The Utopian Future of Summer School

October 11, 2022 – 12:27 pm

I like to go on a morning run (jog, sometimes trot) the last morning of the school week, which is typically Friday mornings, to reflect on my week of teaching. Did I do a “good” job? Was I kind to my students and colleagues? Did I make time for my family? Did I drink enough water? I usually replay instances where I was in such a rush that I didn’t say “good morning” to a colleague or when I forgot to return to a student who had a question. I always make a promise to drink more water and to leave school before rush hour.

After over a decade of teaching, this is my first year teaching summer school. For the past five years, I spent my summers working on a doctorate. Feeling a little lost having finished my degree, I committed myself to four weeks of junior high summer school.

This week I ran on a Thursday morning because it is summer school, and we only meet Monday through Thursday. Are you imagining some utopian realm of teaching where we have this schedule all year? Are you imagining what you’d do with your Friday mornings? Does this sound “nice” to you? It is rather nice. I am writing a blog on this lovely Friday morning, but wait, there’s more to this utopian universe.

On my run, reflecting on my first ever week of summer school, I was thinking about how our summer school is sort of like living a work of fiction, a scene from a utopian novel (before dystopian elements of the “real” school year infiltrate the plot).

Picture this:

  • Teenagers are invited to school; they decide to be students of their own volition.
  • Students meet in the cafe around 9 am with their teachers for breakfast and a chat.
  • Once the chat simmers down, students and teachers make their way to a classroom with iPads, working wi-fi, notebooks, pencils, folders, novels, sticky notes, a projector, and air conditioning.
  • Everyone reads and writes for an hour and a half and then reconvenes in the cafe for a snack before going out the track for a stroll and conversation.
  • After about 20 minutes, everyone returns to class for some problem-solving, which involves some real-world math conversations.
  • The day ends with time for students to discuss personality, social graces, communication, interpersonal skills, and, the best part, building relationships.
  • There are no grades.
  • There is no sanctioned system for behavior: such as checks, majors, minors, office-referrals, or detention.
  • There are between fifteen to eighteen students in a classroom, which means you can take your time with feedback.
  • The “teacher” work day gets closer to eight hours: arrive at 7 or 8am to set up lessons and technology; teach 9-12 pm; assess, plan, collaborate and eat until 2 pm.
  • And school is only Monday through Thursday.

Yep, this is utopia, the sort of direction I’d like to see school go. I am enjoying the chats during breakfast time, and I especially love the part about no grades, which means less anxiety for teachers and students. Not one student has asked me how many points a journal is worth or what grade they got on their blog post. In the morning, they just say, “What are we learning today?”

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  • avatar HELP! How many words are in a Middle-School Novel? | Yahoo Answers
    • 80k would be a good length for a novel for adults. Middle grade novels are supposed to be around 40k-60k.
      The three novels I've published are around 120k each, but (1) they're fantasy and science fiction, where you can get away with being more wordy because of all the world-building you have to do, and (2) I self-published them, so there was nobody to tell me they were too long.