'Bye Kids': Where Teachers Go in Summertime
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
If you ever thought about going into teaching because you'd get summer off, this next story might make you think again. For many teachers, summer is the busiest time of the year. It's when they get a chance to do some learning themselves.
NPR's Larry Abramson spoke with some teachers who are definitely not chilling at the beach.
LARRY ABRAMSON: Once you get past the guard dogs, the home of Deborah Rawdabush(ph) is pretty friendly.
Ms. DEBORAH RAWDABUSH (Physics Teacher, Oakton High School): Hi.
Ms. RAWDABUSH: Do you mind dogs? I forgot to ask you.
ABRAMSON: Fine. Let me say hi.
Ms. RAWDABUSH: She probably won't bite or anything.
Rawdabush is an energetic, effusively enthusiastic physics teacher at Oakton High School in Fairfax County, Virginia. Things are particularly busy at home today because Rawdabush is getting ready for a trip. She's as excited as a kid going to Disneyland.
Ms. RAWDABUSH: I'm going on Friday to Fermilab, out there in Chicago. It's Fermilab National Accelerator Laboratory. Until the Large Hydron Collider in CERN comes online, it's the largest, most powerful particle accelerator in the world.
ABRAMSON: Rawdabush got a grant to go study physics with the big boys and get to know quarks and muons up close and personal. She'll use what she learns to develop a physics Web site she designed to help other teachers. It shows simple stuff like…
Ms. RAWDABUSH: When the electron and positron collide, how the angle information matters, and how you can find out what angle that the particle is coming off from. And then there is theta.
ABRAMSON: Yeah. I got lost right away, too. But her enthusiasm is nothing if not infectious. Rawdabush is one of the many teachers around the country who works just as hard over the summer for one reason.
Mr. RAWDABUSH: I love to learn. And I guess that's why I consider myself a good teacher.
ABRAMSON: Melinda Ross(ph) is a history teacher at Moss Point High in Moss Point, Mississippi. By the time the summer is over, she will be what's known as an Intel Master Teacher and will have attended the National Education Computer Conference. Even though she has two young kids, she'll spend much of the summer burnishing her technology credentials. She wants to do things like put up a Web page to inspire an international history lesson.
Ms. MELINDA ROSS (History Teacher, Moss Point High School): You know, I'm teaching World War I or World War II, my kids are going to have a way different take on something, you know, than the kids in Germany.
ABRAMSON: Teachers often take continuing education courses because they have to or to get a bump in pay. Ross won't earn any extra money.
Ms. ROSS: Unfortunately not.
ABRAMSON: Kindergarten teacher Kevin Gallagher gave up a family vacation to enroll in an international exchange program.
Mr. KEVIN GALLAGHER (Kindergarten Teacher): I don't have to. This is pure pleasure.
ABRAMSON: Gallagher is part of an exchange with teachers in Jordan. They're sharing ideas in Seattle, where Gallagher teaches at Bryant Elementary and then the U.S. teachers head to the Mideast. If you're wondering what a kindergarten teacher does with this kind of experience, Gallagher is already full of ideas of how he can use the basic Arabic he's been studying.
Mr. GALLAGHER: I'm thinking, you know, a couple of phrases. I'm beginning to use that language with my students a couple of times a week in a more consistent basis.
ABRAMSON: Of course, not every teacher has the inclination or the ability to study over the summer.
Ms. ANDREA SCOTT(ph) (English Teacher): I'm a teacher and I also work at a local barbeque restaurant that's called the Rib Crib.
ABRAMSON: Andrea Scott teaches English as a second language at El Dorado Elementary in Douglas County, Colorado, south of Denver. She earns a good salary there, nearly 50,000 a year. The housing costs are rising. So over the summer, she's adding some extra shifts to her regular Friday night gig at the Rib Crib.
She's tried to augment her salary by taking extra classes, but the economics don't always work out.
Ms. SCOTT: Well, my salary bump was about a $100 a month and my student loans, in order to get my graduate degree, was $250 a month. I was actually $150 short every month.
ABRAMSON: Andrea Scott says she'd like to devote all her time to teaching and studying. But she can't. Ask teachers who can afford it while they give up their summer break, and they say they just can't help themselves.
Larry Abramson, NPR News.
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