A lot has been written about the summer slump…or the summer slide…or the summer loss of learning. Brooke and Chris have both shared insights about how to keep students reading and learning over the summer. This summer, though, I’m thinking about my own summer learning loss. You see, until this year, I’ve spent the last six teaching summer school with a group of incoming ninth graders. I loved it! It allowed me to continue to refine my teaching skills, consider the new learning standards for the school year, and gain both character and skill formative assessments of the new class of freshmen. While I’m grateful to be taking a “summer off”, I know that I should not completely remove myself from the classroom and learning. Just like my students.
While I’ve scheduled a few conferences or workshops to attend over the summer, the two pieces that I think will most help me foster my practice and my learning of my standards are: reflection time and reading.
Reflections of…Creative Energy
Most folks spent their first Saturday of summer vacation probably sleeping in, heading out on the road, or spending it anywhere but at their school building. But because I like to help and I’m unlikely to say “no”, I spent the day after our last day of school proctoring a test. Surprisingly, it ended up being a fertile ground for brainstorming, reflection, and envisioning the coming school year. I filled up a page with swirls of new ideas, essential questions, and changes to my current practice as they sprung up to me.
What’s amazing about doing this reflection at the end of the school year? Unlike other times of the year, I have two more months to ponder, refine, and tweak my ideas without the urgency of an imminent school day. What a luxury! It’ll be hard to recreate such a quiet room, save the click clacking of calculator keys and barely audible sound of pencils erasing. But, I know that I need to remind myself to build in reflection check-in periods as the summer progresses.
In conversations, I’ve been hearing a lot more people reference the idea that we need to practice what we expect of students. If I expect my students to be readers then I need to read. Beyond reading articles, I’m actually attempting to “Read My Height in Books” this summer. My fellow colleague came up with the idea with her housemates, but she one upped the challenge and decided she’d attempt it this summer. I thought, there’s no better way to motivate me than to read. Perhaps, this is where my shortness will come in handy for once!
In the first week and a half of summer vacation, I’ve read 4 books, with no qualifiers about Lexile, classic or not, young adult or not. The only thing that matters is that I’m interacting with text. I’m not liking everything I read. I’m not 5 starring everything I read. But, I’m also trying books that are outside of my “reader personality” like Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, which surprisingly I loved and couldn’t quit reading. I mean, it has a pink cover for goodness sake…so not me. As I read, I’m reading for enjoyment, but I’m also considering the habits that I take on as a reader, the details that I find in a reading, and building the characteristics of a good reader. When students come back in the fall, I’ll have more than a handful of recommendations. More importantly, my students won’t see a reading assignment as just something people in school do.
In that same vein, if I expect my students to be writers then I need to write. Write for a deadline. Write to argue. Write to share an experience. By practicing these skills, I can better help my students and my shared experience will help our conversation. In fact, if you’re looking for an opportunity to practice reflection and writing for a deadline, consider participating in this blog’s July Blogathon.
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