513. Summer School

I went to summer school twice, as a student: I went to take biology, so that I could take chemistry in my sophomore year and be done with science – spend my junior and senior years taking courses I liked more. And I took driver education so that I could get cheaper insurance when I got my driver’s license. Later, as a teacher, I taught remedial reading, writing, and math in summer school a few times, and then decided to stop. I felt as if I was torturing children and myself. Then a few years later, I started producing musical plays as summer school courses, and I loved just about every moment of it.
I didn’t love taking biology or driver education during the summer, and the children who took my courses in remedial reading, writing, and math didn’t love that, either. But I think almost all of the children who participated in my summer musical theatre did love it. For the most part, they participated because they wanted to. Either because they didn’t get to be in musical plays during the school year, or because they did and wanted more. Some wanted more important roles than they were able to get during the school year, and I gave them the roles they wanted.
I’m quite sure that some of the subject matter presented during the school year made its way into my summer theatre courses; children read scripts, wrote whatever changes they wanted to make, and they practiced learning from each
other and cooperating with each other. But that summer school “course” did not feel like school. In fact, though it took place in a school building, children often referred to it as “camp.” I liked that.
Back when I was more of a student and less of a teacher, I liked to spend my summers having fun away from school. Some of my friends went to school more than I did, and some sought summer employment more than I did. To me, summertime was supposed to be a time when the livin’ was easy. I didn’t consider going to school or going to work easy. I knew life wasn’t all fun and games, but I wished at least summers could be.
I know my attitude towards summer has to do with my own experience. Summer was when I went to camp. School was mostly closed. My parents took vacations (not summer-long ones, actually, but I never thought about why they worked during dog days). We went on long trips during summers. We went to the beach. To me, school was all right – often fun – from September to June. But during July and August? No way!
If we decide that some children ought to go to school during the summer, we ought to pay attention to their thoughts about summer. We ought to make sure children don’t feel as if they’re being punished for finding the school year difficult.

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