Summer school is hard. The kids don’t want to be there. The teachers don’t want to be there. But here in Texas, if students who have failed the state tests in 8th grade want a chance to move along to 9th grade, summer school is a necessary evil. I say “evil” because that is how it is viewed. Call me weird, but I kind of like it. I like the camaraderie in my little class. “We’re all in this together and we will prevail!” As a teacher, you don’t have many days to build a sense of family in summer school. But kids need to feel engaged and welcomed if you want them to connect with what you are trying to teach them. If you are just there to pass the time and collect a paycheck, you are not doing these kids any favors.
Here is a little secret: if kids don’t like you, they won’t listen to you. This is true for kids and adults. Haven’t you ever been rubbed wrong by a presenter in the first couple of minutes and then you zone out for the rest of his/her speech?
Summer school students have 8 short little teaching days to absorb some nugget of truth that will help them answer a few more questions correctly on their tests. That is not a lot of time! You have to get in there, connect with them, and give them some tips to hang onto when they go in to take that test for the third time. The connection is key. I have attempted this by starting each morning off by sharing Good Things. Good things is a strategy taught through the Capturing Kids’ Hearts program. Kids have the chance to share whatever “good things” are going on in their lives. Kids really do want you to know about them. They want to share their stories. We all have a desire to be known. It is sad, but many of these kids don’t get that need filled at home. They are the strugglers; those kids who act out and get in trouble because they don’t have anyone at home intricately involved in their lives.
So my summer school tips are:
1) Take a few minutes each day to show them you care about them. Ask them about themselves. Then listen.
2) Follow up the next day on what they shared the previous day.
3) Be patient. More patient than comes naturally.
4) They won’t remember your name. (Miss! Miss!) But remember theirs.
5) Bring candy. If nothing else, a well-timed piece of Laffy Taffy will make them close their mouths long enough that you can tell them that tip that you’ve prepared for the day.
Kids need adults who care. If you are reading this, then I bet you care more than a little!
P.S. Nobody likes grape Laffy Taffy!