Summer session brings rewards and challenges

Phil Schurrer and Phil Schurrer

Summertime ‘hellip; and the livin’ is easy ‘hellip; – Ira Gershwin. For those who frequent the halls of BGSU only during the winter and spring semesters, the level of activity around here in the summer may come as a kind of culture shock. Sidewalks are being replaced, preparations are being made for the summer sessions, and the State Fire School is conducting its annual training sessions. Some of us are here because there is research to be done or a paper to be completed. Some are here either preparing for the summer academic programs or beginning preparations for the fall semester. However, some are here because, for whatever reason, they want (or need) to enroll in a class or classes. For those experiencing summer sessions for the first time, there is a common misconception that the academic pace will parallel the overall campus ambiance present at this time of year – a somewhat laid back, carefree lifestyle, complete with nice weather, shorts and flip-flops. Having taught summer sessions in the past, I can assure those who are enrolled for the first time that the pace can be breathtaking. While technically there are the same number of classroom hours as in a fall or spring semester class, the speed and the intensity can be daunting for instructor and student alike. The initial but unstated assumption to be overcome is the idea that concepts can be absorbed in a concentrated summer session as rapidly as in the fall or spring. Not true. Because there are fewer ‘time outs’ between classes, there are fewer chances to do homework or reading and thus to absorb and engage oneself in the learning process. This is critical. One of the most common misconceptions about formal education – at any time of the year – is the notion that the time in the classroom constitutes most, if not all, of the educational process. One of the principal reasons for the existence of homework and outside reading is to give the student the opportunity to explore the subject and concepts in greater detail than he or she would be able to do by merely being exposed to them in the classroom. In short, the student is expected to immerse him or herself in the subject matter being covered. This immersion is difficult to achieve when classes occur every day, and the timeline compresses. There seems to be simply no time to ‘breathe,’ to reflect, or to think. On the other hand (and there’s almost always an ‘other hand’), situations like summer sessions give us an opportunity to stretch, to leave our comfort zone, and to experience the world of compressed deadlines, non-stop mental exertions and the feeling of trying to jam ten pounds of potatoes into an eight-pound sack. In some ways, this simulates the ‘real world’ which the student will be entering. The plight of the instructor is similar. The material normally covered in a normal semester must be compressed into a shorter space of time. The question always arises: what to include (or exclude)?’ This quandary is present whenever a lesson plan is being prepared regardless of the time of year, but it becomes more intense and immediate during a summer course. The faculty has an obligation to maintain high standards. This goal must be met for each class and course, regardless of the time of year in which it is offered. It becomes even more challenging during the summer.’ And all this at the time of year when, as Ira Gershwin wrote, ‘the livin is easy.’ Right. ‘ ‘ ‘