Today is Labor Day, the official end of summer.
Unless you’re outside the US and Canada, using the meteorological delineation, or in the southern hemisphere.
Probably the most persistent and pernicious story about teachers is that most of us chose this profession largely because of the paid summer vacation.
First, I’ve never met anyone who was motivated to teach based on the time they spend away from kids. And second, no school in this country pays teachers not to work. None.
Our overly-large school district has completed two weeks of the new academic year, opening with the very positive “Returning Strong” as the official PR department slogan. The superintendent’s many email messages emphasize that all will be normal (sorta), with everyone in-person, five days a week.
I suppose there is some justification for that optimism.
This sign is in front of a local elementary school. The end of the academic year is June 15.
Which means the library is basically closed for the last two weeks of school.
Unless things have changed drastically in the two or so years since I left the overly-large school district, almost every student computer in the school has been used for testing this month. And the IT tech support people will likely begin collecting them for summer storage around the same time the library wants it’s books back.
Which means technology will largely also unavailable for instruction during the final six weeks of school.
Of course, there are plenty of other activities that don’t require computers or library books going on during the final two weeks of the school year.
But I wonder how much more learning would be possible if we didn’t “open” and “close” schools each year. If we treated learning as a continuous, open-ended process, rather than something with a fixed start and end.
Just a thought.
It’s been quiet recently here in Lake Wobegon the overly-large school district.
Because, of course, it’s July, with most teachers and students on their far too extended summer break, a monumental waste of time, money, energy and learning that I was planning to write about once again.
However, rather than inflicting the web with yet another rant on the subject, go read A Teacher’s Case Against Summer Vacation, a better and certainly more concise argument for making much needed alterations to our archaic academic calendar.
As she points out, we hold on to our current system1 largely due to tradition and emotion, and despite much evidence that it is actually detrimental to learning for many kids. Or at least to the type of student learning we most value, that assessed on standardized tests.
However, this not about increasing school time, just rearranging it. Taking the long summer block and spreading the still very much needed breaks more evenly throughout the year. Allowing for family vacations and assorted kid camps in other months, regular building maintenance, embedded professional development time for teachers, and remediation for students who need it when it will be more relevant.
Like this writer, I’m also puzzled why this kind of calendar change is not a big part of the education reform discussion. Maybe it really is just too simple of an idea.
Or maybe a new approach to school time like this never occurred to the politicians and billionaires leading the debate because it doesn’t contribute larger profits to owners of charter schools, standardized testing creators, or the many vendors of Common Core “solutions”.
1. Which, contrary to popular folklore, does NOT have agrarian roots.