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.
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The One with the Last Day

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The last day of summer school comes and goes. I try to find a way to fill time with expected absences (One kiddo told me, “Why did you tell me I had to come today?” to which I had to bite my tongue and not say, “I didn’t think you’d actually listen to me!”) and no new content. I end up having kiddos draw mathematics class for their opening and then fill it by having them reflect on the year and write cards to themselves and each other.

Photo: Someone’s drawing from the opening. Quite a few have the content and language objectives.Last Day of Summer School.jpg

What do you observe? What do you wonder?

Good Enough for Now: The Field Trip

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You might say that it’s bananas to execute a field trip during a 5-week summer school program and you might be right.

We do it anyway.

Field trip chaperoning means not really having enough time to take photos, so here’s a picture of the handout that we had kiddos do on the walk over to the park. Shout out to this kiddo who painstakingly circled all the storm drains on the way over (the field trip had an environmental focus. Kind of.)2017-07-09 20.16.16Other fun quotes and memories:

“MISTER, asì nacì, asì voy a morir.“-one of my advisees, when I caught him swearing (again). Translated: “MISTER, I was born this way, I will die this way.”

I also spent about 10 minutes trying to teach one of our students that it’s impolite to ask teachers (especially female teachers) how old they are. Didn’t get far with that one. Also, guesses of my age, by students: 25, 45, 30, 37, 32, 35. Number sense is getting better, but not really.

Kiddo, umprompted: “Mister, you speak French?”

Me (What?): “Um. No.”

Same kiddo: “That’s what math is like for me! No like math.”

Me: “Oh. Um. Je parle Francais.” (Kiddo doesn’t buy it)

As happens with our kiddos, there is soccer. There are several kiddos sporting honest-to-God soccer jerseys and fancy sweats that are probably out of my price range (and in all fairness, these kiddos probably play on several, super intense teams that are deserving of jerseys and more). When one team slaughters the other, we jokingly suggest that we shuffle players so that they have the same number of “official jerseys” on each side (the kiddos say no). The one female player eventually stalks off, amidst a string of curses. Comments about caballeros (translation: gentlemen) fall on deaf ears.

I play soccer with a few of the kiddos afterwards. I barely made the 8th grade team in middle school. I have not progressed much beyond there (but that’s good enough for now).

What do you observe? What do you wonder?

The One with the Extension

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Our school/summer program works with a wide range of prior student knowledge. As such, I feel like teachers sometimes talk about whether they feeling stronger supporting students with interrupted education or students who need more of a challenge (the two extremes of the spectrum). For whatever reason, I often think of myself who is (mildly) better at supporting students who are struggling.

So I’m pretty pleased with how Wednesday’s extension went. We started with a 3 Reads problem that I’ve done before (the first one I ever wrote and, surprisingly, one of the strongest ones I’ve taught). It ties in pretty well with the content we’re studying right now – linear functions and volume. Most of the class tried to figure out how many boxes there were be if a certain number of boxes kept appearing every day. The one group that was farther ahead got yardsticks and had to estimate if all the boxes would fit on the third floor, which involved actual estimating and modeling (if you think I’m letting kiddos out into the hallway to roam free during last period, you might be confused).

2017-06-28 13.58.17-1Photo: Student answer sheet and calculations: What do you observe? What do you wonder?

The One with Graphing Negatives

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One of the weaknesses of the curriculum we wrote for the school year is that it mostly focuses on graphing in the first quadrant. As I was reminded while writing and pulling activities for this summer, that’s where many of the “real world” problems are. (I know, I know. Not all math needs to be “real world”)

Fortunately (and as a reminder to my future self), problems with money and days can extend into work with negative numbers. My Summer Planning Partner also came up with the idea of using a 4-quadrant axes regardless of where the numbers fall (at some point, School Year Planning Partner and I made the decision to print 1st quadrant graphs so that kiddos could focus on bigger, more easy to see points. Maybe I regret that?)

2017-06-27 18.12.09Photo: Because we didn’t put in a table to scaffold, one (some times distracted) kiddo wrote their own work on the bottom, then made the graph without much prompting at all.

What do you observe? What do you wonder?

The One with Realish Data

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We are trying to align our curriculum to the biology curriculum, which has to do with waste management. For our Friday Project Page, we find a few interesting graphs from an actual report. One kiddo asks what MSW is and I have to google it during first period (Municipal Solid Waste, in case you were wondering). I wonder whether the tables and language might have been just a bit too academic, but #IRegretNothing (well, I don’t regret much)2017-06-23-14-50-28.jpgPhoto: Data and graph. Gotta revise those axes.

What do you observe? What do you wonder?