All gone

Rm 103 photo by author

Rm 103 photo by author

Desks emptied, stacked and put aside. Check. Dormant superfluous paper recycled with extreme prejudice. Check. Walls filled with student work, learning goals, art, and inspirational messages now returned to vanilla coloured vacant voids in waiting. Check. Boxes packed and piled in preparation for transport to my new pending portable location (second in 4 years). Cool.

As you’ve observed from the picture on the left, Room 103 is on vacation along with my students. Until the middle of this week it has been a 10 month hive of activity home to 31 + 1 learners all buzzing at their own frequency. Our class was a hub of inquiry, personal growth, and constant learning. And now it’s all gone.

With 9 weeks of summer ahead, I wonder how much of what has been taught over this past year will come back with students when they return in September? Have you ever thought about why we the school year is paused in the modern learning era? Have you ever wondered what it might be like to embrace a balanced teaching year?

I am not advocating additional teaching days beyond the 190+/-, but am asking if we could consider alternatives to a schedule that seems more suited as a throwback to our hunter gatherer ancestors. This got me asking how the schedule we work around really came to be used? Other than the fact that our elementary schools are not equipped with any climate control in the classrooms I am not sure what else it might be from balancing the instructional year? A post from Learning Lab Why Does School Start in September? Hint: It’s not the crops provides some context to this issue.

Now before the hate mail about how important the summer break is for teachers and students, let’s consider the positives. Balanced school schedules allow for greater retention of instructional concepts. That means less knowledge hemorrhage from year to year. Imagine students having the same amount of instruction time, but spread out more evenly, but they retain more of what they’ve learned? Secondly, with a balanced year, there will be weeks off at different times for families to enjoy time together around already existing holidays. Think of the travel savings? Imagine if March Break was 2 weeks? We could all drive to Florida and back relaxed and ready for Spring.

Okay, I’ve shared the sunny side of this, but here’s the shady side. Balanced school years impede students’ ability to make money from summer jobs which may be crucial to helping them attend school, or helping their families. Balanced school years may not provide enough recovery/down time for students or educators to relax and recharge. This might lead to mental health issues such as stress and anxiety. Not good.

Weighing both sides of the conversation is healthy. There are schools already operating on a more balanced schedule with positive results. So where do stand with the classroom empty and the students/staff all gone. Where would you want education to go with this one? Holler when you get a chance. After some down time.
Happy summer. Thanks for reading, responding, and sharing. See you in September. Will

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The Author

Will Gourley

Grade 5 lead learner and SERT at Adrienne Clarkson PS in the YRDSB. Focused on disruptive, divergent, and modern learning. Member of the global TED-Ed(Club) movement, 1 of 90 TED Ed Innovative Educators, and Global Math Project Ambassador. Twitter @willgourley Proudly blogging here and at https://escheweducationalist.wordpress.com/

4 Comments

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  1. Batya Levy says:

    I would be for ‘year round schooling’ if they were able to provide climate control for the classrooms (a.k.a. air conditioning). With the heat the way it is in my school in the summer, it just isn’t conducive to learning.

  2. Ms M says:

    Colleagues in BC work a scant 5 minutes extra every day. The extra minutes enable a 2nd week at March break. Think about the savings with respect to carbon emissions, lower operating costs such as having to keep electricity, heat down & less janitorial or office staff expenses for an extra week. Families & teaching staff would love it, however, me thinks the Ontario CUPE unions etc. would go ballistic should such a cost measure ever be implemented!!

    1. Will Gourley says:

      Thank you Ms M for reading my post and for your comment. I love the idea of an extra 5 minutes to each day allows for an extra week of March Break. I could see it being used as family time, prep time, learning time, maintaining the school without dodging students time. It troubles me sometimes that there is such rigidity between labour and management where ideas like this don’t make it to the discussion table. Even if it was 10 minutes extra, I feel the rise in productivity, cost savings, and reduced carbon footprint would well out weigh the negatives. Thank you again. I appreciate your voice and ideas. Will

  3. Will Gourley says:

    Thank you for reading my post and for your comment Batya. I appreciate how there are vast differences in climate control from board to board and school to school. I know a number of educators and students were faced with uncomfortable learning environments. We experienced this issue at my own school(3 years new) when the temps were bordering on Summer highs in September. My class hosted other classes in our portable(AC) so they could cool down while the main school building was more of a tropical sauna. It is difficult to learn and teach, let alone function when you are uncomfortable.

    Your comment also makes me wonder how Summer schools run in July with little mention or consideration of the heat and lack of air conditioned learning spaces. Are we getting the most out of building designs? Can architects, engineers, and board decision makers go the extra mile to maximize roof spaces to better manage climate control? Are extra fans the only option? Thank you again for responding. you’ve given me more to think about. Will

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