In the Classroom Professional Learning
Summers Off?
April 29, 2018
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Al Feldblum

It took me a few years to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up.

I found that I had a passion for coaching football. High school football.

What better way to live my passion than be a high school teacher. I made the decision to get an undergrad degree in education and become a teacher.

What subject should I teach? I was always a good math student, I thought that would be the most logical choice. There always seemed to be math teacher openings and it was a “high needs” subject.

I remember telling my parents I had decided to major in Math Education. They both looked at me, then each other. My mom said, “Well, you won’t get rich, but you will have summers off.”

When I told my grandparents – you must understand that my grandfather was a financial wizard and very fiscally driven – they both said, “You won’t get rich. You can come visit us during your summers off.”

When I told my friends, most of them immediately said, “Dude. Cool. You don’t have to work all summer. It’ll be just like college.”

Reality check time.

This is what a “summer off” looked like for me my first three years as a teacher:

School ended in mid-June – which most people would say is a summer month.

Monday through Thursday for half of June, July and half of August, I opened the recreation center for neighborhood teens to come and hang out. Additionally, I was coaching football. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday we had the football players in the weight room. Tuesday and Thursday, we had football players on the track working on conditioning.

School re-started in mid-August – which most people would say is a summer month.

By my 4th “summer off”, I realized I needed to earn a master’s degree to maintain my teaching certification. Now, instead of teen rec center, I was in graduate school. Summer graduate classes meet from the beginning of July to the beginning of August. Most people would say July is a summer month. Additionally, I was coaching football. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday we had the football players in the weight room. Tuesday and Thursday, we had football players on the track working on conditioning. It took me 6 summers to earn my master’s degree.

Now that I had my master’s degree, my summer’s off were Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, football players in the weight room, Tuesday and Thursday, players on the track working on conditioning from mid-June to mid-August. Most people would say those are summer months.

Fast forward to 2008, my family decides to move from Maryland to Tennessee. School gets out in mid-June, that year, my new school started the beginning of August. My “summer off” consisted of:

1) selling, packing, and closing a house in Maryland

2) moving the contents to Tennessee

3) buying, closing, and unpacking a house in Tennessee

It seemed that we got all the boxes off the moving truck in time for teachers to start back the following week.

My school district has an “unscheduled in-service” requirement for all teachers. All teachers needed 18 hours of professional development not during the school day. You guessed it, these were all earned during my “summer off”. It would have been fine if you could earn 6 in a day, but they were only offered in two-hour classes. Only one or two classes offered per day, if you could find one that was related to your content area.

Here is what “summer’s off” looked like for this teacher:

  • Mid-June to Mid-August – teen recreation center
  • Mid-June to Mid-August – summer workouts for football
  • July – graduate school
  • June and July – required professional development
  • June and July – selling, packing, closing, buying, closing, unpacking a house move

So, to my parents and grandparents, I may not have one of the highest paying jobs in the land.

To my friends, I do not have it just like college.

But, as I like to tell them, I do have summers off.

Al has taught mathematics in Knox County for the past nine years, the last three years at Karns High School. Prior to Knox County, he taught in two school districts in Maryland, spending three years at Howard High School in Howard County and 13 years at Laurel High School in Prince George’s County. Al has taught the gamut of courses from Pre-Algebra through Trig-Analysis/Pre-Calculus. He is also certified to teach Teen Leadership by the Flippen Group. During his teaching career, he was an assistant football coach for 22 years, a head football coach for two years and a head wrestling coach for 12 years. He earned the 1997 Prince George’s County wrestling coach of the year award from the Prince George’s Journal newspaper and the 2007 Howard County football coach of the year from both DigitalSports online newspaper and the Baltimore Touchdown Club. Al graduated cum laude from Bowie State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics. He also holds a Master of Education degree in Secondary Education from Bowie State. He also serves as a Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellow, engaging his colleagues in providing classroom feedback to the Tennessee Department of Education on public education policy issues.

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