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My first exposure to Summer School teaching was the acting performance of Mark Harmon (as Mr. Shoop) in the 1987 Carl Reiner comedy, Summer School. It might not have been an Oscar-caliber performance, but it has stuck with me for the better part of my life.
I wasn’t even a teenager the first time I watched it, but I remember laughing at the first scene of the film as Mr. Shoop darts from car to car in a lame attempt to hide from the Assistant Principal who is on the prowl to find Summer School teachers. Eventually, he is bribed and cajoled to teach remedial English where he encounters a potpourri of lively students who each have their own interesting and entertaining reasons for academic incompetence. Despite his own claim that he is not a “real teacher,” by the end of the summer Mr. Shoop takes a class of misfits and gets each of them to experience significant academic growth.
The movie can be characterized as a phantasmagoria of outlandish scenes, each one trying to outdo the previous one with its level of absurdity. But still, there is something strangely appealing and instructive about the film for those of us who actually enjoy teaching Summer School. In fact, there are a number of features about Summer School (the teaching term, not the film) that are superior to the normal school year:
Reason #5: A Relaxed Dress Code. Need I say more?
Reason #4: Education is a privilege, not a right. I have found in my decade of teaching Summer School that when students know their education is a privilege and not a right, they are far less likely to take it for granted. In my school district, students get three absences for the entire six-week course. And it doesn’t matter why they miss—sickness, fatigue, a family vacation. No matter. On day four the students are dropped. When students know and accept this high expectation from the beginning they are far less likely to be tardy and far more motivated to make it to class, even if they feel the urge to take a day off. The consequences for tardiness and absenteeism are applied evenly and systematically to all students. It might seem rigid but I have found that students respond when they know there are serious consequences. Click here for the next reason.