I have a lot of teacher friends. People who’ve devoted the bulk of their lives to teaching, guiding, and most importantly, loving and caring for, young people. Right now many of these friends are extremely exhausted. These are primary, middle and high school teachers who are coming down to the wire, wrapping up another school year, letting go of their little lambs, sending them down the hall or out into the world. And in the coming days these teachers will get a little break from the classroom, recharge their batteries and tend to the care and feeding of their own education.
I also have other teacher friends who won’t be taking any breaks. These are largely daycare workers, many of whom will face longer days as the sun spends more time in the sky. These year-round caregivers (and, YES, educators) routinely make-do with less: less money, less respect, less vacation, less nap time. I’ve worked as both public school teacher and daycare worker. These jobs are not as different as one might think.
But teacher or daycare worker, both are on the brink of a new day. The floodgates will open. School’s out. Let the high holy days of summer begin!
Even as a child, the only thing I loved more than going to school was NOT going to school. I’ve always treasured the alternative education that summer provides. A different kind of learning; less structured, more self-directed. There was more creativity and play, more risk-taking, more boredom, and more time. So as an educator I was always out of step with the constant pressure to make summer shorter and the school year longer. I understand the concern over summer learning loss (AKA the “summer slide”) and the detrimental effect this especially has on children from low-income families. But I think that there are other ways to meet the needs of students without tacking on more school days and longer school hours. The negative side of a long summer is easily measured. The positive side, on the other hand, is immeasurable and seldom acknowledged.
So summer, for me, has always been sacred ground. The song Barefoot in L.A. is my homage to the golden days of June, July and August. I lament the fact that kids don’t get to run as freely as they used to. But as adults we can do a lot more toward providing safe environments where kids can sow their wild oats. It starts with valuing play.
I’ve posted Barefoot in L.A. in the past on my YouTube channel. It was one of my first attempts at playing with music video. The music on the video is a home demo that I put together myself. The song download is a completely different version. It features the low-strung violin stylings of Tom Prasada Rao. Such a cool sound. Sometimes it almost sounds like an oboe to my ears. Drum master Jagoda is laying down the rhythm, and I'm frailing on the uke.
As I write this from my Singapore hideaway, Sabrina is back in California for a taste of the first days of summer. And though it’s always summery hot here, it’s not quite the same. I’m looking forward to going home in August, when my summer will begin in earnest. Until then, I hope we all enjoy and appreciate this wonderful time of year. Now go outside and play~