As summer comes to a close, it makes me think about how valuable that time is for teachers. Looking back, summer was always a time to recharge my energy for the classroom. By June, I was hot, tired, and ready for some rejuvenation. Don’t get me wrong… I loved being a teacher, but after the stress of high-stakes testing, salary negotiations, end-of-year talks of potential cutbacks and RIFs, school closings and teacher reassignments, the right side of my brain was a bit sluggish. My creative juices were depleted and my focus was on racing to get everything done by the due date — documentation, grades, organization, meetings. So by the time summer actually started, I was ready to exhale, reflect on the previous year, and set new goals for the year ahead. And every year, somehow I found new inspiration, new energy, and new passion for the new group of kids that would spend 181 days at my stop on their academic journey.
That is part of what drives teachers to keep spending their own money on classroom supplies, navigating curriculum changes due to program cuts, accepting another pay freeze, and coming back each year with renewed passion to make a difference for our children. Today, I read an article in the Huffington Post discussing how Chicago Public Schools will fund a longer school day by 2012. Despite the fact that the solution for how to fund the longer day hasn’t been found yet, the CPS budget is likely to be approved this week. And teachers may likely return this year without a cost-of-living salary increase. Regardless of where you stand on the issue of the longer school day/year debate, one thing most will agree on is that challenges facing teachers reach far beyond meeting the needs of their students.
And yet, over the last few weeks, every teacher I’ve spoken with seems genuinely excited about heading back for another year. These are the teachers who light up when they tell me they are going with a “frog theme” this year. These are the teachers who are excited to talk about the new interactive whiteboard products they purchased for their classroom. These are the teachers who smile when they point to a page in our catalog and say, “I just ordered these materials for my learning centers… I can’t wait to get them!”
These are the teachers who, despite the bureaucracy, politics, and economics of education, truly love being a teacher. The Chicago School Supply team interacts with CPS educators every day. We visit their schools, we talk to them, we see the impact they have on their students. And, we are amazed at their dedication and commitment to the profession. Every educational organization has a certain amount of bureaucracy, politics, and economic challenges. But every organization also has teachers, like those at CPS, who are just ready to get back to the business of teaching kids.
This summer, many of us have had a chance to sit back, exhale, reflect back and look ahead with renewed energy. And for many of us, it’s time to get back to that place where we do what we love and love what we do. For those of you who are …. thank you for all you do for kids each day. We wish you a rewarding, successful school year!