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Summer Time Blues, the Politics of Travel

As the song goes, “I’ve got the summer time blues”, or is it the summer school blues?  The semester ended and graduations are occurring all over the country.  We should be happy right?  Yes, but there are a few lucky instructors who get to do it all over again teaching summer school.  Quality instruction while cramming a semester into either 4 or 8 weeks is no picnic for students or teachers.  I remember my summer experience in Art Appreciation.  Ten plus hours of late afternoon class each week in a building with struggling air conditioning.  The instructor turned off the lights, taking us on a tour of art sprinkled heavily with visions of napping.  Each year, I remember that class.  I learned, replicated a famous painting out of pasta, and napped.  It wasn’t a bad experience, but it wasn’t a great one either. 


A few simple changes would have woken us up and changed the landscape of the course.  Sometimes, I wonder if just turning the lights on would have made a difference.  And each summer, I asked, “How can I turn the lights on?”  After all, there is always that one student who naps through the class and one who announces that they have a two week vacation schedule to Greece, Paris or Fiji right in the middle of  class.  Leaving us all to groan, knowing we will spend the summer in class.


Long time summer school instructors will tell you there are a few tricks that help.  Some of the best suggestions include:


  1. offer stretch breaks
  2. treat each hour of the class as a separate class or a restart
  3. increase class discussion
  4. use presentations or a video

.But keeping the lights off too long is dangerous.  This summer, I want students engaged, talking in class and planning our dream vacations.  Traveling sounds romantic but it can also be dangerous.  As we talk about current events, vacations and the world,  students  can navigate world travel.



Taking current events to a whole new level, students can select a country to “travel” to and research their destination. Using the State Departments, digitized travel map, students can view up to date travel advisories and warnings.


They can take advantage of the departments handouts and enroll in their Safe Travel Enrollment Program to receive alerts about their destinations.  They can review the requirements, cost and timeline for getting a passport, learning quickly that they are already applying too late.


Students  can learn what consulates and embassies can do for them.  For example, these agencies will help citizens evacuate during a crisis or natural disaster.  However, “Anyone evacuated on U.S.-government coordinated transport, including charter and military flights, must sign an Evacuee Manifest and Promissory Note (Form DS-5528) prior to departure.” (US Dept of State Website) That’s right - the government will assist you with evacuating, however you will be required to pay for it.  Students can also explore the Customs and Border Patrol website “Know Before You Go”  for customs information and even review the US Customs Declaration Form.



For fun, students can research tour websites, and in a unique twist, what European guides recommend when traveling to the US.  Learning about travel, governments and perceptions are important.  Following current events in a specific country for a month or more is enlightening.


  • So, where will you travel and how will you beat the summer time blues in your classroom? 
  • What suggestions do you have for keeping the lights on and students engaged?
  • What can travel teach students about governments, bureaucracy and politics?