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Reflections of a Summer of Learning

Guest post by Dana Watts 

For the past 7 years, I have closely protected my time with my children over the summer. Being an expat and international teacher, our school year is generally packed full from the first day of school until the last. Let me start by saying that I generally jump at the chance to learn anything and everything new, but the summertime has always been sacred. I have carefully guarded our summers for our family and have not let my professional life creep into that precious time.

This summer was a complete deviation from the past 7 years. Due to my emerging yet somewhat undefined new career, I spent a week at the University of Kentucky with my doctoral cohort and have just completed a week of training with Apple Distinguished Educators from Europe, India and the UAE. Normally I return to India refreshed and filled with energy from a stateside summer. That will not be the end of my summer story this year. Over the next three days, I will travel from Cork to Dublin to Toronto to Buffalo to DC. I will rest for four days before I return to India with three kids and a dog. I haven't seen my husband in almost 5 weeks. Refreshed would not be the adjective I would use to describe my mental state at the moment.

That being said, my mind is full of some amazing things I truly hope to bring to fruition over the next few months. This summer, I learned a ridiculous amount about myself as a learner and how I learn. I react under pressure but become inspired at the last moment. There are times when I am incredibly quiet because the ideas in my head are bubbling over. At times they pour out of my mind and sound like nonsense to everyone around me. (I worry about those moments but they are what they are.) I need time to be inspired, but when that moment comes, I sprint because I want to reach the finish line before I see another one in the distance. I may have some serious ADHD issues, but I embrace that about myself. I know I can be really excited about something but the second a better idea comes around, I will follow the new path.

This troubles me, not because I am worried about myself, but I wonder where we allow students to become inspired and have time for ideas to bubble over in our schools? We impose more deadlines and restrictions instead of less. The more restraints you place on kids, the harder they have to work to fit into your vision of learning. I will more schools thought about the different ways they personally learn, and gave students the room to fly. In both of the incredible learning experiences I had this summer, they share one common denominator: my inspiration and clarity came at the end of the learning instead of the start. I hope my colleagues keep this in mind as they begin another year of inspiring students. Learning cannot be pre described. Please allow room for your kids to fly.

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