Although the general public may believe teachers “get the summer off,” we know that is not reality. Summer is, however, often a time for personal and professional rejuvenation. Stepping out of the classroom and into new experiences definitely transforms my teaching and helps provide new energy as the school year begins. This summer was especially enriching and rewarding. In addition to being able to take a much-needed family vacation, I was able to take part in a variety of professional development activities.
In June, I attended the Advanced Placement (AP) Human Geography exam reading. At the reading, we collectively scored over 100,000 exams. If you have not been part of this opportunity, it probably sounds, at best, like drudgery, but each year I eagerly await the opportunity. At the reading, I am able to reconnect with colleagues from across the country. Being in the same space with hundreds of people passionate about Human Geography is truly inspiring (and rare). Not only does the scoring of the exams allow me insight into the work going on in other classrooms, but the conversations with my colleagues provide new insights on pedagogy and content.
At the end of June, I had the opportunity to travel to South Korea with a small group of geography teachers. This trip enhanced my exposure to Korean society and reaffirmed my commitment to emphasizing global awareness and understanding. While I have read many books about Korea, the experience of being in the country and experiencing things firsthand provided a more meaningful framework for the examples of course concepts I share with my students.
In July, I had the opportunity to attend the International Space Academy for Educators. Once again I was with teachers from across the country, but this time the teachers were not all high school human geography teachers. Instead they taught a wide variety of grade levels and subjects. This time instead of being united by content, we were united by purpose. Each teacher present was truly dedicated to the field of education and had a strong desire to stretch for not just individual achievement, but instead system-wide improvement.
There were many memorable moments at Space Camp, but the thing that really struck me was how each and every speaker emphasized how, for a shuttle mission to be successful, everyone had to do their job well. Schools are similar. It takes parents, students, administrators, office staffs, custodians, teachers, and others each performing at a high level in order to truly experience success. We often just focus on one or two of those pieces, but if one person does not do their job, and do it well, then we will not be able to provide the best educational experience possible for our students.
So, was my summer fun? Absolutely! Was I working? Definitely. Although I was not in my classroom or sitting in an office, I continued to work each time to interact with others sharing the same passion for education was definitely a growth opportunity. As teachers we recognize the value of learning experiences outside the four walls of the classroom for our students, but sometimes we forget to further our own education. Having a truly inspiring summer has carried over into the school year and reignited my excitement for my career — and that is definitely the wonder of the summer.
Allison Hunt, an AP Human Geography teacher at Manual High School in Jefferson County, was selected as the 2013 Kentucky High School Teacher of the Year on Oct. 17, 2012. She and Heidi Givens, the Kentucky Elementary School Teacher of the Year, are alternating monthly column-writing duties throughout their reigns. Their columns run the last Thursday of each month.