fire that makes the first day of school something to look forward to, the spark that makes next year something full of hope, optimism and potential.
As you might expect, for me, unearthing that spark starts with some books.
What’s in my summer reading stack?
First and foremost, I’m taking time to enjoy being a reader again. I need to reignite in myself the love of a good read. I want to savor the way an author twists and weaves language to evoke emotion, builds suspense, helps us fall in love with flawed characters, and keeps us coming back for more. Plugging into this feeling helps me remember why I do this job in the first place: connecting kids with books that will evoke the same level of joy for them.
At the top of my fiction stack for this summer: “The Obelisk Gate – The Broken Earth,” #2. I read the first book in the trilogy (“The Fifth Season”) last summer, and I can’t wait to get back to the next one (and the third, “The Stone Sky”). This trilogy is a powerful fantasy/post-apocalyptic story written by Hugo Award winning author, N.K. Jemison. I love novels that make me question, ponder and relish the anticipation of the next chapter, and Jemison delivers!
After that, I’ll be in the mood for an edge-of-my-seat thriller or complex mystery. And I’ll want something that tugs at my heart too. I’ll likely round it all out with something laugh-out-loud funny—maybe even Dav Pilkey’s “Dogman”!
If you’re looking for a great summer read to help you recall what it’s like to be a reader who doesn’t want to put a book down, check out one (or more) of these:
While pleasure reading will start me off, I also read to grow.
Each summer for the past several years, our staff has gathered for a book study. This summer’s pick is “What if I Say the Wrong Thing: 25 Habits for Culturally Effective People” by Vernā A. Myers. I’m looking forward to unpacking this one with my colleagues and building administrators.
Additional titles I think will stretch me and help me grow include:
- “Joyful: the Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness” by Ingrid Fetell Lee. I’ve been working my way through this one chapter at a time for a while. I’m taking time to soak in the thinking, experience the world and become a happier version of myself.
- “A Queer History of the United States for Young People” by Michael Bronski. I’m reading this one in conjunction with the Missouri Association of School Librarians Diversity-Focused Book Club. It’s very approachable, easy to tackle a bit at a time, and the writing is engaging. Definitely worth a read, if you want to expand your understanding of American history with a more inclusive angle.
- “The Hidden Life of Trees” by Peter Wohlleben. I heard an interview with Mr. Wohlleben on NPR a while ago, and I was intrigued. As I sit and watch the treetops bend out my window, I wonder about their connection to one another, to the earth and my curiosity gets ramped up wanting to know how researchers can figure that kind of thing out. Tackling this one also helps me with my personal goal of reading more nonfiction.
Finally, I know that to be really ready to greet my students next year, I need to be inspired. At the top of my list to fire up those ideas is:
“Fact vs. Fiction: Teaching Critical Thinking Skills in the Age of Fake News” by Jennifer Lagarde and Darren Hudgins.
And “Leading from the Library: Help Your School Community Thrive in the Digital Age” by Shannon McClintock Miller and Bill Bass.
The former, I’m tackling on my own, and exploring more of the work of the News Literacy Project.I hope to strengthen my skill set in teaching critical thinking. The latter, I’m digging into as part of the Future Ready Librarians Summer Book Club. With a change in leadership in my district at both of the schools I serve, and a change in district-level library department leadership as well, the next year has the potential to be a transformative one for libraries in my district. My goal: be well-versed, prepared, and inspired to lead in the direction that is best for kids.
I’ll be turning lots of pages this summer—some for pleasure, some to learn—but each and every one will serve its intended purpose: reminding myself of what it means to be a reader, expanding my own horizons and, maybe most importantly, lighting that fire so I’m ready to dive right back in when the calendar turns to August.