Teach­ers, Sum­mer & Al­ways Learn­ing

Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - OPINION - David Wilson Learn­ing Ev­ery Day

Have you ever asked a teacher what he or she does dur­ing the sum­mer?

Some of them take it easy and take a va­ca­tion. Some don’t.

In the sum­mer of 1997—20 years ago—I had quite the event­ful ex­pe­ri­ence. I was a so­cial stud­ies teacher and as usual dur­ing the sum­mer months, I was work­ing in my dad’s con­struc­tion busi­ness.

I al­ways told peo­ple that in the sum­mer I needed some ex­tra pay and my dad of­ten needed the ex­tra help, so it worked out well.

Teach­ers get a de­cent salary but it doesn’t make them wealthy. As a re­sult, a teacher may take on work that has noth­ing to do with his or her in­struc­tional re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. One of my ed­u­ca­tion pro­fes­sors said when he was a class­room teacher he used to take on ad­di­tional jobs to, in his words, “sup­port my teach­ing habit.”

But in the sum­mer of 1997, in ad­di­tion to con­struc­tion work, I was also tak­ing a jour­nal­ism class at Arkansas State Univer­sity in Jones­boro.

I was liv­ing in Po­plar Bluff, Mo., about 80 miles to the north of Jones­boro. My dad’s busi­ness was in Corn­ing, in North­east Arkansas, be­tween Po­plar Bluff and Jones­boro.

Each day I drove down to Jones­boro for class, and then hur­ried back up to Po­plar Bluff, where I could work with Dad’s crew on a job site each af­ter­noon.

When I got done with the sum­mer term at Arkansas State, I told Dad I could work all day long ev­ery day, in­stead of just the after­noons.

“Where is the job site go­ing to be?” I asked.

“Jones­boro!” was my dad’s re­ply.

So I spent the rest of the sum­mer driv­ing south to Jones­boro for work, just as I had been do­ing all along to at­tend class.

In my jour­nal at the end of the sum­mer I sim­ply wrote, “I went to sum­mer school at Arkansas State. Also did con­struc­tion work. Had a blast. I am now cer­ti­fied to teach jour­nal­ism and so­cial stud­ies.”

Be­cause of the jour­nal­ism class and be­cause of where I lived and be­cause of the lo­ca­tion of the job sites, the sum­mer of 1997 was one in which I burned up the high­way in Arkansas and Mis­souri.

But to keep from driv­ing like mad ev­ery day, I kept a bag packed. There were times when I slept at my house in Po­plar Bluff. At other times I slept in Corn­ing at my par­ents’ place. Some­times I slept at a friend’s in Jones­boro.

Funny how some things change your life. Since that sum­mer, for the last 20 years, I have a habit of keep­ing a small bag packed in case I need to stay some­where else on the spur of the mo­ment. I rarely do, but it is also rare that I can’t be­cause I don’t have toi­letries and a change of clothes.

It’s like 1997 made me as pre­pared as a Boy Scout.

The sum­mer of 1997 was also im­por­tant be­cause I was able to make new friends via the jour­nal­ism class. It’s amaz­ing how meet­ing new peo­ple and build­ing new re­la­tion­ships can en­rich and broaden one’s per­spec­tive.

And while I learned much in an aca­demic sense in the class­room, I also learned a lot in a prac­ti­cal sense by work­ing along­side the con­struc­tion work­ers each day.

The con­ver­sa­tions in class and the con­ver­sa­tions on the job site—as you might imag­ine—were very dif­fer­ent, but both set­tings pro­vided an op­por­tu­nity to grow.

To this day, even though I have five col­lege de­grees, I know I would ben­e­fit greatly by spend­ing a day on a con­struc­tion site.

Peo­ple know things. And peo­ple from dif­fer­ent walks of life know things that I don’t know.

The sum­mer ex­pe­ri­ence in 1997 re­minded me that schools and class­rooms don’t have a mo­nop­oly on knowl­edge; there is sim­ply much to learn from peo­ple ev­ery­where.

In ad­di­tion, the bru­tal sum­mer heat in 1997 served as my an­nual re­minder that teach­ing inside and out of the el­e­ments wasn’t a bad ar­range­ment at all.

I used to tell peo­ple that in May I was glad to get out of my class­room and work with the con­struc­tion crew, but by Au­gust I was ready to get back to teach­ing, and back to the air con­di­tion­ing.

By the end of sum­mer in 1997, I was drained and tanned and ready for a change. For sev­eral weeks I had been a stu­dent, a road war­rior, and a con­struc­tion worker, and the en­tire ex­pe­ri­ence had helped clear my mind. It felt good to re­turn to the class­room and help young peo­ple pre­pare for their fu­ture. DAVID WILSON, EDD, IS A WRITER, CON­SUL­TANT AND PRE­SEN­TER, WHO GREW UP IN ARKANSAS BUT WORKED 27 YEARS IN ED­U­CA­TION IN MIS­SOURI. HE NOW LIVES IN SPRING­DALE. YOU MAY E-MAIL HIM AT DWNOTES@HOT­MAIL.COM.

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