A Teacher’s Summer Syllabus

By Jane Highley

Summer has finally arrived, and like many teachers, I am already basking in the freedom of a slower-paced life. For the next 10 weeks, I don’t need to fret about the daily school-day hustle: packing lunches, making and revising lesson plans, attending meetings, collecting feedback, and grading assessments. However, I hardly just sit blithely and do nothing, even though this prolonged break is undoubtedly meant to revive and restore teachers for the work we do from September to June. In fact, this summer, I have mapped out an elaborate plan to maximize my time so that I can feel fully recharged for a new school year.

I call this plan my “Summer Syllabus,” which sounds as off-putting and paradoxical as “summer school.” But knowing what I know about myself, I am motivated by goals, lists, and rewards – both internal and external ones. I’ve devised my Summer Syllabus based on central question: What do I want my life to look like at the end of this long break? In other words, how do I want to feel at the beginning of the new school year? Planning with the end-goal is nothing new, especially for teachers. But all this future-planning and list-making has unexpectedly made me incredibly fearful, apprehensive, and anxious.

What if I don’t feel motivated to do anything, and therefore, accomplish nothing by the end of August?
What if I get nothing done?
What if I fail?

Even as I am writing this blog post, I feel overwhelmed. My forward-thinking ambitions are evenly matched by a steady sense of dread because I am scared to have nothing to show for at the end of this long summer break. I am scared to fail.

But then again, of whom am I afraid? Who am I serving? Whose approval am I craving? Why am I afraid? Yet again, I recognize how small my faith is. Clearly, I have not consulted God with my plans because I am too proud to admit that I need Him, that I need help. Conveniently, I forgot that I am lazy, selfish, and arrogant, which is all the more reason to seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance and wisdom. My Father knows how I operate, how I rationalize, how I am driven; He knows that I will experience failure and disappointment. But his infinite and intimate knowledge of me is my greatest comfort. Jesus’s reminder to his disciples also applies to me this season: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).