I was a visitor in a building yesterday and on a huge screen in the cafeteria there was a countdown to summer. I’m not a fan.
The students were chatting and I decided to ask them about it.
“So you guys, I see there’s a countdown to summer break up there. How do you feel about the countdown to summer?”
The first student confirmed my assumption.
It gives me anxiety. I have so much to get done before the break.
A second student chimed in as she looked back and forth to the students next to her,
“I’m dreading summer. I’m going to miss you guys so much!”
So why the countdowns? I suppose it encourages students that freedom is coming, as if school is a sentence to be endured. It might be that a teacher wants a visual reminder that his/her freedom from the students is coming; however, neither message seems very positive. Here’s why I wish countdowns would go away for the sake of students:
- For some students, breaks from school mean physically moving to another house. Students may have challenging summer scenarios such as moving to another parent/guardian’s home for summer custody arrangements.
- For some students, summer means food insecurity. We may joke about cafeteria food but it’s available and nutritious. Summer breakfast or lunch programs can fill a gap but they may not be close to students’ homes or convenient for consistent attendance.
- For some students, summer means lack of supervision. Students may not be supervised while parents work and they may even find themselves in charge of younger siblings.
Although teachers may find countdowns motivating, the countdown mentality may actually do more harm than good:
- Teachers may be giving the signal that they can’t wait to be away from their students. Instead of beginning the day with enthusiasm, teachers may be sending the message that school is a “sentence” in which to be endured.
- Teachers may be reinforcing a message that the time left is insignificant and that there isn’t much time for more learning to take place.
- Teachers might be sending the message that the time to come is more important than what is happening today.
No matter how educators feel about countdowns, summer break is coming. Perhaps being mindful of how our students perceive the impending break from school can help us help them to navigate what awaits them. We owe it to ourselves and our students to take advantage of every opportunity to build skills for all aspects of their lives, including the summer months ahead.