Things I Said I’d Do: 3 Takeaways from Summer School, 2017

Made it through 4 and 2 half weeks of summer school, which now feels like forever ago.

Some context: 2 of the teachers who used to work at my school and have since gone to work for The District were in charge of running the summer school program for emerging multilinguals (English Language Learners) in our district. Many of those kiddos are kiddos I teach during the school year. So I said I’d teach for the summer. I’d always thought about it and it seemed as good a year as any (and if I didn’t like it, I could cross it off the list of Things I Said I’d Do and Now Don’t Ever Have to Do Again. Spoiler alert: I’d do it again.)

3 takeaways:

  • Try New Things: It was much easier to try new things in summer school. Perhaps it was because all of the kiddos had some United States schooling under their belt (as opposed to some of our kiddos from the school year whose sojourn in my classroom is their first educational experience in the United States). In all likelihood, it was because the program is shorter and things didn’t really have time to fall apart and I was less nervous about implementing systems that might potentially not work. At the suggestion of Summer Planning Partner, I did some random seating rather than assigned seats. Kiddos seemed largely ok with being placed with random other kiddos (until Week 3, when I think they swapped the popsicle sticks I was using to randomly assign seats). I started using ClassDojo to select kiddos at random to read classroom objectives and share answers (though I usually stuck with Mr. Pinsky’s participation quiz app for general classroom management stuff). We tried integrating project pages throughout our unit rather than just all at the end.
  • Get Observed (and be OK with it): I got observed a lot during the summer. Our program brought in some teachers who wanted to learn more about teaching emerging multilinguals. Various District people came by. I swallowed my pride and told all of my teacher friends (who I can’t usually observe during the year because we work the same days) that they could come observe me. And it wasn’t horrible. I still get super nervous when there are other adults in my classroom, even after 4 years, but I think I just got over it this summer. I’ve always known that I mentally overreact when there are other adults in the room. So I’m mostly learning to ignore that. In every debrief I had this summer, people either had questions, positive noticings, or they didn’t say anything. I’ll take it.
  • Be OK with What You Can’t Control: There are a lot of logistics that go into summer school. During the year, we have systems in place to deal with them. Plus I loop with many of my kiddos, so I know them from the year before – family situations, educational history, the works. This is all a bit more complicated with summer school. Enrollment is tricky and subject to change. We work with kiddos from high schools from all over the city and District information is often…patchy. Whereas we probably would have shuffled our students a bit more evenly during the school year, we didn’t get quite as much of a chance to do that this summer. We didn’t find out as much about our students’ school experiences over the course of 5 weeks. And it was all OK. Again, this might have been because the program was shorter. It might be because our kiddos are pretty darn resilient. It might be because things just work themselves out.

3 Knowles Spring Meeting Takeaways

In the process of flying back to California from our Knowles Science Teaching Foundation Spring Meeting.

3 takeaways:

  • Talk in the classroom: Most Fellows (self included) started off thinking that kiddos talk a lot in their classes. It’s tricky thinking about how to get a classroom of 20 English Language Learners to talk to each other in English (especially since about 20% of them have arrived since January). This meeting has been pushing me about how to come up with questions based on anticipated solutions based on the learning goal for the day. A lot to think about, especially with planning time (any time) being scarce. But important.2016-03-19 09.36.46
  • Rigor of tasks (and how I hinder and help that): On a related note, we also talked about how it important it is to maintain the rigor of tasks (in order to spur the aforementioned talk), but how often teachers undermine that with the types of questions they ask. Scaffolding and support is important, but I need to think about how to scaffold helpfully without taking away from students thinking and making sense of the math.2016-03-18 14.32.50
  • Using social media to document and connect: Despite having been on social media since forever and despite my documented inability to quit, I’m always on the fence about social media. That being said, I wanted to challenge myself to document this meeting while staying engaged and without being obtrusive. Check out the Twitter feed and this storify (which shows some other Fellows documenting the meeting). We also did some exploring with Vine (a 6 second video editing tool) and came up with a way to process our cohort norms¬†and a video about Newton’s 2nd Law that we shot and edited at 9pm in our hotel lobby. It took longer to edit the video than to shoot it.


It’s been a good meeting. I think I’m ready to start school again on Monday. We have a Professional Development Day for the math department on Tuesday and spring break is the week after.