I have been given the gift of an opportunity to coordinate a summer school program for the English Learners in our school. I was told that it could be for English Learners and redesignated students, so was I interested and what would I want to do? Wow. I’ll admit that at first I was hesitant. I’m tired, it’s been a long hard school year and I need a break desperately.
But then I realized that if someone else did it I’d be a little put out and wishing I was part of it. So I called the district Ed Services Director to talk it over. She was warm and excited and asked what I’d like to do. I started out by saying that I only wanted to do a two week program. She asked how I’d give credit for that, and I replied that I wouldn’t. I said I’d like to do a two week enrichment program for our English Learners. They need vocab development and reading for actual purposes, as well as the chance to read something longer and more compelling than the short stories and articles that are part of our annual pacing guide. They need to learn to read and dissect word problems in Math. They need to learn to get along with and communicate with one another, and to see the value in one another. To see school as a place that is fun and not always connected to preparing for a standardized test. Our students have never experienced school in any context other than the current standardized testing environment.
Even though she preferred we do four weeks, she agreed to the time frame I suggested. The teachers who want to be part of it were agreeable to – some even adamant about – the two week timeframe. So, there it is. At our first meeting we came up with a structure for the days, and as we talked we became really excited about the possibilities. We’ll begin the days with team building activities, and end with written reflections of the day. The math and English periods will be based on activities and games to create an underpinning of background knowledge that our kids are missing. Each afternoon we’ll offer an activity period, such as cooking (following a recipe is technical reading right? What better assessment than eating the results?), singing, making piñatas from written directions, dancing with a Zumba instructor or learning media skills in the computer lab. Our teachers have a wide range of skills which they are excited to share.
Each of our teachers has something special to offer and is very excited to do so. We are excited to spend time with our students in a classroom of fifteen or so students rather than the thirty-four of our regular classrooms. I can hardly wait to begin!
Now for the catch: this has all be pretty last minute, and I don’t yet have enough students signed up. It seems the last thing they want to do on their time off is go to more school. I’m doing everything within my power to drum up enough students to fill our classrooms. I’ve contacted parents on Facebook, called and sent applications to the sixth grades and had the district messager call their homes in Spanish and English. The apps are trickling in – we have only three days left! Will we make it? I’m sure we will. I’m thinking positively, because we all need an experience like this, kids and adults alike.