When I was growing up, we ate fruit most nights at supper. Mom canned a lot of peaches and pears, and that was often our dessert. However, when it came to fresh fruit, I wanted little to do with it.
This went on until I met Michelle. She likes fresh produce and slowly convinced me that eating some grapes or apples or bananas was a good, healthy choice. It was tough to come around to this way of thinking; my whole life I had avoided fresh fruit. Now I eat it, maybe not as often as I should, but still on a pretty regular basis.
Change can be difficult. When we get used to something over many years, the very thought of adjusting from our comfort level can be frightening.
The school year in Minnesota has been basically the same for as long as most of us can remember. We start after Labor Day and finish around Memorial Day. As a kid, the welcoming months of summer were awesome. We ran around outside, played ball, and generally soaked up as much sun and fresh air as we could. Many of us worked summer jobs, whether it was walking beans, baling hay, or some sort of regular job in high school.
As a teacher, I also enjoy a break. Education is a stressful job, and the mental break alone is needed. However, three months seems like too long. Even my kids start to get antsy once the calendar turns to August.
Thus, I’ve been following closely the current debate in Albert Lea regarding their proposed balanced school calendar. For those not familiar with it, our neighbors to the south would start school after the Freeborn County Fair. There would be two-week breaks after each quarter, and summer break would run for two months.
There are two main reasons this calendar is being proposed. One is to curtail the summer knowledge loss that affects all students. The other is to give opportunities to catch up some remedial students for part of the two-week breaks. It’s all in the name of giving students a better chance to succeed.
There are some schools around the nation, including in Austin, which run a 45/15 schedule. They have school for nine weeks, then are off for three. This has been shown to have some success with test scores and general achievement.
But wait! How dare they think about cutting summer break short! We’ve always had three months off! THAT’S THE WAY IT’S ALWAYS BEEN!
Ugh. It’s time to get off that old horse. While I’m not sure I’m ready to jump aboard Albert Lea’s proposal, it may be time to look at changing the way things are done. Kids no longer spend their summers doing the things we did. Too many, my own included, spend more time in front of screens than using sunscreen. Summer’s not the only time people go on vacation, so why not schedule in longer breaks for those who wish to leave town at other times? But in order to do that, you’ve got to give a little in summer.
The biggest problem we have at NRHEG is the Steele County Fair. It would be tough to run school when that’s going on. The State Fair is another matter, but one that can be worked around.
A big problem to look at is what to do with extracurriculars. You’ve got to worry about transportation and practices during these breaks. The biggest impact would be the first couple weeks in October, when the first quarter break occurs, smack dab in the middle of fall sports.
I think we should start small here at home. I’d like to see us start school the Tuesday-Thursday before Labor Day. It takes a few days to sort things out and get the kids figuring out where they’re going. Let’s take those three days we gain there and create a true break around Easter, right about the time we need a break before the stretch run.
Otherwise, it will be interesting to see if Albert Lea goes ahead with this plan and how it will work. Let them work out the kinks before we jump into that end of the pool. Still, it won’t hurt to dip our toes. After all, we might find that a taste of something new is what we’ve been looking for all along, even if it is fresh instead of canned.
Word of the Week: This week’s word is mossback, which means an old-fashioned person, as in, “The mossback cried foul over changing the school calendar since it would mean back-to-school sales would start in June.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!