Opinion
Teaching Profession Opinion

Leave Summer Vacation Alone

September 08, 2016 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

By Joseph Fatheree

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan recently signed an executive order that requires schools in the state to start after Labor Day. His reasoning is simple: students need more time with their families and the extended vacation will boost the economy. The idea appears to be a no-brainer. Who would be against supporting families and growing the economy? However, Hogan’s ideas have been criticized by some teachers and education advocates who are concerned that summer has a negative effect on children.

I wish we would all take a deep breath and agree to leave summer vacation alone. I am not sure what we are trying to gain by ensuring that so much of a child’s life from age five until adulthood is spent inside the walls of a school. Children need quality time to bond with their families and make lasting memories. Summer vacation gives children time to explore, learn and create. They should not have to sacrifice their childhoods to be successful. We do not want to return to a time in our history when children were forced to work long hours in dangerous conditions in sweat shops, nor do we want our compulsory education system to chip away at their opportunity to be children.

I understand the reasoning behind arguments to shorten summer vacation or get rid of it altogether. The school calendar is antiquated, based on an agrarian system that no longer applies. During summer, students--especially those most at risk--often lose academic ground. However, forcing our children to go to school for more days is not the answer. There other solutions available to supplement a child’s education while still providing them time to explore the world outside of the school year. Summer offers parents a large block of uninterrupted time to schedule family book reads or explore geocaching. The “Maker Movement” provides parents with a number of unique strategies to encourage learning and challenge creative thinking at practically no cost.

Increasing the number of days in school does not adequately address the larger educational challenges we face. Adding time to the school calendar will not alone remedy systemic inequity present in American public education. Nor will extending the school year change the fact that a large percentage of the children in the United States live in poverty. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one in five do. Solving this problem has more to do with creating well-paying jobs and social programs that address issues of poverty. Instead of adding time to the school calendar, we should be investing in programs and opportunities to help families grow together as a unit and cultivate communities that take care of one another. The prevalence of childhood poverty should also challenge us to vote for policymakers who have the courage to tackle these issues head on with the help the people living in those communities.

The trouble is that making a real difference, doing the real work of closing gaps and reducing poverty, is hard work. We need commitment, sacrifice, empathy and a willingness to care for others that this country has long neglected. Instead of shortening summer, we need to muster the intestinal fortitude to address the glaring problems that this nation faces.

Summer vacation is a magical time in the life of a child. Let’s think long and hard before we ask our children to pay this price so that they can grow up a little quicker and enter the workforce ahead of the competition.

Joe Fatheree is an award winning author, educator, and filmmaker. He has received numerous educational awards, including being recognized as a Top 10 Finalist for the 2016 Global Teacher Prize, Illinois Teacher of the Year, and the NEA’s National Award for Teaching Excellence. He currently serves as the Director of Strategic Projects for the National Network of State Teachers of the Year in Washington, D.C. and is the instructor of creativity and innovation at Effingham High School in Illinois.

The opinions expressed in Teacher-Leader Voices are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

Special Education Webinar Reading, Dyslexia, and Equity: Best Practices for Addressing a Threefold Challenge
Learn about proven strategies for instruction and intervention that support students with dyslexia.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Personalized Learning Webinar
No Time to Waste: Individualized Instruction Will Drive Change
Targeted support and intervention can boost student achievement. Join us to explore tutoring’s role in accelerating the turnaround. 
Content provided by Varsity Tutors for Schools
Student Well-Being K-12 Essentials Forum Social-Emotional Learning: Making It Meaningful
Join us for this event with educators and experts on the damage the pandemic did to academic and social and emotional well-being.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession It's a Nasty Cold and Flu Season, But Some Educators Are Reluctant to Take Sick Days
Many cite the pile of work—and lost learning—that accumulates when they take time off.
6 min read
Sick woman holding tissues and drinking from a mug while working
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Teaching Profession In Their Own Words 'I Just Want to Get Better': A Teacher With Long COVID Retires Earlier Than She'd Hoped
A former Massachusetts teacher shares how long COVID damaged her cognitive abilities and accelerated her retirement.
5 min read
Betsy Peterson, a former K-5 technology teacher who was forced to retire early due to symptoms of long Covid, pictured in her home in Maynard, Mass., on November 21, 2022.
Betsy Peterson, a former K-5 technology teacher in Massachusetts, has been struggling with bureaucratic hurdles and debilitating symptom since contracting COVID at the start of the year.
Angela Rowlings for Education Week
Teaching Profession Opinion Linda Darling-Hammond Wins International Prize for Education Research
The recipient of the 2022 Yidan Prize talks about the divide between research and policy, teacher professional development, and equity.
7 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Teaching Profession Q&A How This Teacher Builds Relationships, Has Fun, and Makes Money on TikTok
Joe Harmon is one of the growing number of teachers who is making funny videos about classroom life—and monetizing them.
7 min read
Joe Harmon, a social studies teacher in Pennsylvania, makes satirical TikTok videos poking fun at what happens in his classroom.
Joe Harmon, a social studies teacher in Pennsylvania, makes satirical TikTok videos poking fun at what happens in his classroom.
Via @dr.harmon on TikTok