Summer School

Do you remember those first heady days of summer vacation way back when? The weeks stretched before you as an endless ribbon of FUN! Well in my case that lasted a couple of weeks. Then it got way too BORING.

Empty classroom.
The classroom of my youth.

When I was a teenager, in the dark ages, scheduled activities didn't exist. You were expected to work, entertain yourself, and not bug your parents. If you seemed bored or got into trouble an evil job, like painting the house, would materialize. In the 9th grade I discovered a much maligned activity that I liked, and would eventually carry into adulthood: summer school.

This wasn't the disparaging place you were sent because you had failing grades. I was an A and B student. My high school offered a few “required” classes in the summer for each grade. It was a way to check off a class in six weeks rather than spend a whole semester at it. The classes were usually taught by football coaches, who were good natured, but only seemed to be there for a paycheck. They would give you a good grade if you showed up. Homework was minimal. Worth a try, right?

After 9th grade I took an English class. I can't remember anything about it, except a bunch of my friends were in the class and we had a good time.

Driving School Range
Driving School Range

Between 10th and 11th grade I took Driver's Ed. It was required to get your license. My school had a driving range with traffic signs and orange cones. We had a grand time tooling around the course, but driving on the local streets scared the daylights out of me. I wasn't ready to get my license for another year, but at least I had the certificate from the class.

Americanism vs Communism Pamphlet
Americanism vs Communism Pamphlet

My last high school summer class was a course called “Americanism vs Communism”. Let's just say there was a bit of propaganda in the mix, and it was required for graduation. I couldn't imagine spending a full semester at it. A perfect fit for summer school.

College summer school was completely different from high school. Many regular courses were offered in the summer. There were few students, so it was easy to get in popular classes that filled up fast in the fall and spring semesters. No slackers, everyone wanted to be there, students and instructors. Usually, I only took a couple of classes per summer, so I could really dig deep and absorb the material. I loved it.

One memorable class was on the history of the Civil War. I wasn't much interested in the Civil War, but needed the history credits. Mrs. P., the instructor was truly inspiring. She was a patrician, southern lady. She didn't regurgitate boring facts. She brought the Civil War to life through personal accounts. Mrs. P. told us stories about her own family fleeing Sherman's army in Georgia. She taught me to love history, and a better way to teach it.

Sometimes it was the subject and not the instructor that inspired. One such class was “French Baroque Art and Architecture”. Again, I wasn't very interested in the topic, just needed the credits. The professor was rather boring, but I was awed by the beauty of the châteaux, their furnishings and art. Little did I know, years later, my husband and I would visit all these wondrous places, and develop a deep love for France. But that's another story.

The chateau Veux le Vicomte, Maincy France
Veux le Vicomte, Maincy France

Does the story end there? Of course not. If you read my September 2020 post, you know that I taught college for 28 years. Summer school was certainly in the mix. I'm not going to bore you with the details. But, after awhile it became impossible to fit my Very Eclectic summer show schedule around a semester which lasted from June to mid August.

I developed two accelerated classes that I could teach in one month, June. The rest of the summer belonged to Very Eclectic. The classes were Textiles, and Fashion Business. Students loved it! They could knock off a class in four weeks. Because the classes were concentrated they learned so much more.

Student painting shibori on pleated fabric.
Student painting shibori on pleated fabric.

With painting and dyeing, for example, they could choose a technique, like shibori, and work on it for an entire week. The business students were thrilled to spend time talking to an apparel lawyer. Such enthusiasm rarely happens in normal classes. I taught those classes for five years until they were canceled by a new administration. All good things come to an end.

As does this story about summer school. It's not a place for losers. It's a opportunity. What are your thoughts? Did you or your kids go to summer school, are you considering it? Extraordinary things can happen there.

Get out there and enjoy the summer,


June 1, 2021

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