Journeys: Vacations and School Years

by Tricia Ebner, M.S. Ed.

Summer often includes vacations for many of us, and in the past few weeks, I’ve been gearing up for our own family vacation. Today, as I worked on packing, I realized that preparing for a family vacation isn’t that different from the preparing for the school year. It takes reflection and planning to fully prepare for vacation, just as it takes reflection and planning to prepare for the school year.Travel

Lists: Preparing for vacation often requires making lists. A few weeks ago I started making the packing lists, ranging from the clothing we’ll wear to the recipes and groceries we’ll need at our destination. This isn’t all that different from what we do in preparing for the school year: we consider materials we’ll need as we begin gearing up for the coming year. It also takes reflection. For example, as a family, we’ve learned through experience that the weather in the valleys can be vastly different from the weather in the mountain passes. This means we have to pack for a range of weather conditions. Similarly, as we educators continue in our career, we learn that there can be a range of needs and considerations we must make in preparing for our school year.

Research: In preparing for vacation, we often take time to investigate the activities and sights we might want to enjoy while on our travels. We’ll check out web sites for various attractions, noting hours, activities, and costs. In preparing for the school year, we’ll also often research options. We may look at changing various lessons or units to make them more effective. Perhaps we want to use some new materials; this, too, may be require some research so that we’re making wise choices. We’ve learned through experience as traveler and educators that a little bit of research can help us use our time more efficiently and enjoy it more.

Planning: Preparing for vacation includes planning out the route. How will we get to our destination? What are our options? What might we stop and see along the way? We need to refer to maps or GPS to ensure we’re on the route to our destination. Similarly, preparing for the school year requires planning. We refer to our standards, curriculum maps, and past experiences to lay out the path we want to take to help our students learn, grow, and master the skills and concepts they need.

Packing: After all the preparation, it’s finally time to pack for vacation. We carefully follow our lists make sure we have our research notes and maps. We are ready to head out, anticipating a wonderful time of rest and relaxation with family and friends. Similarly, after all the preparation, it’s about time for the school year to begin. We have our materials, and we have our research and plans to help us focus our work with our students.

Just as vacation travels sometimes require adjustments and even detours, our progress through our school year will inevitably require adjustments. Most of the time, we have a number of options for how best to reach our destination, so we can switch routes if necessary. Having a plan, knowing our resources, and being flexible means we can still reach our destination, whether it’s vacation or the learning targets we have for our students. With a little preparation, we can have an enjoyable, rewarding vacation . . . and school year.

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