Learning In the Heat: The Summer School Strain

For many students, summer break hasn’t exactly been a break from school. Art/Photo Request: photo of classroom w/ students during summer school

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Every summer, Stuyvesant students take the opportunity to go on vacation, to spend quality time with family and friends, and to think about anything but the grueling work they face throughout the school year. However, there are some who cannot escape their studies even during summer vacation. These students attend summer schools, where they study for standardized tests or school subjects for credit in the upcoming school year. Other students work at these summer schools.

Attending school during summer vacation is no easy feat. Senior Joanna Meng attended ABCMath Academy as a student in 2018 and became a teaching assistant in the summer of 2022. Meng described the student experience: “There’s camaraderie between students at summer school. It’s joint suffering.”

Additionally, working at summer schools can be exhausting, and many students who do so find themselves burnt out. “I was so excited when summer came. Now it’s August, and I haven’t done anything,” Meng said, explaining what it’s like to be on the tutoring side of the operation. “In the spring I did half-days, but during the summer I did full shifts from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and every day I got home I would just go, ‘I can’t.’ It’s been like this for nearly seven weeks.”

Students that attend or work at summer schools also commonly experience travel envy. “When you check Instagram, you see all these kids going to Europe. I’m a bit jealous,” Meng admitted. “I’ve been sitting here for two months just doing work.”

Like Meng, junior Danny Shao taught over the summer. He was offered a job at the summer school of a reading club he previously volunteered for. He worked a busy 9-hour schedule teaching SHSAT English and fifth and sixth grade state test math.

Understandably, many kids attending summer school aren’t very enthusiastic to learn. “None of the kids wanted to be there,” Shao said. Despite this, he was able to get to know them. As someone who was not significantly older than his students, Shao felt that they were comfortable around him. “I did get to know them, and I do see them on my way to the school, and they’ll crowd around me begging for homework help sometimes. I [recognized] them at the park the other day too,” Shao added.

When Shao’s time teaching summer school came to a close this year, it felt bittersweet. “I felt it was too long, yet towards the end, I was sad to see it go, especially on the last day where everyone went wild,” Shao reflected. “And yes, I was driven crazy by the kids, but I [kind of] miss some of them now that it ended.”

The foundation to a successful summer program is the teachers that sacrifice their summer to take on summer school responsibilities. Assistant Principal of English Eric Grossman continued his teaching efforts over the summer, acting as an instructional supervisor for Stuyvesant’s summer program. 

Grossman’s job consisted of helping new teachers familiarize themselves with Stuyvesant. “Most of the teachers in summer school are not regular student teachers. They are regular teachers from other schools that work in Stuyvesant during the summer. They’re coming in from all different backgrounds, so my job is to get them set up, make sure that they are getting the support they need but all have the proper level of expectations for students,” Grossman explained.

Though most summer school students don’t like coming into school during break, Grossman believes summer school is a blessing in disguise. “Summer school is a fairly low pressure opportunity to make up credit. It doesn’t go full summer either, so for a student who is not taking regents, they are finished very early [in] August.”

Grossman’s 15 year-experience with summer school administration helped him realize that every student has immense potential. “One common thing that is very clear to me is that every student who I interacted with at summer school has the capacity to be successful. Overwhelmingly, they were. They showed up, did well in their classes, and got credit,” Grossman said. “When I visited classes, the students were bright, eager, and willing to participate.”

Ultimately, when summer school ended, Grossman felt satisfied with the experience. “I was happy [when summer school ended]. I enjoy having summer as just summer. But it went really well this year.”

Summer school may not be the typical vacation experience. However, with a strong educational environment and supportive teachers, it’s definitely a worthwhile one. It takes recognizing both the efforts of attendees and teachers to fully appreciate the value of summer school.