It’s the time of year when schools and districts start planning for summer instruction. In addition to covering areas students struggled with this year, many educators are also working to overcome learning deficits from previous years. Fortunately, Summer School provides us with a great opportunity to support and nurture student growth.

So how do we use this time most effectively?

1.) Expect Growth

We recently had snow, and it was announced that school was cancelled but with assurances that students would receive all their work online to complete while at home. Snow days when I was a kid meant no schoolwork, but now the ability to learn anywhere will make snow days, sick days, vacation days, etc. more productive. Students are expected to learn and grow at all times.

Let’s apply this same expectation of growth to the summer learning experience. It’s time to change how we look at, and plan for, summer school. It is no longer a time for a shallow dive into content that allows for too much free time. Students can develop grit and grow. Students can close learning gaps and accelerate growth in summer school if we expect it.

Students don’t want to work on snow days, and they probably don’t want to work during the summer either, but they will, if that’s what is expected. Part of our summer school shift is making sure students understand that learning doesn’t just stop in June and July.

Time after time, I have found that students will meet my expectations, especially when they are backed by my unwavering belief in them to do so. Give them some grit this summer and watch them grow.

Think about your summer school community. How can you achieve optimal growth? How can grit be a normal part of each day? How can you shift into a different summer school experience this year?

2.) Allow Noise

Recently my grandson was crying about going to school and said his second grade class had talked too much during the week, so his teacher said today was going to be a ‘silent day’. I might have been frustrated by this, but I’m certain she didn’t get her silent day!

No one understands the need for silence more than a teacher, but for optimal growth to take place this summer let your students talk, share out, and engage with other students. They have probably spent more time at home, learning alone and away from friends, than they ever have before, and they need some noise.

Allow students to work together and lean on each other. Do work as a class. Discuss, debate, and write. Write on poster board, index cards, post-it notes. Leave these notes out for students to access. Address work students are struggling with. Have them talk you through their thinking. Create a learning community this summer and watch what happens. Be loud and watch them grow.

What can you do to make summer school more engaging? How can you promote active writing and sharing? How can you ensure you don’t have silent days?

3.) Be Happy

The power of a teacher’s emotions cannot be overstated. When there’s a new program at school, we, as teachers, know we can signal our opinion about it with just a look. Students who are wrapped up in their own world and won’t quit talking will read our body language immediately. Be happy this summer and see what happens.

Start off each day with music. Have students talking with each other within the first five minutes of class. Walk around and model happiness. Clap, laugh, tell a joke. There’s a good chance students will have family and friends who are at home having fun without them. You will have angry, overwhelmed students in your class. These issues can be difficult to overcome, but they don’t stand a chance against a teacher who is happy to be working with their students.

What daily practice can you implement to start off each day with joy? How will you make sure you have a class full of happy learners? Think about those who will be a challenge. How will your happiness motivate and inspire them?

Because They Can

One of the most powerful ways to affect the lives of students is to value who they are and recognize what they can accomplish. Students do not need our sympathy this summer; they need our belief. These last few years have been tough and, as a result, students have some gaps in their learning.

So what happens now?

We get to see students do more than we thought possible. Student potential is limitless. We are fortunate as teachers in 2022 to have an opportunity to see our students shine like never before, because they can, and we can help them.