“But to go to school on a summer morn, Oh, it drives all joy away! Under a cruel eye outworn, The little ones spend the day in sighing and dismay” William Blake
There are words that students loath more than ‘pop-quiz’ or ‘substitute teacher’. They are found in the often maligned phrase ‘summer school’! Some claim that the combination of these two words is an oxymoron much like ‘only choice’ and ‘clearly confused’! Ask high school students about the possibility of summer classes and they will respond perhaps less articulately than William Blake but undoubtedly with the same sentiment. By this time in the school year, many teachers will hang the threat of summer school over their students’ heads like the sword of Damocles! With Dante-like visions of hot classrooms, sticky chairs, and frazzled teachers the students quickly comply by completing their assignments and studying for exams.
Notwithstanding the obvious downside to summer classes, there are a number of benefits that are perhaps not so evident,. Summer classes are not only for students who have failed courses. Many young people will take classes to accelerate their academics or to raise their marks. This is also an excellent time for students to improve their second language skills – English or French. Some students will use the summer months to take bridge courses that will permit them to switch from the regular stream in math and science into the accelerated classes.
Teens who take courses in July and August often claim that the atmosphere is more relaxed and that they are more focused because they are taking fewer courses than they do in a regular term. This is true for the teachers as well. Most will only teach one or two classes allowing them to give more individual attention to their students. Classes are generally given in the mornings allowing for some non-academic activity in the afternoons. The final exams are generally held during the first week of August. This provides students and teachers with a couple of weeks off before the start of the next school year.
If you must attend summer school due to failing grades, or if you choose to go to summer classes to advance your learning, remember the following ABC’s:
Attitude wins the day. If you attend classes with a negative attitude towards the teacher, the school, or the subject, you will probably end up with the same results with which you started. You will quickly discover that a positive attitude not only facilitates your own learning but that it also improves the classroom environment for everyone else.
Be alert. Showing up is only part of the job. Pay attention in class. The course material will prove to be more interesting if you understand it! When you find your attention waning, ask a question. It will help you, and probably others, stay focused.
Complete the course. Much like a running race, there is absolutely no glory achieved if you drop out before the finish line. Nothing builds character like perseverance. Commit to the goal and complete the task. This will not only get you through your course but the experience will serve you well later on in life.
Ultimately school is about learning. Sometimes the learning is focused on a subject like physics or art. Other times you will be learning about people – yourself and those around you. If you find yourself in a structured learning environment this summer, learn as much as you can. In the end you will be smarter and better equipped to solve the next problem life sends your way!