Please pray for me, for every year shortly after graduation, my lifelong friend and childhood hero, Toby Dawn McIntyre, attempts to whisk me away for a summer adventure. He once surprised me with a motorcycle and sidecar immediately after graduation ceremonies, “Hop in, Tommy Boy!” He said, tossing me a pair of old aviator goggles. “Summer Vacation starts tonight!” I was wearing a suit and tie, so I passed. The next summer, he sent me a box full of fish heads as an invitation to join him at an Alaskan fish cannery. Last summer, he begged me to join him as a truck driver in Europe. They had a serious driver shortage, “And they’ll pay us to see the sites!” he told me. So far, I don’t know what he’s planning this year, but he has been texting a lot of Mickey Mouse memes.
No one takes their summers more seriously than Toby Dawn McIntyre, but few people can take three months to kayak down the Mississippi, not even most educators, despite the perception that we take summers off. Mountains of work pile up during the summer, including most of the maintenance and technology projects. If you have a student, you know about the endless stream of summer camps for everything from STEM to sports to the arts. Many schools also offer summer school, which often includes busing and feeding children.
In fact, summer is the busiest time of the year for principals and other administration because we must wrap-up one fiscal year, start another, and hire staff. Many of the other staff also have summer jobs. When I was a classroom teacher, I drove a semi, hauled hay, worked at a truck stop, and even worked at a summer camp. (I was a terrible camp counselor – too many spiders.) Those without summer jobs get recruited for stuff all summer long. Visit any Vacation Bible School or summer church camp, and you will find a slew of school staff. They make summer stuff work when they are not working at school.
Assuming that educators do nothing during the summer is like assuming that wheat farmers only work during harvest or that tax accountants only work during April. Summers are less hectic, but the pressure is on for a good school year. Great athletes are made in the off-season, and so are great school years, so whenever something looks easy from the outside, it probably wasn’t. Hard workers and gifted people make things look easy, and most “gifted” people are really just hard workers. All of this applies to students, too.
Busy kids are happy kids, so put them to work, keep them engaged, and kick ‘em outside once in a while, so they can learn to drink from garden hoses. (Hose water is tangy!) And if you really want happy summer kids, make their bedrooms device-free zones overnight. Sure, they will kick and scream a little, but within a short time, you might see those Tik-Tok “ticks” subside. Let them start a summer job or project. I have mad respect for hard-working kids because they grow up to be successful adults. As Toby Dawn says, “At some point, you can’t fix lazy,” and I have rarely seen a hard-working kid become a lazy adult.
As the 2022 school year wraps up, begin this summer with intentionality, for great summers do not happen by accident, and next school year depends on it. Whether you are a parent, an educator, or a student, purposely plan now for a great 2022-23 school year. Work hard at having fun this summer, like my friend Toby Dawn, for summertime, like childhood, is fleeting. Cherish every moment. And if you see a large red-haired man riding a motorcycle with a screaming man trapped in a sidecar, move out of the way. If we are also wearing Mickey Mouse ears, you can bet we are headed to Disney World.