The "Etc. of Summer"

Or what I did with a big chunk of my summer holidays.

Teaching is an intense job. The summer holidays, used well, can be an invaluable time for rejuvenation, replenishment, and reinvention. Teachers need time off to land back in with both feet.

It just so happens that our small school allows me to use its spaces to create a summer program that gives me all that. Essentially, I am running professional development workshops for myself. The workshops are staffed by five- to ten-year-olds. They help guide me to a different way of thinking while also giving me the opportunity to implement theoretical play and social interaction practices. Thanks, kids!

Lighting a fire begins with learning how to light a match. Lighting a match is a very delicate balance between decisive force and feeling safe.

Lighting a fire begins with learning how to light a match. Lighting a match is a very delicate balance between decisive force and feeling safe.

This year, I walked right towards that idea and involved the children in the process. I started each session of our summer program with some version of this introduction. First I asked them what they thought they would be doing for the session. They would name a few things showing that they had been involved in the decision-making to join us in this week-long adventure. Others would shrug, not really sure, but in the end agreeing with a few of the options named by their peers. I would then tell them that when some of their parents were their ages, they would go outside to just play during the summer months. They would leave the house and find their own adventures. This is what I named the "Etc. of Summer" and it was what we hoped to kind of recreate each day we were in camp together.

I would then ask them what would be the number one -- the only thing they would most certainly do -- every day. They would guess different things and yet every single week, no matter what, one or more person would shout out "HAVE FUN.!" I would tell them the number one, the tippety top thing, would be PLAY. I mean, seriously, this idea that we would all have fun every day is just not even possible. Who sold us that bill of goods?

I assured them that there would be a lot of fun moments, but there would also be times that would not be fun at all, because with creativity and with play comes all kinds of emotions and there is a whole set of un-fun things that happen, like frustration or conflict. Those have to be worked through and that is what the camp staff were there for to work through these hiccups and all-stops. The camp staff was also there to help find supplies and materials for any ideas the children cooked up. I reviewed some of the tools that we had around but told the children that it was their responsibility to come up with how and why to use them.

So, off they went to join up and split apart, to try out new things and to build and deconstruct. The rope swings and the grass sledding definitely rose to the top according to the feedback forms the children filled out. The frustrations weighed heavy, as they usually do, and those were mostly offset by the pure joy of just getting to mess around with stuff and ideas for play. It was a perfect etc. of summer.