I have historically fallen into the trap of thinking I’m going to get So Much Done during the summer months. Here are examples of my overly ambitious plans over the years (and what actually happens):
- Organize all the closets in the house (throw summer items onto the winter items)
- Have enriching activities for my children every day (add to rock collection; prevent rocks from being thrown around the house)
- Make healthy snacks from scratch (open up a Nutra-Grain bar and call it a day)
- Get my husband to fix the front door (talk about the front door and how nice it would be if it were fixed)
- Keep the house clean (bahahahaha)
Despite our comfortable summer inertia — which is the best thing about summer, anyway — it amazes me how I can sit on the couch and read as my boys are playing with trains or dinosaurs or repurposed trash whatever, and I still feel productive because I’m “enhancing my mind” and “broadening my experiences” and “doing research” for next year. I ❤ READING! Here are some of my book picks for the summer:
1. Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey — As a recovering perfectionist, I loved this book and how it makes failure into a good thing. It is probably the most significant book (in terms of shaping my beliefs/behavior) I have read since having kids.
2. Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson — A birthday present from my BFF (thank you, Becca!), I read this book on the beach during vacation. A fun read — it reminded me (in a good way) of what it felt like to be a teenager and the sheer epic-ness of it all. (And a good refresher for me as a teacher of approximately 90 teenage students.)
3. Getting to Yum by Karen Le Billon — I am very interested in how I can get my children to eat whatever I put in front of them with minimal stress and fuss. This book had a lot of helpful tips to do that, and inadvertently, some tips for helping reluctant students, as well.
4. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Dr. Carol Dweck — The basic premise of this book is that there are two basic types of mindsets: fixed (nothing can change) and growth (it is within your power to change). Everyone is some combination of the two, and mindset can also depend on the situation, but obviously, it is best to approach life with a growth mindset. I’m planning on sharing some of this information with my students at the beginning of the year; it’s a good way to think about how you think.
5. How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success by Julie Lythcott-Haims — I’d read some articles by and about this author, and I was excited to read the book she’d written on how youth have been pushed to extremes in the last fifteen years or so. Lots of good food for thought.
6. Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey — I’ve had this book for many years, but it still gives me the snorts/chuckles. This is also the inspiration for a yearlong activity I do with my students (to be posted at a later time).
7. The Billion Dollar Spy by David E. Hoffman — The subject of my first blog post. I got this as a gift for my husband because I wanted to read it. It was an exciting book about a Russian engineer who assisted the United States for many years with daily acts of espionage. I learned about a period in history (the Cold War) that I’m not too familiar with. I usually like to read a random history book at some point during my break, and I was very satisfied with this choice.
8. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany — Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is celebrating it’s 20th anniversary this year…so it was fitting to read this newest installment of the Potter family and company. I was a bit doubtful before reading because I thought it might be a B version of the original story, but I was pleasantly surprised and it gave me that nice, nostalgic feeling of wanting to read the entire book in one sitting, just like the series.
I first wanted to be a spy when I was a teenager; not sure what sparked my interest, but I was of course into all the romance of it. When the hit show Alias came out with Jennifer Garner, that sealed my pseudo-ambitions. My college friends and I would faithfully watch the episodes every Sunday (this was just before the binge-watching days of Netflix or DVR). We would occasionally execute low-risk spy missions, which would include bursting out around a corner of a hallway or stealing a dorm mascot. In real life, however, it was apparent to me and everyone around me that I was NOT “Spy Material.” I struggle with basic, critical espionage skills such as gross motor movements, hand-eye coordination, and split-second decision-making. So, long story short, I decided to become a teacher. You’re welcome, CIA.
Me, if I would have become a spy.
Fast-forward to present day. I’ve been reading a book the past week (because summer!) called The Billion Dollar Spy by David E. Hoffman. I got it as a birthday present for my husband last year because I wanted to read it. Perhaps not so surprisingly, he hasn’t read it, and I’m now admitting it was a gift to myself. Anyway, as I was reading, it struck me like a toy train in the head (I live with little boys) that being a teacher is pretty much like being a spy.* Maybe I am living out my dream, after all! I’m going to try to convince you of this by the end of my blog post, which coincidentally, will self-destruct within three seconds of you looking at the last word. **
1. We try to avoid detection. When I have a short break, I can blend into the walls or work in the dark as surely as a ninja to maximize my planning time.
2. We never know who’s listening. Students have the ears of cheetahs (when they’re not being given directions). I will often find myself speaking in vague or encrypted terms, or with my eyes/eyebrows to other teachers to communicate Adult Stuff. We all understand the code.
3. We, too, can have spy senses (when we’re not being given directions). Our powers of observation could likely rival the FBI. I can spot good deeds from across a cafeteria. Those halls can carry the sounds of voices, and if I hear anything — mean talk, someone about to lose their lunch, confusion over homework — I’m instantly attuned to the signs of distress. Sometimes, students don’t have to say a word, and I know something’s wrong and I’m automatically thinking about how to make the situation better. And I can mostly tell when someone’s lying or when they’ve plagiarized on their paper. If someone is acting a little fishy, like they have that certain gleam in their eye, I get within closer proximity immediately.
4. I always keep students second-guessing. I write them notes on their papers about things they didn’t think I noticed. I have alluded to an alleged secret passageway behind the bookshelf in my room. Also, I like to joke around with students about how I’m leading a double life, possibly as a spy, by dropping cryptic comments during class and not clarifying what I said despite confused or wondering looks. They’re never quite sure (or so I’d like to think).
5. We often go long periods of time without relieving ourselves. I haven’t yet confirmed this, but I would have to imagine that spies can’t just use the restroom whenever they want.
6. We work with whatever circumstances we have. I WILL get those documents printed before the copier/printer self-destructs. And if I don’t? No problem. I will come up with another lesson on the spot. Unexpected scheduling conflict? I will make my plan fit in the time I have. Bam.
7. There can be drama with that downloading bar thingy or other technology-related activities. You know when you’re downloading something, and you see how much has been completed? Well, I pretend that if it doesn’t get done “in time,” something BIG is going to happen. And I can’t let anyone see it. So if you come into my classroom and see me look up guiltily from my screen, that’s probably what’s going on. This can also be applied to: downloading videos to watch in class, trying to finish a presentation before your break is over, and getting everything saved before your computer shuts off for updates. If you want to add fake, low-key drama to put a little bit of excitement in your life, I highly recommend this.
8. This is our mission…should we choose to accept it. We have a limited amount of time with our students — counted in minutes, months, years. Our mission is to contribute to their success and fulfillment in life, whatever that may be…and our success is of paramount importance for the future.
So do you agree? If so, any other ways teachers are like spies?
*I am prohibited by certain agencies and cannot confirm nor deny that I actually know what being a spy entails. If I told you, I’d have to…you know.
**Kidding. Any tech issue you have after reading this is because of your own device, not because of anything I wrote/attached to this post.