During the last week of school, my colleagues and I were chatting in the sweltering heat while monitoring our students on the playground at recess. We were discussing time… We came upon the conversation because I had spent 16 dollars on my son’s first baseball pictures (SUPER important) before learning that as a coach’s wife, we got them for free. I could have sent an email, made some phone calls, and tried to find a way to get a refund, but the thought of the time that would take outweighed the cost. My time was more important to me than the money. We started talking about the bigger picture of time, and how much we value our time – time with our families, time with our friends, and time for ourselves.
Everyone keeps asking what I am doing for the summer, and my response is always, “I’m going to Disney World (7 days to take off!), and I’m working.” I’m fortunate enough to be a Consulting Teacher for Center for Responsive Schools, so I’ll spend the summer traveling across the country, literally, to train other educators in the Responsive Classroom approach. I will be in Phoenix, NYC, and Alexandria, VA, each for a weeklong workshop, and then in California, South Carolina, Ohio, and Georgia, all for one-day workshops.
I also have a four-year-old, and I would be lying if said I wasn’t judging myself as a mother. Who spends that much time away from their child when they have a job that allows them to be home in the summer? Me. That’s whom. And all the other summer working teachers out there, including my Responsive Classroom colleagues. So instead of judging myself, I made a decision to look at it through a different lens.
Quality over Quantity
I did a little math… My summer is 10 weeks long, or 70 days. I will be in Disney World with my extended family 10% of the summer, I will be home for 66% of the summer, and I’ll be working for 24% of the summer. When you add it up, the “data” shows that I’ll be with my family for 76% of the time and only away for 24% of the time.
During both the 76% and the 24%, I plan to live by the mantra of quality over quantity. When I’m training teachers, I’ll remind myself to stay focused and present because those teachers are taking time away from their families and personal lives to become better educators, which in turn will impact students. At 30 members per workshop, I will work with approximately 210 educators over the summer. Let’s assume each educator impacts 25 students. 25 x 210 = 5,250.
That is 5,250 students. Quality over quantity. Step aside, mom guilt.
When I’m home, I’ll take the same approach. Stay focused and be present with my family and friends. That means pool days, s’mores nights, and four-year-old snuggles in between. Quality versus quantity.
School ended last week, and I said farewell to my 21 students. Last year I wrote a blog about the need for emotional rest during the summer because saying goodbye to a group of people you spent the majority of your time with over the last 10 months (about 68%) can take a toll on a teacher. We put our hearts and souls, and our precious time, into these children.
When reflecting back on the year, I would like to think I spent our time together wisely. That my students benefited from their days in room 21 because I know I benefitted from my time with them. In my final email to my students’ families, I wrote:
“This class has restored my hope in the world. They are full of passion, energy and optimism. They are hardworking, kind, and caring. I will truly miss them. This is my fifteenth year of teaching, and each class has a culture unique to the students. This is the class of hope. The world will be a better place because of your children.”
Then, I crunched some more data. My students spent 176 days in my classroom. The average life expectancy is about 80 years. That’s 29,200 days, which means my time with my students was only .006, or 6 thousandths of my lifetime, and their lifetimes. If in that small fraction of time my students could impact me so greatly and could restore my hope in the world, just think about how many people they will impact over the course of their lifetimes.
Time is precious. Whatever you are doing with your summer, be present, and enjoy every moment. Choose quality over quantity. (Unless it’s ice-cream. In that case, choose both!)