Scriddleblog

Where the Scriddley starts to pow

Twelve month school

Posted by phourigan on May 17, 2010

I love throwing ideas out to my advisory.  Today in the car I was thinking about why schools refuse to practice what we preach.  From September to June, we (allegedly) teach the kids that it’s not about cramming, it’s about problem solving.  We insist that the reinforcement of skills is critical and that we have to master a skill before we can move on.

Then June comes, the seniors check out, all the seventh graders want to be eighth graders . . . and we disappear for three months.  All of our reinforcement goes out the window.  The kids don’t use their brains in the same way over the summer; most of our students will attend summer camp, but it’s almost always sports camp, then they come home and watch tv and play video games.

Along comes September, and we spend the first month of the new school year trying to get everyone caught back up to where they were in June.

Ask any teacher about the month of May and they’ll say it’s pretty much a wasted month.  Now we have four months of the year (May, June, July, Aug) that are useless, and one (Sept) that is review.  We give sad chuckles at Senioritis and shrug our shoulders, “What can ya do . . .”

We accept this?  We can do better.  If you want a laugh, the next time you’re in a faculty meeting, bring up the idea of a twelve month school year, then sit back and watch your Facebook friend count plummet.

According to my quick count, my school had thirty-eight weeks of school this year, not counting Thanksgiving, winter break or spring break.  Nine of those weeks are in September, May and June, so it’s more like twenty-nine “real” weeks of school.

I know kids (and teachers) need breaks, so why not have school for five weeks followed by a two week break, repeated seven times throughout the year?  There are three weeks left over, so we can use those for senior projects, field trips, or extra days to make the two week vacations line up with the winter holidays, Thanksgiving, Arbor Day.

Of course the first thing the kids said to me was, “What about summer camps?”  This question exactly reflects the current locked-in mindset of schools: we can’t do what we know is right because the System won’t allow it.  We have summer camps because . . . school is not in session.  Therefore, we can’t have school in the summer because . . . we have summer camps.  Ugh.

The biggest battle would have to be waged with the teachers.  The kids will adapt to whatever we provide.  If we had a critical mass of schools, the parents wouldn’t mind either.  But teachers?  That’s a tough sell.  We need our summer break.  Why?  To get away from the kids.  But this is what we do.  Imagine an investment banker taking three months off in the summer to get away from money.  Imagine a doctor taking three months off in the summer to take a break from seeing patients.  Can a sportswriter stop writing through the summer months just because  the basketball season is over?  No, his editor puts him on other assignments because the newspaper needs his writing skills.

Our society is telling us loud and clear that they NEED our teaching skills.  By almost any measure, schools appear to be failing our kids.  Yet part of our Systematic approach is to unleash our young people on that same society for three months of the year.

We ask our students to think creatively and problem solve every day.  When it comes to schools, teachers and administration, we in education are huge hypocrites.  Our System is broken, but we’re going to continue to plug away in the same old way.

I know the chances of anything like this happening are practically nil, but it’s an intriguing idea.  I don’t know how long I can sit idly by and watch something that I know is broken continue to break.

For the record, my advisory thought it was a terrible idea.

Two thoughts for the future: how distance learning affects this plan, and the frustration of standardized testing.  Stay tuned.

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