Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The stigma of summer school

C told me that her 1st grade teacher will be teaching 3rd grade summer school in a few weeks.

My Wife immediately sighed and said, "I hope our girls will never have to go to summer school."

When did summer school become being all about remedial learning and playing catch up from lessons missed during the regular school year? Not so from my experiences of summer learning.

In my elementary summer school, classes were offered in subjects that were virtually unheard of in a regular curriculum. I seem to recall that perhaps some remedial classes were offered, but for the most part, we just hung out with our friends, made kites, played kickball, shot caroms, ate 50-50 ice cream bars and read a ton of Encyclopedia Brown mysteries.

For myself and just about everyone I knew, high school level summer school was never about playing "catch up" either. It was always about "getting ahead."

Say I take English Lit 1 for 20 hours this summer, which successfully frees up a period next fall so I can take two back-to-back periods of auto shop class.

Or how about taking junior level American Government from June to July, enabling me to not have a final period, meaning I get out of classes that much earlier.

Hey, I'd gladly spend a few sunny morning hours taking World History over the break, all so I can get two lunch periods next year -- enough to drive downtown to make a Tommy's run for lunch.

Okay, so maybe it wasn't always about getting ahead as much as it was playing the system to test out the waters of the freewheeling adulthood we would soon be facing.

But there were the more than occasional wunderkind who would take Algebra in summer school, so they could take Geometry in their freshman year, Trig in their sophomore year, Calculus in their Junior year, and College math or something really physics or physical science as a Senior (seriously, I knew people who did this, and they're all doctors and scientist and what not now.)

For the most part, it was always about trying to stay one step ahead of everyone else -- problem was, everyone else was staying one step ahead as well, so you ended up being status quo.

Therein lies the pressure of what my Wife calls the "Good student conundrum." If we're all struggling to do what we can to stay ahead, yet everyone is undergoing the same struggle, are we really proceeding to the head of the class and staying ahead of the curve, or have we just recurved the curve to really f*ck ourselves over.

Regardless, Wifey says that attending summer school here in Okie land labels you with a lifelong stigma...kinda like a black mark going on your "permanent record" we were all so threatened with as grade schoolers.

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