Skip to main content

Summer School: A Risky First Week

I'm teaching summer school for the first time of my teaching career, and it's been quite an experience during the first week. With a mixture of students from the three high schools within my district, classroom dynamics are interesting. It's also an opportunity to hear from students about how a variety of teaching experiences for them or haven't quite.

We're starting class every day with a writing prompt. I began the first day with a deep one, knowing that I might make students feel uncomfortable but recognizing that it was important to establish and develop a common understanding. I asked kids to write about why they are here. (On a side note, I love that a student was quick to ask why I was there! I shared with them the research questions I needed help answering this summer [I plan to post about these later], and I received really positive responses.)

I am so impressed with the risks that students have taken during the first week. 

After the very first writing prompt, a student shared that she had "messed up," "gotten distracted," "focused too much on friends." I knew that this would set the tone for a successful six weeks together. If there's one thing that I've learned from Reading Apprenticeship training, it's that the social dimension of the classroom is so important. Students need to be willing to take risks, and she did just that.

I love that summer school is turning into a place where I can also take risks. One of my goals for the upcoming school year is to turn over the document camera to students more often. I had three students volunteer to share drafts of their personal literacy narratives. As one student was sharing, he noticed that he missed a few words every now and then. I reminded him that I, as a writer, can't move my pencil sometimes to keep up with my thinking, and that it happens to all of us. And he continued. He talked about how he didn't think that reading and writing were for him, how his experiences hadn't really been positive in school, "which is why [he's] in summer school."

When he was done sharing, I had to point out the positives of this student's work. He didn't realize the voice that flowed through his paper. As a reader, I felt like I could actually hear his story flowing from the page. I had taken notes on the board and pointed out to students this student's use of "Man..." and "Lord knows." This was good rough draft writing and it stressed the importance of not only celebrating our works-in-progress but also how taking risks can make things we didn't see before visible.

Because of all this, I'm looking forward to the next five weeks and seeing these writers, readers, thinkers, and speakers grow.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

How Changing My Car’s Battery Made Me Think About Education

A lot of people write about how educators use the summer to “recharge their batteries,” which is true. It’s nice to have some down time to reflect and plan for the next year. It’s the one time of year when there aren’t constant demands for teachers’ and administrators’ time. No concerts, no after school events, no evaluations to prepare for.
Part of this time allows me to catch up on things that I didn’t have time for during the school year, like changing the battery in our Jeep, which is our only vehicle that has roof racks for us to transport our kayaks. We were able to get by this winter by jumping it a few times when it was really cold out, but my wife and I both knew it would eventually need to be replaced. My wife and I also knew nothing about replacing a battery.
So I turned to YouTube. And I watched video after video of someone changing car batteries in order to figure out what to do. I learned about “core charges” that auto part supply stores charge. I learned that batterie…

I should’ve taken the time

Yesterday during a teacher observation, a student asked me to step into the hall and talk with them. At the time, it didn’t seem urgent. With this student in particular, we have talked often. Sometimes it was important, other times—from my perspective—it didn’t seem that urgent. 
When I asked her if it could wait 10 minutes, she shut down. I could see the change in how she sat and participated, withdrawing into her desk and no longer asking for help from those around her. There was a noticeable difference in how she interacted with her peers the minute those words came out. 
When I noticed the change, I tried to drop everything right there and talk with her. Let’s go talk, right now, I said. No, it’s fine, she replied. And despite my multiple check-ins while she was working independently, she declined the opportunity to talk again that hour. 
Without even realizing it, I had damaged our relationship. 
We ended up talking later that the day. I saw her as she walked to her next class period…

Handwritten Cue Cards in the 21st Century

I just stumbled upon this behind-the-scenes clip of Saturday Night Live's cue card process.

This is intense writing. This is writing that is dependent upon trust and checks and balances.

Over a short period of time, skits are written, drafted on cards, revised, and the cards revised over and over again.

I also really love that SNL continues to use cue cards and not a teleprompter. Like Wally points out, technology can fail. Handwritten cue cards ensure the show goes on.

Comedy is hard work. Writing is hard work. Changes are made up until the last minute to get things just right. This is a form of real-world writing.