Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Back to school? "Not I," said LeAnne Bristow


Earlier this week, I was in full panic mode. My turn to blog was coming up and I had no idea what I was going to blog about. Then, Amy Vastine and Carol Ross had a lovely post about going back to school. When I commented that I taught at a year round school, Carol was interested in what I thought about it and suggested I blog about it sometime. I wonder if she knew I was blogging the next day and needed a blog topic?

I looked it up and was amazed that only about 10% of schools in the country offer a year round schedule. When I first started teaching at a year round school, I hated it. I missed my summers. But after eleven years of teaching at a year-round school, it’s finally starting to grow on me.
Traditional school schedules usually run from around the beginning of September to the end of May, with a small break for Christmas and the traditional Spring Break. This calendar was established over a hundred years ago when many students needed to be home during the summer months to help on the family farm. 
Family farms have sadly gone away, mostly, but the traditional school calendar has become ingrained in our being. Year-round school operate the same number of days, they just break it up differently. For example, I started back the last week of July. While you are shopping for back to school supplies, I am assessing students for report cards. 

The best part is, I am only a few weeks away from fall break. Two glorious weeks of freedom. In Arizona, this is particularly wonderful because, let’s face it, it’s just too darned hot to do much in June or July. But October? It’s cooling off, but not too cold. No crowds anywhere (everyone else is at school) and at the end of the break, I return to school refreshed and ready to work. We already have a trip to the White Mountains planned, where we are determined to help our very girly granddaughter learn to fish.


And before I (or the students) get burned out, it’s time for another 2 week vacation for the winter break. And spring break gives us one last hoorah before the weather starts to get too hot again. Of course, we get a longer break during the summer. We get eight weeks off between sessions. And come on, be honest, how many parents are dreaming of sending their kids back to school loooonnnnnggggg before summer vacation is over? 

Advocates say that retention is higher when students don’t have long breaks between grade levels. Each of our 2 week breaks offer an intercession for students who are struggling. They also claim it’s a more efficient use of school property without buildings sitting dormant for such long periods of time. Additionally, students adjust better with shorter breaks.

While I personally like my year-round schedule, there were some issues. When my children were in school, we couldn’t go on a trip or do anything fun during fall break. Football season was in full swing and while our school was on break, none of the surrounding districts were and football waits for no one. So my son still had practice every day and we still had games on Friday nights. During spring break, my daughter’s track schedule and my son’s baseball schedule prevented us from going out of town. 

Another concern is that I teach kindergarten. Just when I get them used to school rules and schedules, the little darlings get to go home to their mommies for two whole weeks. Coming back after fall break is sometimes as hard for them as the first day of school. (Thankfully, by the time winter break rolls around, we no longer have any issues.)

But my BIGGEST problem with the year round schedule is this. Almost every year, the National RWA conference begins on the same day that my students return to school. UG! Principals tend to frown on teachers who ask for the first couple of days of school off. And could you imagine taking your precious five year old to school (many of them are four because our cut off is September first) and the teacher not being there?

So when RWA announced that they were moving up the 2018 conference by over a week, I jumped for joy. Yeah! I can go! I can go! So if any of you have any pull with the RWA board, go ahead and let them know that I need that to be a permanent thing. I’m sure once they figure out who I am, they’ll be happy to oblige. Right? No? **sigh**

LeAnne Bristow writes sweet contemporary stories set in small towns because that's all she knows. With only 13 people in her graduation class, she still thinks that places with more than 3 stop lights qualify as cities. The places she writes about may be small, but the stories are full of emotion. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook to hear her musing on small town USA. And if you get a chance, give her a holler. She loves to hear from readers and writers. You can also contact her through her website or drop her an email.

28 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing your likes and dislikes about year around school, LeAnne. Personally, I'd rather have those intermittent breaks sprinkled in throughout the year...there's always something to look forward to. I'm happy the new RWA scheduled worked in your favor!

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    1. Hi Jill! It took a while to get used to it, but I do like it now. If only I can convince RWA to keep the new schedule!

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  2. I was very interested in your post, LeAnne, because I was a teacher in Ontario where education officials considered (and perhaps still do) year round schooling but there were some glitches to the idea - our winters are long and cold and many families can't afford tropical holidays: old schools with no AC and so on. Personally I would have hated giving up 8 weeks at the cottage! But I can see how it worked for you and your family. And yay to the RWA next year - hoping to meet you there! Have a good school year!

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    1. Hi Janice! I know of some schools that go to a year round schedule in order to accommodate huge numbers of students. While one group of students is at school, the other group is off and they rotate. This way districts can service a larger number of students. One problem that we had to deal with is that the electric bills skyrocketed at the schools due to the AC use during July. And the district did have to get rid of some older school buses that didn't have AC. Students can't spend time on an un-airconditioned bus in July!

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  3. Interesting post. My son teaches 7th and 8th grade math in Chicago, and I guess they've made some scheduling changes, too, that shorten the summer break and add a little time to the others. I plan to go to National next year, so I'm glad I'll have a chance to meet you. Glad you enjoy your school year. Great photos!

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    1. Many schools go to what they call a modified year-round schedule, so it's close to year round, but not quite. Districts that start back in August as opposed to September and release the last week of May or first of June are technically a modified schedule. It's all just what you get used to. :) Can't wait to see you all at nationals!

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  4. This is an awesome post, LeAnne. I taught a year round school one year and was constantly confused. So glad you get to go to the conference next summer.

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    1. Your comment made me laugh! I lived in a state of confusion for the first two years! Are you going to nationals? Have you found a dog yet?

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  5. LeAnne, this was very interesting to me as more of our schools in Indiana are tossing this idea around. I like the kids having those breaks through out the year. I particularly liked your comment about October in Arizona. I lived in Scottsdale for many years and boy, when we got to late October, we headed for Sedona. I miss that yearly trip to The Garlands. It was magical.
    And I LOVE that photo of all of us at RWA. Just saying. I hope to see you in Denver next year!

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    1. October is one of my favorite months in Arizona. The weather is just about as perfect as it can get. I have never been to Sedona. I know, it's terrible! Hopefully I can remedy that soon! I can't wait for Denver!

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  6. LeAnne, I'm planning to attend my first RWA this year, so see you there! Being from Canada, I understand Janice's reservations, but I do like the idea of regular breaks. Younger students can get recharged, and older ones can use it to bear down on looming assignments and/or difficult subjects. Good luck on getting girly grandgirl to land the big one!

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    1. Thanks M.K! My granddaughter screams at the sight of bugs and getting her to touch a fish??? Forget about it! My husband is determined to make her a tomboy. She'd much rather paint her nails and try on shoes.

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  7. As a working mom, I would hate having two week breaks every now and then. It's a constant look for daycare. Even now, with school in the traditional model, there's a day coming up when my 12 year old has a day off school. I hate hate hate leaving him home alone all day.
    Also, I've often taught college prep programs in the summer. The year round students never got to attend. Nor, did some of them get to attend band camp and other cool things offered in summer.
    LOL, I luv ya, and loved your post, but I would pull Mike out and put him in a different school if his school went year round.
    But, then, I'm a teacher and off summers and I love the summers I get to spend with him.

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    1. Pamela, I didn't like it when my kids were still in school, either. Now that they are out, I like it much better. When our district first went to year round, parents brought up the same issues. But people adjusted, the day care centers adjusted hours and the city even offers day trips and camps during those 2 week intercessions, so over all it's worked out well. Because we live in a smaller area, there's no worry about kids missing any camps because they are only offered when the kids are out. If I lived in a larger area, it would definitely be a bigger problem.

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  8. Thanks for telling us about year-round school. They've thrown around the idea in Anchorage, but many teachers have summer jobs in fishing or construction, and the rest just want their summers off.

    I'm planning to go to RWA next summer, too, so I'll get to meet many of you in person. Yay! See you in Denver.

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    1. Year round is definitely not for everyone and districts need to consider how it will effect the community. Ours had to go through a lot of changes before things went smoothly. Can't wait to see y'all in Denver!

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  9. I like the idea of a year round school schedule. I have a nervous kid, and I think a shorter summer would make the transitions easier. But you're right--that two week fall break wouldn't help matters! LOL!

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    1. It is a little harder for the kinders after the first fall break. They remember how great it is to be home with mom, so they are hesitant to come back. But winter and spring break are a piece of cake.

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  10. LeAnne, So glad to help you come up with a post idea! And thank you! I find this subject so fascinating and it seems like such a great idea. I'm surprised the number of participating schools is only 10%. All the positives seem so positive to me. But change is so difficult, especially on a massive societal scale, right? I really feel like communities and society would adjust. It just makes so much more sense to me in this day and age.

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    1. You're right. From the research I looked at, the biggest obstacle to overcome was the idea that we NEED that summer break. :)

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  11. As a parent of two first graders, I fully support the year round school. They lose so much during the summer break, and I feel they just get burned out during the year. Longer breaks during the year would help so much with that. I'd love to hear how your school system pull this off.

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    1. That was the biggest point the district made to the community when proposing a year round schedule. It seems kids lose a lot of information during the summer. I remember the summer between my 2nd and 3rd grade year, I couldn't, for the life of me, remember how to spell girl. I was so scared they were going to send me back to 2nd grade!

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  12. My daughter goes to a year round school or a variation of that. She's ADHD, so they offer a month in the summer when they have school. Usually it's from after the 4th of July to August 11th or thereabouts. Right in the midst of RWA.

    This year I took her out for a partial week since the conference was in Orlando. I support the year round school. It makes it so much easier for working parents, who have to find a place for kids during the summer. And believe me it's not easy to find camps for special needs children.

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    1. Hi Shirley! So nice to know I'm not the only one at a year round school! Once districts adjust to the schedule, they usually offer a lot of interventions and activities for the kids during those long breaks. I'm glad your daughter is able to take advantage of the summer programs.

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  13. Here in my town, our city schools have adopted a modified year-round schedule. School starts Aug 1, then there's a three week beak in October, two weeks at Christmas, and three weeks during March. School lets out for the summer the middle of June. My problem with it is we are the only school in the state doing this, so we seem to be out of sync with everyone else. :-) I think we are a pilot program and if it works, the rest of the state will follow.

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  14. Our neighboring school district has a 3 week fall break, but they start a week before us (mid-July). We are the only 2 schools in the area that I know of that do it and you are right. It makes planning things hard. I'll be interested in knowing if everyone else follows.

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  15. LeAnne, I don't know how I missed seeing your post yesterday. Maybe I checked in too early. Vail, I think has a year-round program as I met a teacher from there. I think it's a good idea because keeping the breaks shorter should help students retain what they're learning. Am I right about that, or not? Makes sense to me anyway.

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  16. This is so interesting. My daughter, who teaches special ed, worries that their school will go full-year because it's so hard for the kids to bounce back after vacations--a lot like your kindergarteners!

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