I’m beginning my 6th edition of summer school for my district on Monday. My first summer, before we had children and my wife was still working, summer school was a means to cut my teeth in my own real-life math classroom before the fall semester began and stuff got real.
Teaching summer school is more of a financial requirement for our family now, but there are still several things I enjoy about the summer session that I think make me a better teacher.
1. “Do your worst.”
If you can handle what summer school students have to throw at you, you’ll probably be prepared for the worst you may see during the regular session. Some summer school students are highly motivated (which is what I expected of all of them before my first summer), and they are a delight, but most in my district come to me with one or several of the following: immaturity, frustration, anger, dejection, ambivalence, complacency. I jumped over a table last summer in the midst of what was looked to be a fight brewing. It was awesome.
2. Try new things.
The thinking on this is that for most of these kids, whatever traditional activities you or a colleague tried during the spring or fall were not successful strategies, so repackaging the regular curriculum into a shorter chunk is asking for boredom at best, and more failure at worst. I feel less pressure to have my lessons or activities go perfectly during the summer because classes are smaller and we meet longer, so its more feasible to clarify directions and completely change course if necessary without sacrificing an entire day’s 50 minute period.
I love piloting projects, games, and software in the summer.
3. Motivate, motivate, motivate.
|This is for my students, too, but secretly maybe for me the most. 🙂
There aren’t a ton of self-starting, goal-setting 16 and 17 year olds to begin with – you’re definitely not going to find them in summer school. Teaching my summer students forces me to rethink why I teach, and what heights are possible for any of these students.
Morning-grump-Chuck does not fly in summer session.
4. Make new connections with colleagues
Since my district consolidated summer school for our 3 high schools into one building 3 years ago, summer school has meant working more closely with teachers I only see on sporadic district PD days. Collaborating with these teachers during the summer has given me a clearer picture of what goes on across
my district and helps me make sense of goals and vision given to us from administration across the street. Most of the trainings on this page
were made possible by connections I made during summer school.
5. Prioritize and dump.
You know that practice where you teach some things during the regular school year “for exposure,” just because its in your book, or you like that trick?
Reteaching an entire semester’s worth of content is obviously impossible, so the summer session requires refinement of the curriculum to essential topics and strategies. Fortunately for me, my district already has separate pacing guides for the summer, so I don’t have to reinvent the wheel every summer.
This year, to cut costs, our district is holding only “credit recovery” courses, which the state allows for students who were close to passing. My class will be 2 weeks instead of the usual 4, so I’m forced to prioritize and predict where the biggest needs will be amongst my recovering students.
Why does this matter for the regular session? The topics we end up covering in summer school often become the subject of smart goals and data collection from common formative assessments in our PLCs.