June 14, 2018
The last day of school for Gateway students was Thursday, June 14 and the last two days were half days for students. Ending the school year in the middle of June despite having 8 snow days is due to both starting school before Labor Day and using an alternative learning structure (Blizzard Bags) to have five snow days count as school attendance days. With the Class of 2018 having graduated on June 1, the fact that we don’t have a month of school left provides some relief from staff having to maintain student focus on education for weeks while their conscious thoughts continue to wander to summer vacation and activities that do not include getting up early in the morning to go to school. As I talk to teachers both in Gateway and in other schools, the idea of Blizzard Bags as implemented here appears to be working and gaining more acceptance.
Just because the students and most staff had their last day this week doesn’t mean work is over for everyone. The baton for student learning is now passed to parents for the summer and, in order to prevent any regression in student skills, it is important for parents to actively engage their children over the summer break. This does not mean work sheets, homework, or online learning (and the difficulty of imposing this type of work during the summer). There are many other ways to engage students over the summer from simple games that involve mathematics, observations, problem solving and spatial reasoning to keeping a written journal, corresponding with friends and family, and reading almost anything on a regular basis. The idea is to practice basic skills (reading, writing, mathematics) in a way that is engaging, relates to whatever summer activities are happening, and hopefully involves the whole family. It used to be a given that children spent their vacations outside and participating in some activity that kept them moving from dawn to dusk but with the ever-growing reliance on electronic devices to occupy time, I’m not sure that we’re all getting the amount of physical activity that we did in the past. This, too, is something that parents can focus on in terms of ensuring that children have some sort of physical activity on a regular basis.
While the daily interaction with students is over for most staff this doesn’t mean that they simply relax over the summer. Many staff use this time productively to continue their education, enhance their skills and participate in other activities that will make them better at working with students upon their return to school. The reality is that with requirements for maintaining certification increasing regularly, and the changes in our understanding of best practices in education, teachers, specialists and paraprofessionals are constantly working to maintain their professional status.
Of course summer break is a key component in maintaining and upgrading the physical plant. During any significant time of students being out of school, our maintenance and custodial staff clean, do preventative maintenance and any needed repairs. During the summer this grows to include major upgrades and repairs including floors, technology, HVAC, safety and numerous other items including the complete, deep cleaning of all spaces. It’s evident during any visit to our schools that the individuals responsible for the upkeep of our physical plant do an outstanding job and have a great deal of pride in the work that they do.
Unfortunately, compliance with state and federal mandates and requirements means that administrative and support staff are also kept very busy over the summer break (thus sometimes interfering in the work on improving the physical plant) but must still find time to review the prior year’s activities in order to plan improvements and set goals for the upcoming year. In short, no one actually gets to have the entire summer ‘off’ and in that respect those people working in education are really not much different from everyone else working to support their families, except that we have the privilege of helping educate children to be successful in their lives.