Henrietta at Ahava

Summer Hours

Are you one of those people who envies teachers for having summers off? It’s okay…I used to be like you, because I was one of those teachers who worked every summer at camp. I learned quickly that teaching hours at camp are even more intense than in school, and when the camp session ended I needed at least a week to recover before returning to my classroom.

This summer promises a change in my routine.

Because our family moved in the late spring and I’m working in an administrative capacity at school beginning in July, I’m not at camp. One week ago, I left my son with his duffel bags in the synagogue parking lot after a quick, undemonstrative goodbye—no making a big deal out of hugging, no waiting until he boarded the bus.

Then my summer hours began.

The Weber School building is officially opened 9:00-3:00, but I don’t spent much time there. Some mornings I work from home or visit with colleagues I hardly see during the school year.  I spend one Friday morning at the county courthouse, serving on a panel for the Interfaith Speakers Network. In the evenings, free from obligations such as grading papers and preparing lessons, I attend an Iftar (break-fast meal during the Muslim holiday of Ramadan) dinner, a David Broza (an Israeli singer/songwriter) concert, a movie.  Being in the classroom every day often keeps me from enjoying these activities during the school year—I treat them as a luxury ten months a year—yet they are necessary to personal growth and education, as well as to maintaining relationships with friends who are not bound to the school calendar.

My favorite summer activity, so far, was volunteering with my Chai Mitzvah students, an adult Jewish learning community from the Ahavath Achim Synagogue, at the Ahava preschool. We’d decided at our siyum (conclusion of our studies) in the spring to get together for a class mitzvah project in the summer. Since the preschool doesn’t distinguish between regular and summer hours — theirs is a year-round learning community — Beth, who teaches in the preschool, arranged for me, Joe, Marla, Susan and Myrtle to visit with the children.

Each of us brought something we’d learned this year in Chai Mitzvah to share with the children. Joe brought Henrietta, one of the friendliest chickens from his farm, who taught us about the mitzvah of caring for animals, tza’ar ba’alei hayim. At the end of the morning the children gave us a wonderful send-off as their music teacher strummed “The Chicken Dance” on his guitar, and we danced and laughed together.

When I return to the quiet halls of The Weber School, I discover how much I miss my high school students. Being a teacher without students is sustainable during the summer hours, but only for a short while. Even as I appreciate the break in the routine and the opportunity to recharge, I begin to count down to the first day of school.

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