Wednesday, December 20, 2006

It's Holiday Time at Last...But What WIll It Look Like Next Year?

As of 10:27 this morning, my teaching responsibilities for the semester have come to a close. This whole short week (my students officially get out tomorrow) has been pretty much pointless; their regular classes have been either taking six-weeks exams (at the schools that are on trimesters and not taking finals this week) or doing absolutely nothing; at least the bands have been playing, so I never had to interrupt someone's card game or nap to get them to take a lesson.

But by and large, everyone's brain has been somewhere else this week (including mine), and I think the reason is that it's Just Too Late to Still Be In School. It's five days before Christmas, for crying out loud! Nobody's mind is in the game this week. I was actually able to get a good chunk of my shopping done between the end of school and now, but I feel for the kids in school (sya, the ones who have after-school jobs) who won't be able to start theirs until tomorrow.

I thought about this whole thing in terms of the new calendar that the State of Texas is requiring schools to start classes during the last week of August beginning next school year. The big debate, of course, is whether to set it up so that the fall semester ends before classes dismiss in December or to pick things up in January and have maybe a week to study before giving exams the second week back. Each side has an up- and a downside: Most of the school holidays (fall break, long Thanksgiving) in the fall semester would have to be elminated in order to get done in December, but, on the other hand, extending the fall semester into January causes many more problems than it solves.

I suppose some may disagree with the previous statement, since it appears that at least a few districts have announced calendars for next year that place fall semester finals in January, but let's look at it this way: How much of a "break" would winter break actually be if the students had exams looming two weeks afterwards? (it was much the same for me in college every Thanksgiving break, when I always had to practice for juries--that's end-of-semester playing exams for you non-music majors--which were either the week we got back from that break or the week after that.) And from where I sit, as a private music instructor, it's doubly worse, because the January exams (at least the one time our district did this) ended up being about three weeks before solo and ensemble contest. That meant that, as we were making the big push towards a performance, the students were having to put extra time into their academic classes and ending up with much less time to practice; it also meant that nearly an entire week was interrupted, schedule-wise, by the exam-only days, early dismissals, and so on.

And as I've said before, I don't feel that it's the state's business to tell individual districts when to hold the school year; that's a local concern that should remain under local control. And I'm especially not happy that the state's decision seems to have been pushed heavily by the entertainment industry (amusement parks, etc.), which was griping about losing business when some districts started school in August. That's no way to run a government.

So, students, enjoy this break, because it might be very different a year from now.

The cat's out of the bag: A judge has dismissed the case of the 14-year-old boy accused of harassing a neighbor by meowing at her.

He should get a lump of coal in his stocking for doing this: A sheriff's deputy in Orlando has been catching speeders by dressing as an elf and clocking them with a radar gun.

Here's a hump-day special: A Christmas party at a riding school in Ireland had to be postponed after a camel that was participating in the party ate 200 miince pies and drank several cans of Guinness that were supposed to have been served to guests.

Blowing out the candles: Happy Birthday Dad! As I've noted before, I always felt bad for him having a birthday so close to Christmas (preferring my June one, which spreads the gifts out evenly over the year). When I was a kid, we'd simply take a present out from under the tree, tell him "Happy Birthday" and then take him out to dinner on his own credit card (Mom was a stay-at-home mom, and my McDonald's salary would hardly have bought him even the ugliest of ties).

2 comments:

Gary P. said...

And as I've said before, I don't feel that it's the state's business to tell individual districts when to hold the school year; that's a local concern that should remain under local control. And I'm especially not happy that the state's decision seems to have been pushed heavily by the entertainment industry (amusement parks, etc.), which was griping about losing business when some districts started school in August.

I'm a local control kind of guy on a lot of things too, but I'm glad the state stepped in and did something as more and more districts are pushing their start dates closer to August 1.

The entertainment industry may have been pushing the later start dates, but I've always thought it was the football coaches pushing the earlier start dates so they can start full practices earlier and earlier. As a result, summer vacations are cut unnecessarily short and districts have to pay to cool the schools at the very peak of the 100 degree August temperatures.

Of course, I'm not particularly enthused that the 07-08 year won't end in Frisco until early June either. Back in my day, the school year didn't begin until the Tuesday after Labor Day and ended on the Friday before Memorial Day. Of course, we didn't get a week off for "Staff Development," a week off for Thanksgiving, and a week off for Easte -- er, I mean -- "Spring Holiday" either.

Kev said...

Actually, I can sort of see the coaches' point on this one; if the first football game will now fall at the end of the first week of school (it's not like the season can start later, or the playoffs would go into January), the teams won't be as ready to play as they have been, and more injuries would result.

What will probably happen, then, is that they'll still have two or three weeks of two-a-days before school starts, which, coupled with the later release date, will actually give the players a shorter summer than they had under the current calendar. (I've already heard that some of the band directors I work with--barring a UIL-mandated later start date--will still be doing three weeks [or more] of summer band, because it's not like UIL marching contest will come any later either, and again, that first football game will now be at the end of the first week of school.)

And yes, I agree that a Labor Day-Memorial Day school year might be nice, but I think they've added some length to the school year since we were kids, and I know that they've upped the number of "staff development" days since then (I went to but one of those, as a student teacher, and it was as dreadful as you would imagine it would be. It doesn't help that the "general" sessions have very little relevance to music teachers.)