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Saturday 18 June 2011

A Summer of Learning

The seven weeks of summer holiday with which I am about to be blessed are, of course, very welcome. I could also add words like 'well-deserved', and spout cliches like 'time to recharge batteries','take stock' and I'm sure, various others. Their overuse should not dilute their importance.

What is very clear, however, and always has been, is that the summer holiday, perhaps, highlights the greatest of social divisions in education. For, while better off families holiday in wonderful cities around the globe, visiting historical sights and experiencing other cultures, the less well off forget about school and learning altogether, relieved at the six-week release.

I've been thinking about a summer project for some of my senior pupils but the obstacles can seem like too much at times. My school does not start a new timetable in June so I have no idea who will be sitting in front of me in August - school structures don't really provide the conditions to make summer projects possible.

Even so, if I'm expecting students to continue to learn over Summer, should I do the same? Do we teachers view the six or seven weeks holiday as a break from everything? Should we? Or should we set ourselves a project? I don't mean school work but something that engages and excites us. Lifelong learning is for all of us after all and we must model good learning for our students.

I've written recently about how this year has been one of the most stimulating of my teaching career. I am exhausted, however, and in need of a break from school but I would argue that the most exhausting part of teaching is not the preparation and the marking; it is the every day performance, the standing up in front of an audience all day, every day, forbidden from having an 'off day' in front of your students. I find this the most exhausting part of my job and the prime justification for a lengthy holiday. Even so, if learning is so important, I must try and be a good model.

A challenge, then. For those of you about to go on holiday - in Scotland - and those with holidays on the horizon, what about giving yourself three learning targets. Forget school, but focus on learning how to do three things you've always wanted to do. Blog about your experiences if you like but of course that's not necessary. Reflect on the experience though; become a learner again.
Here goes.

By August I will have taken my first piano lesson.
By August I will be able to bake great bread.
By August I will make something amazing out of wood.

Like all New Year's Resolutions, I'm starting with real enthusiasm and good intentions. These are
genuinely things I'd like to learn to do. I hope to continue blogging over the summer and will, no doubt writes about my progress. For now, however, I'm away for a lie down.

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