How To Fix Schools: Shorten Summer Vacation

In response to my open call on what should change about school, commenter emeraldlakesfreepress has an interesting suggestion.

I think the school year schedule has to change.  Long summers mean that children have months to forget what they have learned.  6 weeks on, 2 weeks off, with a slightly longer break in the winter and one in the summer, would make learning more continuous and help children to keep in the routine of learning.  Rather than promoting children each summer, based on their ages, they could be promoted after each session, if they have mastered the material.  This would promote multi-age classrooms of learners who are working at their best pace, without the stigma of being “held back”. Schools would become more flexible and fluid and students could be placed more thoughtfully in programs they need.   Teachers would need to become year round professionals, with these short breaks becoming professional development time with a more meaningful work and plans being made for specific students.  The breaks would also allow time to remediate and enrich specific students though tightly focused, short term programs.

I love my long summer vacations, but I love these ideas more.  What if the school year consisted of five 6-week sessions, with short breaks in between?  How could such a system be organized to maximize student learning?  The configurations seem endlessly interesting.

Do you agree?  Do you see any problems with this setup?  Would it work for your school, your children, your community?  Give me your thoughts.

Image by Phil Edon


Today is the first day of the new school year.  I am absolutely, unequivocally uninterested in being here.  I feel no excitement about meeting my classes, no anticipation of good things that may unfold.  Granted, I also feel no dread.  I’m simply unable to connect with the reality of it all.  The arrival of the new semester is like a vague, neutral, lucid dream: I know I’m in it, and it feels unreal, but I can’t shake myself awake.

I expect this will pass as my classes become groups of real people and my lessons become actual events.  I’m a bit worried, though, that my mind is so completely elsewhere that I’m going to do some things badly at the start  and will be unable to recover.  This has happened to me in the past: bungling the first lesson has led to a sour relationship with the class; failing to proofread early emails has created conflicts with students that never needed to happen.  The art of teaching often involves responding thoughtfully to the unexpected, and the first couple of days of the term are always full of the unexpected, and are also crucial for setting the tone for the rest of the semester.

I can tell myself to take extra care and tread lightly, but I have been nursing a mild headache for several days and am feeling less than able to monitor myself.  I think I need some concrete advice.  What do you do when you need to be in top form but you’re really, really not feeling it?  It could be when you need to teach a first class, or run a 5k race, or deal with your mother-in-law.  How do you ensure that you are ready to face what you encounter even if you don’t think you’re up to the task?

Please hurry!  My first class begins in 5…4…3…….!  (But I’m sure I can apply your advice tomorrow, and the rest of the week, and next year, so no matter when you’re reading this, give me what you’ve got.)

Image by Sanja Gjenero