School-B-Gone

 

By the last month of the school year, I just wanted it to end.  Both kids seemed to be done, academically, emotionally, and relationshipally (yeah, I made that word up, I’m the editor, I can do that) with 8th and 4th grades, respectively.  Tigger was slogging through the final days of middle school without anything resembling interest, and Little Bit was coming home and collapsing in tears over the latest taste of the unfairness of life.  In her defense, some of those incidents were really damned unfair.  In life’s defense, that’s just the way it is sometimes.

So I was glad, and so were they, when the final bell rang and they tumbled into summer.  They’ve both got camps and activities lined up for much of the break, for which I am grateful.  Three days into summer and one wonders if there can be any other meaningless, dredged-up-out-of-nothing conflicts left to have.  They have the whole rest of this week to find out, if I let them live through it.

I thought, back when I was planning their summer, that they would have this first week free, and then the last week-and-a half of August free before the new school year started up on September 1.  But here’s where life-is-unfair kicks in again.  The state is broke; the school district is broke; and no cure for broke-ness appears to be on the horizon.  So, at the end of June the parents were informed that even though the start-of-school date was published months ago and everyone made their plans around it, the district cut a bunch of teacher work days out of the schedule somewhere and shifted the start date to September 12.  Thus, hundreds of parents who thought they had child care, aka school, for the first two weeks of September now suddenly have their bored, whiny, been-out-of-school-way-too-damn-long-already kids at home, still.  Forget about that business trip!  Better renegotiate residency arrangements with your uncooperative ex!  Buy a new game for the Wii and lock them in the TV room to save your own sanity.  The district was not even a teensy bit apologetic.  “Be glad we teach ‘em at all, you ingrates!”

Granted, I am in a better position than many parents to weather the unexpected extension of under-utilization of children.  I work from home and only occasionally have to show up at an office.  My eldest child is old enough to be left alone or left to babysit her sister.  There’s a TV room I can lock them into.  It still irks me because that’s not how I planned it and because there’s no blessed reason why children should be out of school for months at a time, anyway. 

Have I ranted about this before?  If not, I should’ve.  Taking two to three months off of school is highly detrimental to kids.  They lose a lot of ground and then have to spend an obscene amount of instructional time in the fall just reviewing what they’ve forgotten.  It is even worse for kids on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum.  Richer kids spend the summer doing interesting, enriching things, like going to camps and classes or traveling.  Poorer kids spend the summer forgetting what they learned the year before.  You know how we, as a culture, are always bemoaning the fact that American kids get whomped by kids from other countries on tests of just about everything?  Maybe the hundreds of hours of additional schooling those other kids get every year has something to do with it.  Ya think? 

So, hello, extra-long summer.  Hello, valium.  Get acquainted with each other while I get some more coffee.

 

 

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17 thoughts on “School-B-Gone

  1. I really want to know why no school reformers question summer break on any significant level?!  Why doesn’t anyone question this idea of summer break as some kind of all-American right?  I think it is less financial and more not wanting to come up against teachers who get paid a full salary to teach only 9 months out of the year.  Questioning teachers is about as un-American as it gets, right?  (And don’t anyone cry to me about how little teachers get paid already, blah blah blah. I know plenty of regular folks who work 8-9 hours a day YEAR-ROUND on $40-60k and who couldn’t fathom having all of those days/months off per year.)

  2. @DrTiff – I think many teachers would prefer a longer school year as well, though yes, of course they would want more pay to go with it.  Having been a teacher way back when, I can tell you that the time off was groovy but I struggled to support myself on the pay, and I was young and single at the time.  I didn’t even rant about my main issue with the ridiculously short school year and the ridiculously short school day (my teen is going to get out of school at 2:25 next year!): The whole schedule is based on the dad-at-work, mom-at-home family structure, and its ubiquity forces families to adopt that structure or pay a heavy price in time, money, and aggravation.  Wouldn’t you think some schools would experiment with a different model?

  3. @transvestite_rabbit – yep, when my kids went to the local public elementary they got out at 1:50.   1:50!!!     I don’t get it.  I know it’s odd that I’ve taken this route as a former homeschooler who had the kids home all day, but I really don’t know why school hours are so limited and so much of the time spent there so wasted.  You’re right, it is completely dependent upon stay-at-home mothers available for picking up & after school/summertime supervision.  I’m not saying teachers make great pay – and many of them use the summers to supplement that pay – but I’m tired of this whole teacher-martyr complex.  Clerical workers, maintenance workers, hospital workers, and even many other state employees make the same or even less and they don’t get 4+ months off a year.  They get 7 major holidays plus some personal days.  Maybe.  And lots of pink and blue collar workers also take on night jobs & weekend jobs to make a decent living.  I’m also tired of the “oh, but teachers take so much of their work home with them” argument – sure, so do lots of other people, engineers, college profs., editors, whatever.  But they don’t knock off work at 2:25 in order to get it done (ok, maybe college profs. do 🙂  And if we’re talking about middle school & high school teachers, they usually have a prep period during the day anyway.  I’m not trying to have a “which job is harder” contest – just that teaching is a job just like many other jobs and part of the impossiblity of any kind of school reform is holding up teachers as some kind of untouchable sainthood. 

  4. @DrTiff – Untouchable sainthood?  Everywhere I look I see teachers being talked about in the most disparaging of terms.  Every cultural fault seems to rest on their shoulders.  And, are clerical and maintenance staff really comparable to teachers, in level of education or skill or responsibility?  IMO, teachers are regarded as clerical staff and treated as low-level, disposable employees (which is why there has to be a union), and that is a huge part of the problem with American education.I don’t understand why there aren’t any private schools offering year-round school and longer days.  Major cities all have plenty of achievement-oriented families who would appreciate (and could afford) the option. 

  5. @transvestite_rabbit – The private schools do offer longer days.  My son goes 9-3:45, which is 45 minutes (or more) than the usual 6-hour day.  And both private schools we are affiliated with offer on-site aftercare until 5:00 or 5:30 at a very affordable rate ($5/hour).  My son’s school also offer before-care, starting at 8:00am, for those working parents who can’t deal with a 9am start time. 

  6. @DrTiff – Yeah, many schools (including the public schools) offer wrap-around care, which is better than nothing but not like a a few more hours of school.  And yeah, camp, which costs an arm and a leg, must be scheduled week-by-week, has different starting and ending times, etc etc.  It’s a logistical nightmare and you still have to be a sahm to manage it.

  7. @transvestite_rabbit – personally, I don’t think teachers are the problem with American education.  But I also don’t think they are the solution.  To answer your question, yes, I think most teachers, esp. at the elementary level and maybe throughout public middle school and high school, are sincere about what they do, but NOT necessarily more educated or skilled than comparably paid workers.  Hey, that may be unpopular – but, seriously, a BA and some classroom management classes?  Not impressed.  Do they need to also be nurturing and gentle and fair and able to multitask?  Definitely!  Do they have an extra level of responsibilty in taking care of the physical & emotional needs of kids all day?  Sure, but so do daycare workers (who get paid least of all – oh, and ALSO work year-round!), nurses, people who work with the sick and disabled, etc.  It takes all kinds.  Teachers aren’t sure which way they want it, either.  They want to be the most important factor in a child’s education – and be accorded the status and pay that goes with that – but as soon as things aren’t working out, they don’t want to take responsibilty (well, we can only do so much with poor kids!  we can’t compete with the home environment!  we can’t fight the budget and school district!).  I tend to agree with the latter position – teachers can’t be held entirely responsibilty, but they can’t take all the credit, either. Obviously I’m not a good liberal. 

  8. @DrTiff – Interesting that all the jobs you mentioned are primarily done by women.  Many jobs done primarily by men–engineers, for example–also require only a bachelor’s degree but pay $$$.  Just sayin’.  Most teachers around here have master’s degrees, while clerical positions only require a high school diploma.  If teaching were structured more like a “real” job (full day/full year/decent pay), the profession would attract better quality workers.  And women wouldn’t feel like they had to go into teaching if they wanted to raise kids, because it’s the only job that corresponds with the kids’ hours.  And parents could work secure in the knowledge that their kids were busy getting educated. And kids would learn more.  Win/win/win/win.

  9. Well, looks like you two ladies have addressed pretty much the entirety of problems with our current education system, along with a little gender bias discourse along the way.  Good work.    I’ll throw in a little anecdote for you about our first full day of summer vacation.  I had to threaten my elder child with generic “loss of privileges” if she didn’t go over to her very good friend at the pool and say hello and perhaps even play with her in the water.  (I know — I am a nasty, nasty mother.)  So much downtrodden angst in a 9 y.o. on her first day of summer?!? Uh, hello – year round school?  Sign us up, please.

  10. “If teaching were structured more like a “real” job (full day/full year/decent pay), the profession would attract better quality workers.”  – Agree, agree, agree. I think that’s where we were headed with this conversation :0    Perhaps all teachers should be required to have at least a master’s degree, continuing subject-specific education, work full days year-round (yay!), and not have tenure, just like a real job.  And they could start at $50k-$60k.  

  11. @turningreen – We do more by 9am than most people do all day.  Oh wait, that’s the Army, right?  Which also, by the way, pays poorly and is woefully non family-friendly. The only reason my kids are not moping & whining & arguing right now is because I’m letting them ‘self-regulate’ their video game time… which means, they haven’t gotten off the thing in 3 days now.   Mother of the Year, I tell ya. 

  12. I missed a conversation!  Blast it all!  I have lots and lots to say about teachers and education too, as always.  Ah well.  I’ll just be content to say…you KNOW I love summer.  ðŸ˜€

  13.   I think there’s multiple reasons for lack of year round schools in the US. One is probably the teacher salary issue, but I think it’s also the fact that education is held in such low esteem here. Plus, year-round school would take a major restructuring of the system & Americans are resistant to that idea for anything-banks, health care, election process, you name it. Even if it’s broke, Americans don’t want to deal with trying to fix it, no matter what it is. 

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