A few weeks ago one of my co-author’s of the new book Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Middle and High School ELA, Dave Stuart Jr., offered a challenge on his blog: What if we approached resting this summer with a purposefulness and intensity normally reserved for home improvement projects or planning an epic vacation?
His call hit a chord with me because I have a long history of struggling to relax when it comes to summers. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t want to relax or understand the value of downtime; it’s just that one of the ways that I get through the scramble of the school year is to toss things I don’t have time for into what I call the summer bucket. The paint peeling in my bathroom? That can wait till the summer. The absolute mess of the basement? Toss it into the summer bucket. Finishing my son’s baby book. I’ll have time in the summer. And that new patio I want to build? Let’s do it this summer! You get the idea.
My struggles with putting an impossibly large number of things into my summer bucket is also the reason why I offer only six book suggestions for summer reading. As a young teacher, I used to fill my summer bucket with everything that I didn’t have time to read during the year. And while I read a lot in those summers, I never read everything I wanted to, meaning that I always ended the summer disappointed that I only read a third of the books on my list instead of thrilled that I read twelve books.
As I approach the two-and-a-quarter-year mark of pandemic parenting/teaching, I have found in recent months that my urge to toss both books and to-do items into the summer bucket to be worse than ever. There is just so much that I want to upgrade in my house, my life, my teaching, my garden, and my reading and writing life–all of which show noticeable signs of pandemic wear and tear. At the same time, I am more tired than I’ve ever been at the end of a year. Whereas my general inclination upon finding a bit of time in an afternoon is to write or run or build something, these days I am much more likely to curl up for a short nap or scroll vacantly through my phone.
So this summer, I plan to take Stuart’s challenge to heart by granting rest and leisure the seriousness with which they and I deserve. This can be seen in my suggestions, which are slightly less academic than what I normally recommend. Even still, I am so excited about my six books of the summer, as I think that they, along with that serious rest, are just what I need to recover and replenish so that I can be the best father and teacher possible when the fall comes around.Continue reading “My Six Books of the Summer”