A Teacher in Summer

A while ago I was asked what it was like for a teacher to transition into summer.

First thing I did was get my house in a lesser state of randomness. It’s now just chaotic. I am not a tidy housekeeper which would no doubt shame my grandmothers. I am one of those people who can’t find things if they are put away. There are no Nobel Prizes for housekeeping. My lab on the other hand, is clean, as an analytical lab should be. Priorities.

I usually do some sort of laboratory research in the summer. During the school year, a student researcher might work 3-6 hours per week. In other words, at the best of times, each week accomplishes a little less than a day’s worth of discovery and insight. This year, I didn’t plan to do research and in fact, I miss it. As Isaac Newton said, it’s like picking up pebbles on a beach to learn the secrets of nature and they are indeed, right there waiting for discovery. Summer is a great time to make strides in research. I’m sad I didn’t come up with a project but one is on the horizon for the fall that I’m excited about.

This year, I decided to concentrate on reading and writing fiction.I became the teacher of Short Story Writing quite suddenly after my fiction writing mentor, Arthur Johnson, decided to retire. The course has been fun to teach but I’d like to give it a tiny bit more grooming.  I’ll be looking for short stories to use as examples of classics and how to do it right. Some of my favorites to use are “The Yellow Wall Paper“, “The Tell-Tale Heart,”(always a favorite of the class),”St. Lucy’s Home for Girls raised by Wolves, ” How I Contemplated, ” “Incendiary Girls,” “Edison, New Jersey, ” (often my students do not understand people trapped in a situation), “Hell Heaven,”  and “The Pukey.” What’s one thing you notice about them? There is no problem solved by a gun and no “it was just a dream.”  They might just be saying something about the human condition. Maybe there is a beautiful word or figure of speech.  I’m going to add something by Constance Fenimore Woolson. Any more suggestions? What’s your favorite story?

I’ll be going to a writing conference, the Iowa Summer Writing Festival in Iowa City. I need a pilgrimage to Iowa City every now and then to give a penance to my younger self for making a poor choice when I moved away from there and started a new job while pregnant. Talk about stressful. One thing I can say about my life is that no one ever rescued me from my bad choices. This summer, I’ll be working with Sands Hall on my third novel.

That is what I’ll be concentrating on during the month of June. In July, I’ll spend time with family, go to some music festivals, and start working on a lab manual for Instrumental Analysis which I’ll teach in the spring. I am very happy with my “Cleaner, Greener” lab manual and now have the itch to write another.

In other words, teachers use the summer to re-gain balance and to plan for the future. It’s a wing spreading time, but come fall, I’ll be happy to see everyone again.


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