When I was a teacher, the last day of school meant something. As much as I like working with kids, I looked forward to a time away from them. I knew I would usually still be working over summer on something school-related, but it would be a change. Since becoming an administrator, the beginning and end of school have not had the same significance. For some time now there is a push for year-round schools, and I’m still of divided opinion. Our current academic schedule was based on an archaic agricultural year, which has less and less relevance for our urban/suburban students. With climate control in all schools, weather really makes no difference.
Research shows that retention of learning improves with a year-round schedule. I just remember all the reteaching I had to do for the first few weeks of school. I’m afraid that if we went on a four-quarter system, with mini-breaks in between sessions, teachers would have an only slightly shorter version of that reteaching time after each break. Would we actually gain any teaching time? Then again, there are the traditions of summer jobs, and a time for teachers to take in-depth courses and expand their knowledge.
Even though the school beginning and end don’t affect me personally as much, I still like the old traditions. There’s nothing like the smell of a classroom when you first open it after a summer – a smell of anticipation and preparation. Likewise, the sense of leaving and change, and possibilities that the end of school brings. For me, I would thing that a year-round schedule would impart a feeling of sameness throughout the year, and would lose that anticipation engendered by the beginning and end of school.
For the past couple of years, our school year has begin in early August and ended before Memorial Day. The school year is pushed forward so that the maximum amount of teaching can be accomplished before students take the PACT tests in the spring. We timed it almost perfectly this year, with PACT leaving only one week before school was out. In the past, I remember that we would start in late August, and get out in early June. In Upstate South Carolina when I was a student, and even as a beginning teacher, Memorial Day was never a holiday for us. Only recently has it been observed, and in some areas it is still largely ignored. Oddly enough, the entire state government shuts down for Confederate Memorial Day on May 10.