This has not been my typical summer. On the hunt for a new teaching position, and thinking a summer job would be a good way to make extra money just in case nothing turned up for the fall, I took a job teaching at Children's Fairyland summer camp. This meant giving up eight weeks of free, unstructured time- two months of freedom that I have looked forward to each year since grade school. At the same time, I was excited to become a part of Fairyland, a beautifully whimsical place that brought fairytales to life when I visited as a child.
Eight weeks later, I am incredibly grateful I took the job. I learned Fairyland secrets and watched the puppet shows from backstage. I held the guinea pigs, brushed the miniature donkeys, and scored fresh eggs from the chickens. I was impressed each week by the imaginations of my campers as they created an original production inspired by the week's theme and their own pretend play. I got to use a walkie talkie and spend time in places like Jack and Jill Hill, The Old West, and The Pirate Ship. The best part of the summer, though, was working with an amazing team of fun, talented, supportive people.
For several years I worked in a place where community was valued and teachers and staff took time during the day to connect with each other. We enjoyed each other's company and gave each other empathy and encouragement. During my final year there that feeling of camaraderie began to disintegrate, as increasing pressures and duties kept teachers more and more separated. By the end of the year I saw that our once solid community had broken and crumbled. I felt isolated, and sad to see unhappiness and even fear of our administrators among some of my colleagues.
That experience made me truly value my new work environment. My boss this summer was the most supportive and openly appreciative I have ever had. She expressed gratitude for her team of teachers and was always ready to help us with anything we needed, without making us feel that a request for help pointed to some incompetence. My co-workers were kind and genuine, creative and open hearted. They made me look forward to showing up each day, and they made it feel safe for me to connect with them. The eight weeks I spent as a summer camp teacher were more healing and meaningful than eight weeks of sleeping in could ever have been.
On Monday morning my summer will be officially over as I begin work on my new classroom. Of course there were moments over the past two months when I wanted a break from the eight and a half hour days on my feet wrangling young children in an open air distraction-filled space. More than once I wished I had just one more week to catch my breath before jumping into the school year. Instead, I will make do with a good night's sleep, a luxury mani-pedi, and warm fuzzy memories of my best summer ever.