It’s hard to believe that we have been in the Ed.D. program for a year. Time flies! What is even more incredible is that this month-long break is the first time in a full year that we have had a true break. While there were certainly periods of time that we were not required to be in class, we never had a “real” break—that is, time free from assignments, projects, and due dates. While I appreciate that intersession assignments were given to reduce the number of required assignments during the regular semester, I truly believe that there is more value in providing students with a block of time to recuperate, rest, and reflect. And this month has done just that for me.
This month-long hiatus has given me time to think about how much high school students need a break as well. While all students look forward to summer vacation, think about the way some of our highest achieving students spend their summers. These students must complete required assignments to give them a leg-up on AP, IB, and honors courses. I heard one teacher remark the other day that summer work is the best way to “weed out” students from higher-level courses; as students are dropped from the roll for not completing summer work.
I saw the negative consequences of summer work on my own two children. My children never spent their summers indoors, playing video games and watching television. Both had summer jobs, attended Residential Governor’s School programs, and did volunteer work. Yet they did all of this in addition to their summer assignments. During high school, my children began each school year with less enthusiasm for learning. In fact, my son’s grade in AP Chemistry never rebounded due to his failure to complete his summer assignments.
As educational leaders, we must have cognitive empathy for our students. We need to understand the importance of students having down time to recuperate, rest, reflect, and have fun. Then, this empathy should be applied to the way we prepare students for advanced courses. The solution for hard work is not more work.