Monday, August 15, 2011

This Is Where The Summer Ends

Gillian Welch--"The Way The Whole Thing Ends" (mp3)

This is where the summer ends,

In a cloud of pure destruction,
No one wins.
--Ryan Adams

There is no more confusing time of year than the "end of summer." When is it? Or, better put, when is it for you?

It is a different date for almost everyone. In terms of calendar, summer hangs on until September 21st. On the traditional school calendar, it's Labor Day that marks the end. At the other end, for those involved with football, especially camp, the "summer," such as it is, may end as early as late July/early August. After that date, they're back at it. And in between are all of the different start-up dates for schools, colleges, year-round schools.

For those not involved in education, summer may indeed end after the requisite two-week vacation, whenever that is.

And yet, for those of us in teaching, the date is clear, obvious, perhaps even circled on the calendar. It is not the first day of school. That is for students. They have their own dreaded day. No, for us, it is the date when school duties clearly and officially overwhelm free time, when afternoon departures from work and free evenings are a thing of the past.

For me, that date was last night. A casual dinner for new faculty at the headmaster's home, free drinks, delicious food, good conversation. By all accounts, a nice time. And yet, I dreaded it all day yesterday, not for what it was, but for what it represented. The end of summer.

I know full well that for any number of reasons, pedalogical or otherwise, our current school calendar is "wrong." Originally built around farm work and harvests, it now seems to create a scenario where students forget everything they've learned over the long summer months, and so they return each year as empty vessels that must be refilled again. But it is also a chance for them to do different things--travel, work jobs, engage in different kinds of learning.

I'm also selfish. I love summer. The extended vacation is so much a part of the rhythm of my life that the thought of breaking it up to create a more efficient school year is something that I know I should embrace but that I hope doesn't happen until after I retire. Even though I've been "working" for a good bit of the summer, I still carried that vacation mentality to and from the job each day.

Simply put, the days are longer in the summer and the days are longer in the summer. Not only does the increased sunlight add a special lustre to each day, culminating in a late sunset, but we also work shorter hours, which means more of the day left for other things. Leaving work at 4PM is a joy; a minimum of a 7-8 hour days remains to do whatever we want--tinker in the garden, enjoy a leisurely meal, take a walk just for the heck of it, gather with friends. We're not racing to get food on the table. There are usually no particular obligations in the evenings, except those that aren't obligations, just things we want to do.

Ah, bliss. All of that has ended now.

As if nature somehow knew, the air has been cooler the past two mornings, the daily highs a few degrees lower than what we've struggled with all summer long. Whether due to drought or heat or simply being worn out, the grass has started to slow its growth.

But what about us? Those of us who live the school year circle of life have got to find the inspiration, have got to rev it up, have got to find our focus once again. The cruelest lesson in all of life is that summer is over. The greatest gift is that, like our students, we get to unlearn that lesson each year for nearly three months before we face it anew. Again.


Jason said...

Thanks Bob. If I wasn't already dreading going back to Korea, I sure am now.

I hope that you had a good summer.

Bob said...

Jason, awesome summer, but what summer isn't? Got to see the whole Dillow clan this past week as they returned to Chatt. Are you on Facebook?

troutking said...

I love summer as much as anybody. It is a release, a time of freedom, relaxation and most of all, trout. But, I'd be interested in a year round schedule, perhaps. The idea of 3 weeks off every 9 weeks is pretty enticing. Having time off to explore different seasons would be fun. I think there are a lot of both lifestyle and educational advantages.

Bob said...

Trout, I wonder how that would work for college counseling?

Tockstar said...

I'd never thought of it like Trout says, but that's a good point. I don't experience much of fall or spring off-campus, and summer is so dad-gum hot...hard to say...both scenarios have their positives. My question is - what would happen to sports?