The Summer of Nothing In Particular

“Summer. It turns me upside down.” I’ll never not picture myself and my girlfriend and one of her friends tearing down the Borman at 80 or so, windows down, music up, last day of school as juniors, heading to the beach with a cooler of beer and sandwiches. This song on the radio and we sang it at the top of our lungs.

If it’s July, it’s definitely summer.

(Source) Eugenio Hansen, OFS, CC BY-SA 4.0

Just not an endless one. In fact if this summer got a name it’d be: “The Summer Of Nothing In Particular.”

I decided before the school year was done to skip everything for the nine-ish weeks of break. No conferences, no video summits, no professional reading, none of it. Just rest. And recover.

But if this is the Summer Of Nothing In Particular, I’m gonna need a Something tho:

  • Sleep. Lots of sleep. (No shame in a daily afternoon, or even mid-morning, nap)
  • Personal reading (Goodreads page here)
  • Back on my bike (it’s good to have people for inspiration)
  • Music (just because)
  • Some better nutritional choices (my doctor was pretty happy with my numbers last time, but I’m aware of my areas of weakness)

I legit haven’t even opened my school chromebook since summer school ended. It’s been in my bag for two weeks straight.

At some point I’ll start looking at school stuff, Algebra II in particular. Jump Start (we call it “suspended curriculum” in my district, where we front-load a lot of the procedural stuff, expectations, and SEL content we want in place to start the year) means I have a minute on that. But I need to touch up my slides (Quzizz lessons baby) and make MathXLs and Kuta for the Algebra II lessons I last taught during remote learning.

I was selected for a policy fellowship in my state this year and I’ve got a bunch of background reading to do for that as well. 

I’m hopeful for a “normal” year, if such a thing exists. It will be an opportunity to keep building culture in room 247. Amongst my summer reads is Happy at Any Cost, tracking the rise and untimely death of Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. You may be familiar with his memoir Delivering Happiness. Although famously Brene Brown is gaining a lot of traction with her “core values” exercise, especially amongst education folks, I first encountered the concept in Hsieh’s book. Here are the 10 values Zappos employees generated.

It wasn’t intentional (even though we’ve been benchmarking Shieh in this house since our Vegas days) but I think that list describes my classroom pretty well. All of it feels like what we already do, which is good I think. And I feel like it was an important reminder to me with Back-To-School on the (not so distant) horizon.

But I’ve got another set of guidelines to ponder as well, speaking of culture. It seemed like the entirety of Chicago’s WXRT family was glued to a radio or streaming device on Friday. Beloved host Lin Brehmer had announced earlier in the week that he would need to take a leave from his airshift for a round of chemotherapy for prostate cancer. Gut punch. He and news host Mary Dixon were the soundtrack to 13 years of commutes to Hammond, and The Cubs Opening Day broadcast was the highlight of the radio year, every year. I can’t tell you how many times I sat in my car in the Gavit parking lot before school started to hear the end of an episode of Lin’s Bin.

I’ve said for years the best eulogy is one that’s delivered while the person being honored is still alive, and ‘XRT listeners responded with an outpouring of support. One of the most touching came from a long-time producer on Brehmer’s morning show. It ended with the producer’s suggestions for how listeners could celebrate Their Best Friend In The Whole World:

“Lin’s only request: kindness.

Perfect.

Well, almost perfect.

I’m going to add one more request.

The greatest thing you can do to honor Lin is to … try.

Just try.

Do your best.

Don’t give up until you find the exact right song.

Be relentlessly creative.

Engage in your neighborhood, your community.

Don’t just live life, CONSUME it.

Wear your eatin’ pants.

Invite chaos into your life.

Be late.

See a concert on a school night.

Bring your glove to the ballpark.

Dance.

Cry when you hear a bagpipe.

Smile when you hear a banjo.

Call your wife your best friend … and mean it with your whole heart.”

If you are a listener, you heard this list in Lin’s voice.

And probably wondered why it was suddenly so dusty in here.

Also: That sounds like marching orders for a school year. Especially because I think I already do a lot of those things personally and professionally as well. You probably do too. I don’t exactly know what the Xs and Os of the school year are gonna look like, I just know Hsieh and Brehmer are gonna be in my head daily.

I wrote future me a note back in April, so I’ll probably take a look at that when I start planning. Got to talk with my geometry and Algebra II teams as well. They’ve been off-grid too. The math group text has been pleasantly silent. There’s time for all of the thinking and talking and planning. And other impromptu things.

But for the next five weeks (and beyond) I’ll take nothing for granted, and I’ll remember (as Lin Brehmer would say) “it’s F-period Great To Be Alive.”

Author: thedullguy

High School Math teacher, Morton High School, Hammond, IN. Football and wrestling dad. Opinions mine.

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