|Thea enjoying her vacation|
Summer vacation is starting to sneak into our school minds as stealthily as the first signs of a cold. A mention of a vacation planned here, some raised trepidation about next year, begging for me to transfer to 6th grade. And so while we plow on through all of our projects, still staying focused, I think of the things the students could be doing during that break; math facts, reading, fixing mistakes in their brain so that they start fresh the following year, perhaps even a little bit ahead, ready to conquer the world of 6th grade. And then I am reminded; I don’t own their summer.
Already we have been given gentle recommendations to assign math games over summer. Some students know they will be expected to finish a math book, others to read a classic book or two. And my outrage starts to bubble. We don’t own their summer, we don’t own their summer, we don’t own their summer.
Summer vacation in America may be too long for some kids. It may lead to the infamous summer slide, loss of knowledge, skill setbacks that will lead to worse test results, but we don’t own their summer. Their summer is for them to explore, to renew, to breathe, to invest in whatever catches their interest. Perhaps their summer will have nothing to do with school and yet everything to do with learning. Perhaps their summer will be spent reading book after book, perhaps just being at a pool. Whatever they choose to do with their time is none of our business.
And sure, of course those that assign homework for a class that starts after summer, they have the best interest of their students in mind. Yet the truth is, you have no right to that time. You have no power over whether they do it or not. You cannot expect them to come having read 2 books, or written a paper, or done a packet of math problems. You can ask them to, but you cannot demand it. You may say that the summer work is like preparing for a job, but guess what, even jobs give you time off. You may say that summer work is in the best interest of the students, to keep them out of trouble, well, let them make that decision. You may say that if they don’t work over the summer you will never get through everything you have to cover; that is a time management problem not something you can push onto the students.
You can hope that their summer is spent learning. That their summer is spent finding new interests. That their summer wasn’t just a big break from anything strenuous, but you cannot decide what they should do. You cannot decide what constitutes summer learning or not, because, yes, that’s right, you don’t own their summer.