Thursday, June 23, 2011

What Summer Vacation? or, My Case for Year Round Education

The bigger the summer vacation the harder the fall. -Unknown

People don't notice whether it's winter or summer when they're happy. -Anton Chekhov

Everyone else is done with school, but I work through the first week of August. And you know what, I love it.

Today I was eating lunch in the staff lounge, as usual, and the upcoming move and transition to a traditional calendar came up, as it often does. And one teacher mentioned that the district seems to be interested in year round education--might then, in the future, think about having more than the one year round school they'll have next year.

Umm, excuse me district, do you realize that you're changing a perfectly good year round program to a traditional schedule? I know given the budget cuts that those extra months of bussing is expensive, but all of a sudden now you might look into it? Really, I don't get how the administration makes decisions. When it should be, first and foremost, what can I do for the kids, the kids end up last on the list of priorities. So frustrating. We'd best be the first school they convert to year round if that's something they're interested in, that's all I've got to say.

So next year, I'm going to miss having a year round school. Why? I think it's good thing for everyone involved. It works well with the set up of my school--a lot of the summer term is spent on the all-school musical. The only hard thing is that everyone else--older siblings, neighborhood kids etc. are out of school. So kids get antsy, sometimes attendance drops, and there are more kids who roll in late. But that's partially due to the tradition of a summer break. That's all it is really--because that's how it's always been, that's "how it's supposed to be". But why? Adults work year round, and now they have to find childcare on their own while they're at work. So why not just keep the kids in school? Parents don't have to worry about them, and the kids have less time to get themselves into trouble. Plus research doesn't seem to lean one way or the other in favor of year-round education.

It's especially good for students who are of lower economic status, because they're less likely to afford fancy camps or have enrichment at home in terms of educational games, more books, parent support and resources to maintain academic progress at home. So maybe some middle-upper class family may disagree with year round education because they can't take their trip to Europe or whatever, because they think their kid needs that break from school. It's not that you don't get breaks--every ten weeks (or something) you get a 3 week break, 2 of which are optional (and more low key) classes.

But I think the breaks are the best part of a year round schedule! It's good for the staff too--kids and teachers alike can get burnt out. And with more frequent (and shorter) breaks, you can spend more time refreshed for work instead of slowly counting down the days to summer. And there's still a month off in the summer, which is longer than the other breaks.

And it does make sense--there's always that period of review at the beginning of the year. Any kid will lose something over the summer, take a step back in their studies. If there's a shorter break, there's less of a loss. I think it's worth the effort to add air conditioning to some buildings and spend the money on bussing. (I feel like air conditioning is literally the only thing keeping my school from getting to continue as a year round school. And they probably chose our relocation site so that they could take that away from us. I wouldn't put it past them--they did try to shut us down after all.)

Maybe some of my love for year-roundedness is selfish--and works out well for my Americorps program. I get random weeks off that no one else does, and when summer comes I still have regular hours and don't have to scramble to find work to fulfill my hours. Still, I wouldn't make the case if I didn't also think it was beneficial to the students. Ultimately, I'm not working for myself, the school district, the other teachers, or my supervisors. No, I'm working for the kids.

1 comment:

  1. " can we live in the richest, most privileged country in the world... and still hear... that we cannot afford to provide a good education for every child?"
    -Senator Paul Wellstone