Monday, January 24, 2011

Teaching: The Perfect School Year

I teach high-school English in real life and the number of snow days we’ve had this month (four) and the number of people complaining about going to school deeper in June (many) has me thinking.
I’m in the school-should-go-year-round camp. In my experience, as a student and educator, the big summer break is not conducive to educational continuity. To put it more plainly: the kids (and teachers) get stupid over the summer. They don’t read, they don’t write; and the result is a lot of reteaching, a lot of review and a lot of forgetting what came before.
“Mr. Greene, what’s a thesis statement?”
“Dude, you learned that last year. And the year before.”
“Did not.” (Did, too.)
It never fails. Here’s my solution, especially since most of the youth of today are no longer helping out on the farm: Year-Round High School. Break the year into four quarters, conveniently, One, Two, Three and Four.  Give the kids a two- or, more likely, three-week recuperation break between each one. Arrange the schedule so the winter break comes in January, when a lot of the Latino kids take that long trip back to their native countries (I forget what it’s called). A long January break also will save school districts money in heating.  Set the summer break for July, to save AC costs.  Make sure the kids have, at the very least, reading assigned for the next quarter.
Teachers are going to say this schedule doesn’t leave them much time for professional development, so here’s the plan. Teachers will be required to take one of the quarters off and apply that time to getting better at their jobs. To keep all the teachers from rushing to take the summer off, set up a weighted lottery system. Personally, I’d rather have time off in the fall.
Wait, there’s more. Extend the school day, but only make kids go Monday through Thursday. On Friday, youths will be required to do internships, community service, or learn something in some other way (online?). Teachers, on Fridays, will have to be in the building but can do their professional development stuff, plan amazing lessons, prep for team-teaching, etc.
We can get fancier if need be. Give kids more flexibility in picking their schedules so they can come in late, or leave earlier. Give teachers the opportunity to work a later shift for the students who want or need later classes.
Oh, and as far as snow days go, create a system that will allow teachers and students to work together online during those periods of inclement weather.
Go. Call your Congressional representative and local school boards.


  1. Quite frankly, I agree in almost every point.
    As a student, I agree that we do get dumber over summer break. The entire 'summer vacation' process has never made any real sense to me anyway. I am also a child of divorce. I have a court ordered 5 weeks a year with the family I do not live with. This could be broken down into a two week and a three week stay with them. Then money comes into play, and most families cannot afford four plane tickets a year for their child, let alone if they have two children.
    The four day week should be Tuesday-Friday, letting teachers create their plans on Monday and letting the students volunteer earlier in the week, starting out the week smooth and different every week, instead of ending.
    It's all a matter of opinion. (Although some of it is fact-based, such as students losing memory over summer.) Hopefully it will change within the net few years for the better.

  2. I totally agree with you. I remember my HS teachers always spending the first two-three weeks reviewing material from the previous school year. It was a waste of precious classroom time. Even then, my school had the "block" scheduling where we had four classes a semester and then four the next. I didn't mind it, but I probably would have learned better if I had the same classes everyday for the whole year.

  3. I agree, except with the part about teachers taking an entire quarter off. Aren't they already getting the three weeks each quarter off?

  4. Be awful hard to further their education, learn up about their subjects, sans that time.

  5. "Save on AC costs" is probably the biggest reason it won't happen. As far as I know most of the schools around here don't have AC at all, so a change like that would require a lot of retrofitting. Are you talking ONLY high school or all school?