Summer is fast approaching, and although it spells vacation for most students, for others, this may simply spell summer school. Most kids will vehemently say that it’s something that they’re not looking forward to, without even batting an eyelash. But as a parent, you may be wondering whether or not you should agree with them. Here’s the real score on what happens when the hallways are left almost empty, save for a small group of students who stay behind.
For starters, students enroll in summer classes for one of two reasons: to get a head start on lessons that are more challenging than those on their current level (more commonly known as advanced classes), and those who need academic help (remedial classes). Students can opt to take summer classes in school, where a program is prepared by their teachers; at home with a private tutor; or at centers where they are attended to by tutors.
BOON: PERSONALIZED LEARNING EXPERIENCE
Most kids cringe at the thought of “summer school.” Unfortunately, it has maintained a negative stigma through the years, such that people often bypass its benefits. After all, one cannot deny that students get more attention during summer school. Classes are smaller, so teachers (or tutors) will be able to effectively address the needs of each student more. There are instances where a summer class only has one student, which actually works to the learner’s advantage since the entire program can be tailor-fit by the teacher to meet the student’s needs.
BOON: MORE COMFORTABLE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT
Students also tend to be more open to asking questions and expressing themselves when alone or in a small class, especially if they can be shy or embarrassed in a different setting. In addition to this, since the classes are smaller, teachers are more willing to take the lessons out of the classrooms and into more comfortable surroundings, such as under the shade of a large tree on school grounds or at a reading nook in the library. Still other teachers will consent to one-on-one tutorials in the student's home.
“I once entered into a one-month summer program to help a student catch up in his Social Studies class,” Grace, a former high school teacher, shares. “He had a reputation as a negligent student, but I was surprised that he was very engaged in the lectures during the entire course of the summer program. He admitted that having no distractions, such as classmates to talk to, helped him stay focused in summer class,” she adds.
BOON: BETTER ASSESSMENT AND FEEDBACK
Summer school is a good chance for the teacher to better gauge the potential and skills of each learner, which then may lead to better assessments and feedback. The teacher can also use this opportunity to further encourage the student in terms of self-confidence and better class participation during the next school year.
The greater amount of one-on-one time can also lead to observations that can help define a child's educational needs. Maria, a mother of four, tells of how her son's summer school teacher's observations led to a diagnosis of mild dyslexia. "We couldn't understand how such a smart boy could get such low grades in school," she says. "And his teacher noticed that he read very slowly, which led to him not completing assignments or misunderstanding them. It turned out that he has a mild case of dyslexia, and he needed a tutor who would help him with that. If not for that summer school teacher, we might never had known he had it."
BANE: RESISTANCE TO STUDYING OVER THE SUMMER
But there’s also a downside to summer school. There’s the initial distance of the students from the class, as they might feel resentful because they’re not enjoying a “real” vacation like their classmates are. Kids need their proper share of rest too, and something seems to be off about going to school when almost everyone else isn’t. Stephen, a junior high school student, puts it this way: “It'd be like having school on weekends. There's a proper place, and in this case, time, for everything, and school shouldn't take up the whole week/year.”
For students taking remedial classes, this sort of attitude may be damaging to the self-esteem since it underscores the fact that they were not able to keep up with their classmates during the regular school year. It then becomes both the parents' and the teachers' responsibility to assure him or her that everyone learns at a different pace, and there is nothing to be ashamed of when one has to take summer class to make up for low grades during the first or second semester.
BANE: INFORMATION OVERLOAD
Given the prevalence of this attitude, the teachers have to put in extra effort to motivate their students. This is quite tricky since there is a big problem of time constraint—the lessons from the entire school year are crammed into several weeks. Not only does it spell “information overload,” but the teachers also have to do away with fun activities to compensate for the lack of time. As a consequence, already disinterested students may be subjected to hours’ worth of lectures and expected to take everything in to be able to pass the assessments given afterward.
Summer school also brings the risk of being counterproductive if it results in overscheduling or overworking. Your child shouldn't be working more over the summer than he or she does through the course of the school year; alternating a lighter load for summer with the heavier semestral load will help prevent burnout. Summer school also curtails the time you and your children get to spend together as a family and forces you to schedule extended trips for the short weeks between summer school and the regular semesters.
Is all of this worth it? It can be. If it’s a question of remedial classes, summer school may be a requirement. But you may want to have a talk with your children before signing them up for advanced classes—be frank about the pros and cons that will come with summer classes and see what they have to say. You may want to offer them added incentives like a fun treat or trip sometime before the regular school year starts that they otherwise wouldn't get.
Summer school can be an opportunity for your child to build self-confidence and discover untapped potential in terms of academics. But remember, not all children thrive in a purely academic setting, and giving your children one-ups on their regular classes may not make up for having a disgruntled or stressed brood throughout the summer.
As an alternative to summer classes, you may also want to consider different ways of keeping your kids productive and entertained throughout the summer, such as by giving them summer jobs or signing them up for workshops—book learning isn’t necessarily the most important aspect of your child’s education, only the most dominant one. You may want to use the summer break to make sure your child is well-rounded instead.
(Photo source: sxc.hu)