By: Pat Austin
SHREVEPORT – Year-round school. A lot of districts do it, but I am not a fan.
Louisiana’s (new) Superintendent of Education is proposing year-round school in our state. I know that there are a couple of schools in our local district that are already doing this, elementary schools mostly, but as a teacher, I must tell you, I don’t think I’d like this.
Here’s the thing. I need that summer to recharge. While most people are under the impression that teachers get “three months off” or “all summer off,” of course that is not the case. I am about to retire after twenty-five years in the classroom, and I can assure you that I’ve never ever had three months off, and I’ve never had a summer where I wasn’t required to do some sort of professional development.
Every five years or so we have some sort of curriculum change that requires professional development…training…inservice; new technology, new gradebook software, new this, new that…all of it requires PD. Time taken out of your “summer.”
As rewarding as it is, teaching is exhausting work. And really, this isn’t the post where I want to defend the position that teachers are underpaid for what they do, and that yes, we knew what we got paid when we went into the profession. That is for another day.
But year-round school? Nope. Glad I won’t be there for that.
Kids need the break too, you see. Yes, indeed, some of them need school all the time; their life at home might be terrible and maybe they aren’t getting meals and maybe they don’t get enough supervision and sometimes the electricity and water aren’t even turned on.
Schools have become the place to catch all of these issues that are neglected at home. We feed our students breakfast and lunch, teach them sex education, breast cancer awareness and self-examination; we do vision and hearing checks, we help seniors sign up for Financial Aid. We provide jackets and clothing for kids in need and sometimes we pay an electric bill. Schools are now social support service providers and while I love kids and will help any child in need every single time, we have to wonder if this is the job of the school.
Are we losing sight of education?
Most opponents of year-round school suggest that kids need time to be with their families, to go on vacation, Disneyland! Most of the kids I teach can’t even dream of going to Disneyland and have never been on a family vacation; some are homeless and live in hotels. Most of my high school aged students work and they work hard, long hours.
When we shut down for Covid, our kids were working. They didn’t log onto Google classroom every day to do math problems and watch YouTube documentaries; they took advantage of the time to work, make money, pay bills.
Not all of them, obviously, but a lot of them. I know this for a fact.
And so as I consider the proposal of year round school, I am conflicted. I think about these kids; they need some down time, too. They are working, they are trying to survive, they are trying to finish school. Where’s the downtime? Teachers need to recharge, too, and a lot of teachers depend on summer jobs to supplement their salaries.
Schools can provide everything else. Can’t we provide a few weeks with no school?
Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.