When summer starts, students look forward to pursuing their own academic and athletic interests, going on vacation with family and friends, and relaxing. But as June goes by, students begin worrying about summer work.
Students have mixed opinions on summer work: while most wish it did not exist, some see the benefits to having schoolwork over the long break.
“I think summer reading is necessary, but the work given can often feel unnecessary or extraneous,” Fifth Former Finn Kelly said.
Sixth Former Brady Stalkamp shares mixed feelings about summer work.
“[Summer work] can be helpful yet daunting,” Stalkamp said. “It helps me get into the mindset for school, but can also become very stressful and annoying, when summer is a time meant for recovery.”
Kelly feels that reading books as school assignments could suck the enjoyment out of reading. “We know it’s for school, and we have to do it or else we’ll be penalized,” Kelly said.
Stalkamp noted a lack of consistency in assignments between teachers.
“For me it’s really annoying especially because I would stress over it, and it feels unfair that there is no gauge on how seriously some summer books need to be read over others,” Stalkamp said. “Some books I remember reading and then not being mentioned in class, however other books I would need to write a huge essay about, and then I would regret not annotating.”
Stalkamp suggested that exorbitant amounts of summer work should only be assigned in the most difficult classes.
“For example, Biology Honors has you start the class well before school itself starts, which can be nice for you to get into the headspace of school,” Stalkamp said.
For teachers, summer work introduces students to their classroom atmosphere. English teacher Mr. Anthony Pariano uses summer reading to help students acclimate to the norms of the year.
“[The summer reading books] give students a good view into the questions, themes, and challenges of the literature they’ll be encountering throughout the year,” Mr. Pariano said.
“The main function of the summer reading texts is to help begin building a classroom community that allows for individual students to grow as readers, writers, and thinkers.”Mr. Anthony Pariano
Summer work also allows teachers to begin constructing a class ethos.
“The main function of the summer reading texts is to help begin building a classroom community that allows for individual students to grow as readers, writers, and thinkers,” Mr. Pariano said.
One common student criticism of summer work is the fairness of testing self-taught material. For many students, receiving a significant grade immediately on the first day of class feels unjust.
Stalkamp felt that reading a textbook on his own gave the sensation of being “trapped in COVID” again, doing meaningless online school with no human interaction.
Kelly felt that there should be a refresher prior to a graded assignment.
“Teachers should spend at least a class discussing summer work before testing on it,” Kelly said.
But Mr. Pariano believes that testing students on their summer reading is beneficial.
“I do also use them as a means of assessing my students (i.e. getting to know who they are as readers, writers, and thinkers) and giving them a good idea of what assessment looks like in my class,” Mr. Pariano said.
“A brief grace period usually allows for students who might need a little time to reacclimate to school to dust off their books, revisit them (if they did their reading early in the summer), or — ahem — complete them.”Mr. Anthony Pariano
Mr. Pariano acknowledges that some students may need time to refresh their knowledge.
“I certainly do expect students to be ready to be a part of the conversation that will ensue and continue throughout the school year, but I also understand that many students need a moment to survey the scene before diving right in,” Mr. Pariano said. “A brief grace period usually allows for students who might need a little time to reacclimate to school to dust off their books, revisit them (if they did their reading early in the summer), or — ahem — complete them.”
Mr. Pariano also recognized that large amounts of summer work could be intimidating.
“In the English Department, we take this into consideration and try hard not to pile it on, hence our selection of a single substantive text for most courses,” Mr. Pariano said.
Still, Kelly still felt that summer work stacked on top of other academic work was oppressive, especially for rising Fifth and Sixth Formers.
“I think that it could be dangerous to have a huge amount of summer work for juniors and seniors because it could jeopardize other necessary parts of our academic lives like our standardized tests and college applications,” Kelly said.
Kelly, like many juniors, has spent his summer studying for the SAT/ACT.
“The work has stacked up on me for the last weeks of summer,” Kelly said. “It can be hard to see why we just absolutely need to read this or that before class starts.”