Tuesday, July 19, 2011

If I Were In Charge of Summer School

If I were in charge of Summer School (and I certainly am not), I would make some changes.

The first change I would make would be where we have Summer School. I would designate a single school in an area to be the Summer School site and that same location would be used year after year. Of course, there would have to be a financial incentive for a single school to step up to the plate (such as access to the Summer School materials by the home school or extra pay for the administrators, office staff and custodial staff who have to do extra work because of summer school). What I see as Summer Schools moves from school to school is that nobody owns the process and therefore, the process and systems weak. For instance, I was expected to do guided reading with 3rd graders but no guided reading levels were sent, because the summer school administrator wasn't in on curriculum decisions and didn't know that would be needed. If the same school had summer school, they would know from experience what was needed. Right now no school administrator wants to be designated as the Summer School site - it's just extra work for no real benefit to the school or administrator. It's a unwanted step child. If a single school owned the process, they wouldn't waste lots of time each summer figuring it out all over again - valuable time lost for students. An administrator might look forward to having summer school because of the incentives instead of every administrator dreading his turn in the cycle.

The second change would be who teaches Summer School. I am sure the process now is negotiated by our Union because it meets the needs of teachers first. If I were in charge it would meet the needs of children first. Only accomplished teachers who had proven results in that particular grade level would be eligible to teach a particular grade. From that list of accomplished teachers, those who wanted to apply could. They would be interviewed by the principal so the teachers that were selected would know the administrator's expectation instead of having teachers who were there simply for the money. Summer school would be staffed with teachers who really want to make a difference and who know what is expected of them. Right now teachers have no reason to really come together and work for a common goal. They are simply putting in their time. I would also want teachers to teach in summer school the grade they had taught during the year so that they are well aware of what a student needs to know to go to the next grade. They would readily have materials, ideas, games and materials to fill in any holes or a wealth of knowledge for reteaching. Right now teachers teach in areas where they are certified. In my case I am teaching a grade I have never actually taught. Am I really the most qualified person?

The last change I would make would be what we teach. I would open the school's media center for a few hours each week. In fact I would open it to the entire neighborhood! When you are teaching children reading that really don't like to read, you need to have the widest possible selection of books on their reading level that are of interest to them. If you are going to convince a struggling reader that he can really learn to enjoy reading, then he needs things to read that really draw him in and awaken his interest. There is no way a single program of books can keep a variety of students' interests in independent reading for an entire six weeks. These children need an expanded selection. The books are there but the Media Centers are closed to summer school. How sad is that?

Of course, I have lots of other suggestions. I'm sure that most of the teachers teaching have suggestions too, but I doubt anyone will listen or even ask. (A senior district administrator did come through recently and ask my opinion, but she's not the person really making these decisions... unfortunately.) It seems that decisions are being made by those that have little access to the actual trenches where the work is being done. Today I was told by a teacher (infromation that I hope is incorrect) that we won't even know how the students do on the final benchmark because it has to be sent in to a county office as a scantron. So we will leave summer school, after developing relationships with students (relationships that I intend to take into the school year by sending postcards and giving them my cell number and e-mail), and not even know if they passed of failed that final test. Wow, do you see the same disconnect that I see?

No comments: