Planning in Short Pants

There’s a line in Robert Frost’s poem “Two Tramps in Mud Time” that flutters through my brain from time to time. It’s a powerful poem about passion and purpose, love and fear, poverty and expectation, and near the end the poet writes:

My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.”

I’m reminded of that verse as I prowl Diegueño’s campus this summer.

Three summer programs fill classrooms on campus in July and August: a math bridge, English and math support classes, and an English Learner program. Add to that the fact that Diegueño is a hub of math curriculum writing and revision, and I see a summer vacation filled with teaching and learning.

The nice part about summer school is the more relaxed atmosphere and shorter school days. There’s something about knowing that I can come to work in shorts and be out in time to take my kids to the pool that changes the tenor of school.

Working in that relaxed space has benefits to the kind of school Diegueño will be in from September to June. Being on campus, but not consumed by the enormity of school year work, provides perspective. Diegueño is a blank canvas, ready for bold strokes and nuanced scumbling. That painting starts in earnest in the fall, when teachers and students return, but in the time of preparation, sketches for the next year’s work can be completed with creativity and optimism guiding the pencil.

This was true for me as a teacher too. Not unlike a Broadway show running a few preview performances, I used summer school to pilot new curriculum, new approaches, and new ideas. I knew that if I could get something to work in July, I could get it to work anywhere.

It’s something true of our teachers this summer as well, where students are engaged, challenged, and celebrated, and learning is something done both by teachers and kids.

I see that learning particularly in the collaboration our math teachers are engaged in around the curriculum begun last year and being refined for next. They are focused and find ways to make adjustments they know will be good for kids. This work will pay off in the fall, in the winter, and next spring. The foresight to imagine how students will best learn is a profound strength of our teachers.

As a principal, being on campus in summer allows for the mental and physical space to envision changes that can benefit the school. It’s a time when the daily stressors of working with a thousand tweens and teens ease enough that what’s ideal can get an upper hand on what will work. In that space, I see my best opportunity to live Frost’s aspiration.

I find that I’m at work in the mornings at the same time I was during the school year, ready to go, happy to be spending time with teachers who really care about students, and who show it in the work they do. I’m inspired by them to merge vocation and avocation, encouraged beneath this summer sun to use both eyes to see one clear vision for Diegueño.

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