Sunday, October 7, 2007

beauty of year-round schooling

It is Sunday and I am currently sitting at a coffee shop not doing school work. If I want to I can ignore the fact that school exists for 2 more weeks. I could dance with happiness for my two-week intersession break.

Ignoring school is always difficult for me to do, but the two week break does give me time to reflect, relax, catch up on professional reading, mentally problem solve school issues, and of course, dive into my stack of trashy literature.

The kids, however, are not given 2 weeks off to sit around and do nothing as I have elected to do. For a mere $25, ($5 if they qualify for free or reduced lunch), they can attend our intersession classes. Each kid takes 2 classes just for fun. The classes explore topics we don't get to fit into our academic schedules. In the past I've taught a jump-rope class, a writers' workshop class, and a class for 5th graders on how to tutor first graders (mini-psychology actually). As a teacher, intersession gives me a chance to try out adventurous teaching methods I wouldn't necessarily risk during the school year.

Intersession always reminds me of my college's spring term. Every spring we had a 6 week term when we only had to take 2 classes. Sometimes this was an easy way to knock out a terrible pre-rec (I spent one spring term taking baby bio), but it was also a time for our professors to teach what their speciality. Spring term classes tended to be quirkier, taught with more passion, and much more interesting than our fall or winter classes. I love that my elementary school gives the same opportunity to staff and students.

When we return to our regular school schedule the kids come back with all sorts of new knowledge. They have new friends and know more teachers. (Feeling more connected in a school is one of the ways to encourage children from poverty to be engaged in school according to Ruby Payne) Later, in the midst of a standard science lesson, children will suddenly make a connection with what they learned at intersession. Intersession gives our kids life experiences middle class kids might get through summer camps, family vacations, or after-school activities.

Better yet, they have less time to forget what they learn in their regular class. They have more time to practice their English language skills. They are not left alone for 12 summer weeks to watch tv because it is not safe for them to run around outside alone.

I am a firm believer in year-round schooling and fear the day I may have to return to a regular calendar. However, under my new position as a special education teacher I've become aware of the problems the calendar creates for my special ed kiddos.

On Friday, our last day of parent conferences, I walked by our school child-care to find one of my kids being picked up early for his behavior. I was shocked to hear this because we'd made so much progress this year. Sitting down and talking to him (Or, trying to talk to him anyway) he expressed that he hated intersession and didn't want to go. The change in schedule was unnerving to him and he regressed to his coping mechanisms.

I wanted to cry. Although I had made social stories for some of my kindergartners who I knew would have trouble with the transition, I hadn't even thought this little one would struggle. It's easy to forget, I am learning, that kids can make progress in one situation, but we have to teach them to transfer those skills to all situations.

So, Tuesday approaches and the friends on my caseload will be making the transition. It will be a learning experience for all of us. I've warned the intersession coordinator that I wouldn't be answering my phone Tuesday morning to aide in any crisis that occurs. We'll see if I can actually follow through and sleep in instead of driving to school.

In the meantime, I'll relax and enjoy the next two weeks. Praise the Lord for year-round schooling.

1 comment:

Tree said...

If Power of Words is going to be on your intersession book list, email me.