Everyone knows that February is the shortest month of the year; it also one of the busiest. Black History Month, President's Day, Valentine's Day, and the Super Bowl all take place in February.
Teachers are also busy completing forms in February. They are completing applications for teacher summer professional development programs, many of which are due in February. These programs provide teachers with study opportunities in the profession of education or in their given subject area.
Topics for these programs can range from "Teaching Students with Learning Disabilities" to "Studying The Tropical Rainforest in the Amazon."
Teachers desiring these professional development opportunities know that it is partially a game of statistics; the more of these highly competitive programs that you apply for, the better the odds are that you will get at least one of your choices.
Last February, when I submitted a stack of applications, I had no idea that I would be chosen for the American Bar Association's Federal Trials and Great Debates in United States History Summer Institute for Teachers.
Twenty teachers from as far away as Hawaii convened at the Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building in Washington, DC. It was an intense week of lectures by historians and judges and the opportunity to watch some high profile cases.
One case involved a person who had neglected to pay taxes for three years. The case was not too exciting until it was revealed that the defendant was a trained attorney and earned $30,000 a month from one client alone, and that client was none other than the late Michael Jackson.
The teachers were also granted an audience for some non-trial proceedings of the U.S. Supreme Court, witnessing the recommendation and swearing in ceremony that would allow these lawyers to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The lawyers were often recommended by their fathers, who were also lawyers. One father had the joy of having five sons sworn in at once.
The highlight of the week had to be the personal visit and presentation by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. The gentle judge graciously shared details of being a justice, which included anecdotes about work on and off of the bench. Then she patiently answered questions from her starry-eyed audience of high school history teachers.
I was also chosen for Western Washington University's Study Canada institute, which took place in the nation's capital of Ottawa and the metropolitan city of Montreal.
That program included a visit to the American Embassy and an audience with the American ambassador, the Honorable David Jacobson.
Additionally, I was chosen for the National Endowment for the Humanities' African Americans in Massachusetts workshop, where teachers visited the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Reading Room at Boston University. Many personal articles were on display, including Dr. King's university transcript.
But I most enjoyed going to the family home of author Louisa May Alcott, whose father, Amos Bronson Alcott, was an abolitionist and transcendentalist, along with the Alcott's neighbors, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and Nathaniel Hawthorne.
I see them as 19th Century hippies whose questioning personas experimented in communal living, vegan diets, and unconventional educational methodologies. The Alcott home was still in such good condition that the etchings of Louisa's artist sister, Abigail May Alcott, characterized as Amy in Louisa's "Little Women," are still on the walls of the family home.