Some years we have one book that we all read and have central focuses around. We did that in years past with the books Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover, Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World by Tony Wagner, Making it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter C. Brown, and others.
Some years, we have a collection of 3 or 4 books to choose from so that we can find something that is more specific to our own needs and interests. This is often the preferred summer read simply because of the power of choice. (A good reminder to us teachers the power of that in our own classrooms too.) When we are back to school, we divide ourselves by book and discuss certain tenants of the book. A back to school book club.
This year, was a year of choice, and our 4 our book titles were:
- Creating Cultures of Thinking: The 8 Forces We Must Master to Truly Transform Our Schools by Ron Ritchhart (2015)
- How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith (2021)
- Teaching When the World Is On Fire: Authentic Classroom Advice, from Climate Justice to Black Lives Matter by Lisa Delpit (2021)
- Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May (2020)
Thirdly, summer for teachers is always a bit of a wintering season. Recovery, recouping, rejuvenating, and definitely resting. It's a far more exhausting profession than many people think. One certainly made more difficult with Covid.
"Plants and animals don’t fight the winter; they don’t pretend it’s not happening and attempt to carry on living the same lives that they lived in the summer. They prepare. They adapt. They perform extraordinary acts of metamorphosis to get them through. Winter is a time of withdrawing from the world, maximising scant resources, carrying out acts of brutal efficiency and vanishing from sight; but that’s where the transformation occurs. Winter is not the death of the life cycle, but its crucible. Once we stop wishing it were summer, winter can be a glorious season in which the world takes on a sparse beauty and even the pavements sparkle. It’s a time for reflection and recuperation, for slow replenishment, for putting your house in order. Doing those deeply unfashionable things—slowing down, letting your spare time expand, getting enough sleep, resting—is a radical act now, but it is essential. This is a crossroads we all know, a moment when you need to shed a skin. If you do, you’ll expose all those painful nerve endings and feel so raw that you’ll need to take care of yourself for a while. If you don’t, then that skin will harden around you. It’s one of the most important choices you’ll ever make." (Wintering, page 14)
I will say, that even though I am indeed wintering this summer, if I'm authorized to return to school in time for these back to school book club meetings, I think my plan is to actually jump groups by rereading "Teaching When the World Is On Fire" and going to that book talk. That book has spoken to me in so many ways over the past years and sometimes with current events still seems very relevant to both myself and our students, But, I definitely am taking the lessons of wintering and trying to really connect with what I need--more water, a nap, ice, sitting outside, a bit of walking about, a physical therapy session, or time to just sit and watch a good show or read an great book. And with hope, I'll be stronger, wiser, and more centered and sustainable on the flip side....ready to winter again when it comes time to tackle that other knee of mine. It is completely cliché but equally true: if you don't have your health, you have nothing.