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Summer School Lessons


This summer I worked four additional weeks beyond the last day of school, teaching summer school. I was apprehensive about summer school, in part because teachers are given a half day to prepare for students we don’t know, in a classroom that is not ours, with very few materials provided. It turns out teaching summer school was the easiest job ever.

I felt obligated to make summer school fun since, hello, the kids were in school during the summer. During the regular school year, I get a little wrapped up in teaching kids to be functioning adults who can pay bills on time and order at a restaurant and not burn down their kitchen while making toast and read directions and cross the street safely and be respectful so as to not get arrested and, and, and, ya, all that. Seriously, all this is on my mind plus a million other things every day. It’s important that they learn all these things (plus how to take a test and behave in the lunch room and handle transitions and follow fire drill procedures), but summer school was a lot less pressure. Because there really isn’t time to accomplish the 500 things on the list in my brain.

In 16 half days, you choose a few things. You could work on something like taking turns or recognizing coins or sitting calmly during read aloud. But serious goals, like mastering 2-digit addition or reading 50 more sight words, were probably not going to happen. We did math and reading centers, speech and occupational therapy, but we also went on a nature walk, played games, researched Bigfoot, and played water balloon baseball.

Teaching is a difficult balance between rigor and fun, test prep and games, independence and support, tough love and kindness. Summer school was a nice way to remind myself what I love about teaching: seeing kids grow and learn while having fun. Now, as I prepare to return to school, I’m reviewing curriculum and thinking about what I want my students to accomplish. I’m considering new ways to hit all of those IEP goals and objectives, but I’m also carrying a bit of that summer school vibe back with me.  Because if work isn’t fun, what’s the point? My students need a happy, relaxed teacher. That’s my 2017-2018 school year goal.

The rest of the summer has been relaxing.  I spent some time at the waterpark. Being there with the now 12-year old boy means lots of reading time for me because he doesn’t really want to hang with his mom. Cool with me and as it should be. So, I read a lot of books. I wrote in various coffee shops, ran regularly and walked the dogs. I saw a few movies, and binge-watched The Good Wife and Elementary. I skated at Roller Kingdom, caught up with some old friends, worked on perfecting my popover recipe and went to Gay Pride. Of course, we sat in lawn chairs around coolers while watching fireworks. A simple yet satisfying summer. I am not ready to admit that it’s over. I still want to get to Lake Tahoe, go to Hot August Nights and Rib Cook-off, and see an outdoor concert or movie.

What I’m reading:

Nerd Girl by Holly Smale

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson

Enders Game by Orson Scott Card

Next Up:

Schooltalk by Mica Pollock

Empower by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani

Thicker Than Water by Mike Carey

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