Reader Mike Imondi of Lynbrook teaches English at Herricks High School in New Hyde Park.
I have a confession. Eight years of teaching, and I'm still messing this up.
I know how it's supposed to go. You run into me somewhere -- at my favorite Lynbrook deli, at a barbecue or on the softball field at Jones Beach -- and ask how my summer has gone. Then you tell me how jealous you are of my summers off. You commend me for making the wise choice to become a teacher because of the vacation time, and you'll envy me and wonder why you didn't choose the same career for yourself.
But here's my dirty secret: I've spent weeks preparing for the upcoming school year.
It's true. It all started with the first week of my summer. I didn't stay out all night partying. Instead, I worked with my colleagues on the new common core standards, part of President Barack Obama's Race to the Top program. These standards will influence how we educate our students. We woke up early. We examined. We studied. We debated.
As if that weren't enough, I took a weeklong workshop at Fordham University on teaching advanced placement language and composition. Try not to be mad at me -- it gets worse: I enjoyed it. The homework, the reflection, the presentation at the end. It all helped to make me better prepared for the fall.
One more thing, I'm sorry to say. I just finished a weeklong workshop on curriculum development for the 11th grade. We even started to lay the groundwork for our September lesson plans.
There's still more: I updated my class website a couple of weeks ago. I was afraid you'd see it and know I'd been working. However, I wanted to post handouts just in case a few curious students check it.
Well, at least I went to the Yankees game with one of my teacher friends. We only talked about strategies for teaching about half the time. Or slightly more than that.
If you ask my fiancee about my summer, she won't be able to cover for me. She smiles to let me know I'm talking about teaching again, as we're walking our dog down Atlantic Avenue or driving on Sunrise Highway to one of our parents' houses. She always obliges me, and she usually offers great insight into how to make my lessons better.
I know, I know. You're disappointed. You always imagined your teachers like rock stars, their summers spent jet-setting all over Europe, throwing televisions off balconies. You envisioned us sitting on the beach getting bronzed while students completed busywork summer reading assignments.
Instead, we are completing the summer assignments ourselves (mine include reading "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy and "Nickel and Dimed" by Barbara Ehrenreich). We are making plans and calendars. We are brainstorming ideas for pep rallies. We are having dreams about teaching. Students appear in our sleep uninvited to remind us why we do this everyday.
See, I believe you have made an error in your jealousy. The time you should envy us for is the time we spend in the classroom, the moments when students finally understand the material, the ones when they laugh with us, or when they show what great people they are becoming.
So I will go back to school Sept. 6 and I will stand in front of nervous freshmen trying to get them to relax, and I will pretend that I did nothing but hang out at Roosevelt Field and Adventureland all summer, that all these lesson plans just come naturally to me.
But, now you know the truth.