What I Did On My Summer Vacation

I know that title is grammatically incorrect, but that was always the way they phrased it.  As kids, it was perfectly acceptable to hit a few highlights -- vacation, camp, a broken leg -- and allow the rest of the days to slip into oblivion, unaccounted-for.  As a teacher, though, I feel pressure to make the most of every single day without a deadline, a commitment, a parent to call or paper to grade.  Progress!  I must make progress!  And truthfully, for the first month of summer, I haven't done much of anything at all.  So here's hoping this list will inspire me:

Read Reading is one of my favorite vices.  This summer I've finally finished the Harry Potter series (more later on that) and am starting on a few education-related books: Gardner's multiple intelligences, Montessori's theory of education, and Horace's Compromise about the state of modern American high schools.  I also have some fluff: The Boelyn Inheritance (which, like its predecessor, I bought because I was stuck in an airport with nothing to read) and a book about wallpaper design I picked up in Paris.  (Hey, I said it was fluff.)  And I am partway through Shop Class as Soulcraft, an incredible book about the value of manual labor by a guy who got a doctorate in philosophy and then decided to open a motorcycle repair shop.

Play For a music teacher, I don't play often enough.  Joplin is good summer music, so I'm working on a couple of pieces -- some I've played before, and one is relatively new.  For feel-good music, it's pretty tough!  I was also selected to be part of an Orthodox chamber choir, so I have some tough parts to learn.  I'm hoping my voice-teacher friend will help me with my breathing, which Rachmanianoff apparently thought was unnecessary for second sopranos.

Draw As an architecture student, I was forced into two semesters of drawing; after complaining loudly for several weeks, I discovered I actually liked it, and I wasn't half bad.  Recently I discovered a sheaf of them in my basement.  Vine charcoal and newsprint weren't exactly archival materials, so they're crumbling into nothingness, but they made me want to try again.  (I have a willing model in my gorgeous husband, whose Blue Steel is almost as hot as his Le Tigre.)

Cook When we travel, I get out of the routine of cooking for myself, and it takes some time to remember how much I love it.  What kicked me back into gear this time was a wedding gift I designed for a dear friend: a cookbook comprised of recipes I've made many times over the years, basic crowd-pleasers that it's hard to screw up.  One of my bridesmaids gave me a similar wedding gift, and it was so meaningful because it felt like a real piece of her own home.  Cooking is the first thing to go when I'm stressed, which is ironic, because the simplest act -- chopping vegetables and arranging them in a salad bowl -- is so calming.  Rod Dreher has a great piece up at Front Porch Republic about the theosis of seafood gumbo (inspired by the aforementioned Shop Class, which is the subject of a current e-symposium there.)

Work I have to do a little of this to keep me accountable; I don't do well with a total lack of structure.  Most of my piano students cut back to biweekly lessons during the summer, and I cram them all into one day so that I can put away my materials and have a "normal" living room for the rest of the week.  I also do a lot more SAT tutoring during the summer.  This year I have my first two male students, references from the community of the girls' school where I teach, and I have to say it is SUCH a treat to teach boys.  Less drama, more gravity.  And the really fun part: I'm assisting at a Music Mind Games course in order to get enough experience to teach at workshops myself!  Very exciting.  I'm also involved with the Teachers' Committee, where I keep track of who's taken training where and occasionally blog about my experiences with MMG.

Learn What can I say?  Maybe I became a teacher because I love school so much.  This summer I'm taking an elective as part of my MAT program: it's called The Dynamic of the City.  Our first class was last night, and it sounds like it'll be a fun course: two thick textbooks, 16 films, and studies of Vienna, Paris, London, New York, Los Angeles and Baltimore (where our final project will be a guided tour of a selected area of the city.)  It's cross-disciplinary, covering everything from sociology and psychology to urban planning and art history.  The professor expects it will require about 15 hours of work each week, in addition to the 7 hours of class time.  I got really excited when I heard that.  Nerd.  Yes.  That's me.

Write Believe it or not, I have a huge list of post ideas that I've been kicking around for the last month.  I've just been too uninspired (read: lazy) to actually sit down and write them.  No longer!  And thanks again to those of you who bug me when I don't write.  It's good to be missed.