Students, teachers, school leaders, and parents should make certain that a place called Learning’s End is never visited. In whatever time zone, where children go to school, there are short breaks in traditional in-school learning, and most likely there is a larger break for summer. Breaks are often for designated school holidays, and for some reason, intervals set at the end of a number of weeks of continued learning. Originally the time off was most likely to let students off at a time when they could be more helpful with family chores related to harvesting some sort of crops—or to help the family in another way. Today these breaks have become more a holiday from learning. While everyone needs time off, school breaks should never be seen as learning’s end.
Most schools encourage some sort of assignments during breaks. The Summer Reading List is one that has been used forever. It presents, in some way, a list of prescribed books students should read before arriving back in school for the next school grade, or session. Some students take this list to heart, and consider it an obligation, and preparation for the new school year, and for the new teacher. Others may read one, or fewer books, and offer last minute summaries of books they haven’t read upon entering for the new school year. If there are assignments for other areas, such as math, science, or social studies, chances are they may not be completed to their fullest learning efforts either. Time off is time off. Shouldn’t that mean learning’s end?
One thing that is constant, after breaks, is that precious learning time will be taken to review. Review is an interesting and accepted, learning concept. It certainly takes up a great deal of learning time during a school year, and it most certainly is an expected part of closing courses at end of school year, and then for starting up new courses at the beginning of the next. Review can take a lot of learning time. In many districts there is an effort to somehow place this reviewing time in the break time, as tasks that can be done by individual students rather than as a group at school. The mindset that breaks from school should not be breaks from learning needs to be part of education change. It is difficult to explain that to students, and many times difficult to explain to parents as well, who may have preconceived notions about breaks like summer.
Learning Never Ends
This certainly isn’t something that can change without thought, a lot of talk, and possibly a bit of debate, but the idea that learning never ends should be a forgone conclusion—and understood. For a start, it might be better to have students consider and set a goal for themselves before a break. This can be similar to students setting an individualized learning plan. There are examples of ideas like this already—as senior work experiences before graduation, volunteering somewhere for credits at many grade levels, and individual student community projects, or service. Everyone needs a recharge, so time off is necessary, but what if some of the time off was used for making a difference in some way.
Real World Way
It is quite possible that journaling those efforts, and using some school skills in an appropriate and real world way might make for some interesting conversation, as well as a jumping off point more valuable than the traditional weeks of back-to-school getting to know you activities, and review of a previous year’s concepts. Breaks could still provide time for relaxing, but also a time for putting to use, in a real world way, things that teachers have taught and students have learned. These continued learning experiences, along with traditional reading and next grade preparation lists, should at least be an option to consider, too, and given some learning credit as well.
About the Author
Ken Royal is a former educator with 34 years of classroom/school and instructional technology teaching experience. He has written at many of the major education publications, including District Administration, TechLearning, and Scholastic Administrator. Presently, Ken is a blogger on all things education and education technology. Teaching accomplishments include: 4-time district teacher of the year, Connecticut Middle School Teacher of the Year, as well as Bill and Melinda Gates award for Technology School of Excellence. He is a Promethean storyteller. Follow @KenRoyal on Twitter.