Year Round vs. Traditional School Calendar: One Teacher’s Perspective

year round vs traditional calendar schooling

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to teach at a year round school? I always wanted to and finally got the opportunity to after being in a traditional calendar school for 5 years. I share my opinions on the two school calendars and which I prefer.

Let me begin by saying this blog post is 100% my opinion. Obviously, every school environment is unique, as is every teacher’s experience. I am writing this post to share my own experience and opinion of the pros and cons of each type of calendar. I do not have children of my own, so I have no opinion on how one or the other affects children at home.

As I write this, I am 6 weeks into my 7th year of teaching and just came back from a 3-week break. I started school with students on July 10th. Teachers started on July 3rd for a week of professional development. The previous school year ended on June 30th. Working at a year round school has its pros and cons, as does working at a traditional school. One of the hardest parts of year round is the turnaround from one school year to another, and this year was the first year I had to make that quick turnaround.

woman holding calendar
Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Not familiar with a year round (or balanced) calendar? Basically, a year round calendar allows for a school to accommodate more students within a school year. At my school, we have 4 tracks per grade level. Each track has 1-3 teachers, depending on how many students there are enrolled in each grade for each track. (I am the only track 2 teacher in 5th grade at my school this year. Last year there were two-track 2 teachers in 5th.) At any given time, there is always one track that is “out.” Each track has 9 weeks in, 3 weeks off, on a repeating schedule.

A year round school calendar has always appealed to me. Being a childless introvert, I often found summer breaks to be somewhat boring after a few weeks. Throughout the traditional calendar school year, I found the time between January 2nd and the end of May to be extremely long and difficult to get through with very few breaks. Where I was working in Utah, I didn’t have an option to work year round, so I stuck with traditional. Once I decided to move to North Carolina, the search for a year round school was on!

writing supplies on table
Photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash

I moved from Utah to North Carolina at the end of May 2016. I began my new job at a year round school in 5th grade at the beginning of July. At that point, I had some time off in between, so the new school year transition wasn’t difficult. It was exciting to know I had 6 weeks “tracked-in” before I would have 3 weeks “tracked-out” for a break. And then throughout the rest of the year, it would be 9 weeks in, 3 weeks off, repeatedly. The first 3-week break was a strange feeling. All of my teacher friends in Utah were just starting school as I was taking 3 weeks off. I didn’t have much to do, being new to Raleigh. I quickly became bored after 3 weeks but found it better than having 3 months off at once.

Throughout the 2016-2017 school year, I got used to the year round schedule and absolutely fell in love with it. My burnout rate had decreased dramatically, as did my students’. The summer slide didn’t exist. It felt great to “have an end in sight” every 9 weeks. It helped when I started to feel twitchy from telling students for the thousandth time to look at the whiteboard for instructions. Overall, this schedule was much better for my overall personal health.

As a child, I attended a rural school in Pennsylvania, a district consisting of just one elementary (grades K-6) and one junior/senior high school (grades 7-12). I had no idea that year round school existed until I began my education towards earning my teaching license. I found a year round calendar to be something that sounded perfect. After graduating from the University of Utah, I taught grade 2 for one year at a public school. Then I spent four years at a public charter school teaching grades 4 and 6. At both schools, I saw the effects of summer slide, student and teacher burnout, and feeling like 3 months of my life was wasted not knowing what to do with myself.

stack of books
Photo by Kimberly Farmer on Unsplash

Which do I prefer? I really enjoy the year round schedule, personally. Here are my pros and cons for the year round calendar.

  • Pro – Going on vacation for a reasonable price is easier to do on this calendar. With my breaks (on track 2) I’m off in August, November, February, and May. I have a good variety of seasons to spend time doing things I enjoy and being able to travel when the rest of the world isn’t (A.K.A. summer break).
  • Con – Summer recesses in the south are HOT! Sometimes it’s too hot and a heat advisory keeps us from going outside.
  • Pro – My appointments for things (doctor, car maintenance, haircut, etc.) can be more regularly scheduled with ease since I know I’ll be off every 9 weeks. I use less PTO for these things during the school year.
  • Con – The turn around from one school year to another is hard for certain tracks. Track 2 and 3 have a hard turn around at my school. We don’t have a break between the two school years. Also, Meet the Teacher is 2 weeks before the school year ends, so that was something odd for me.
  • Pro – The administrators and office staff at my school are the most amazing, dedicated people I know. They still take breaks throughout the year so they don’t burn out. Administrators are at school far more days than the rest of us and they give it their all the entire year!
  • Con – I don’t have my own classroom. This one was really hard for me. I chose to give up ownership of a lot of things in order to simplify the track in/out process for myself. I no longer have my own class library, supplies, decorated classroom, etc. In each room that I go into, I am able to do what I want. I do have to take everything down/out when I track out because someone else is moving into the room. Also, because of this fast turn around on my “track out day”, someone is trying to move into the room while I’m trying to move out. We’ve made it work well at my school, but it is a difficult transition at times.
  • Pro – It’s easier to share materials with grade-level teammates. We typically tend not to be in the same exact spot in our curriculum at the same time due to our staggered schedules.
  • Con – Less time to prep between school years. One thing I loved doing over summer break was curriculum mapping. I’d spend weeks perfecting my map. Now I spend a lot less time on those things because I don’t have the time to.
  • Pro – We take the EOG (state end of grade test) the second to last week of school (second to last week of June)! In Utah, we took the state test a month and a half before school ended. Being able to teach the curriculum in a reasonable amount of time in a school year feels much better!

If you had the chance to try out the opposite calendar (of what you currently teach), would you do it? Do you have experience with both? Share your experiences and opinions in the comments below!