Friday, July 16, 2010

Summer School

Sad, sad story in the news. A class from Harlem takes a trip to a beach. A kid drowns, teacher fired, principal only reprimanded.

My husband wants to know what "they" were thinking.
Newspaper makes it sound like there were no permission slips,that there wasn't enough supervision. That is was an incredibly awful idea from the start.
And I guess it was- since the kid drowned and more than one life was ruined. But it wasn't something I couldn't imagine doing myself. In fact I used to do it myself.

I used to take students from the concrete rubbled, garbage strewn, Dresden-after-the-war streets of the South Bronx, on a hot sticky subway car to Orchard Beach. Where I let them wander in the surf. And when the hour got late, I cleaned their feet and got back on the train.

We called it summer school.

And then we were told that wasn't teaching it wasn't helping kid's test scores. Now summer school is serious business. In some schools it's hour after hour of a prepackaged program (a teaching fellow applying for a job at our school told us that was what she was doing for her summer internship - which would prepare her to work as a fully licensed teacher in the fall- not in our school, her resume did not get the "smiley face" stamp of approval- when she couldn't tell me the name of this "miracle" program)

In our school, it's just hour after hour doing paper work assignments with students who don't want to be there. Sixteen hours of a class in summer school makes up for your failure though out a 180 day school year. At least you get course credit so you can graduate on time and Klein/Bloomberg can brag about the graduation rate success

I'm lucky. Nobody drowned on the trips to Orchard Beach. And if I'm lucky I will make it through this summer school without poking my eyes with a pre-packaged pencil or slitting my wrist with a pre-packaged sheet of copy paper.
But I wonder, do those kids who waded in the surf at Orchard Beach all those decades ago have some memories of a summer with sunshine on their backs and sand in their toes?(Many had never been to a beach before)

Or will a summer of serious teaching, make the reality of our current students really so much better?

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