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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.


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