At 12:45 this afternoon another school year will officially close. The student work has been sent home, the desks have been washed, the report cards have been printed and stuffed in envelopes. All that’s left to do today is reflect on the year, participate in the annual 5th graders v. teacher’s kickball game, and watch a movie. It should be a breeze.
In my own childhood, the last day of school was an exciting day. I don’t remember too many particulars, but there may have been popsicles involved. I loved school as a kid, but I loved summer vacation too. The long lazy days, the weeks of summer camp, and the feeling of freedom were priceless. What kid wouldn’t love summer vacation?
Sadly, there are kids who don’t. These are the kids who aren’t going to summer camp. Their families aren’t going on vacation, and the feeling of freedom is more like a feeling of abandonment. These kids rely on school for structure, consistency, and in some cases, two meals a day. They are the ones that are quiet as the others buzz about their upcoming trips to San Diego or Wisconsin or Disneyland. Their grandparents won’t be coming to visit, they won’t be going camping, and nobody is going to sign them up for the library’s summer reading program. No swimming lessons, no soccer teams, no arts and crafts. These kids will watch a lot of tv and become bored quickly.
The adults in their lives have limited resources. In many families there are shortages. There are shortages of money, of time, and of energy. There are kids in households run by adults who are ill equipped to care for them. Adults with substance abuse problems, mental illnesses, and insane work schedules. There are kids in group homes and kids living with grandparents and even great grandparents who simply don’t have the energy for them. I’m not saying these kids are unloved, most of them are, but their homes are often chaotic and unpredictable. There may be drug or alcohol abuse in the home, there may be violence. Kids see and hear more than we realize, and it affects them.
Most of my students are excited about summer vacation, and I’m glad. They have worked hard all year and they deserve some down time to just be kids with no pressure to achieve and perform. My wish for the summer is that all kids have fun and stimulating experiences with people who are genuinely concerned about their well being and are equipped to care for them. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to find my sneakers, I have a kickball game to play.