Friday, July 10, 2015

Summer School Lessons

When I accepted the position at this high school, I agreed to also teach Geometry over the summer. Apparently, the school hadn't ever had a summer school geometry option before, so I'm blazing a new trail! All I have for guidance is that I have 6 weeks to teach an entire year of geometry. Yes, the kiddos have to take the same tests, and yes, they are expected to do the same amount of work.

Geometry summer school isn't like what you would image it, or at all close to what the movies would suggest it be. I don't have 4 hours a day with the typical "difficult" kiddo. (That's right, 4 hours a day for 6 weeks and an entire year of content--jealous?) Instead, I have 12 kiddos 10 of which are taking the course to get ahead. The reason? These are kiddos that would like to get to Calculus BC before the end of high school. Yes, they are the driven achievers that believe the ivy league is the only league. The kids that over the weekend are anticipating the problems I'm going to assign, and doing them. The same kids that are fighting me for an A+, because the A, or God forbid the A- is just not cutting it for them.

So why am I telling you this? I guess its more of the light shining on the inequalities of the education system. I wrote about the comparison between this district I'm in now, and my old district before here. The truth is that I feel like I'm an amazing teacher with these kids. The class average is a B+/A- and they have all completed every task, assignment, and challenge that I've given them. A four hour class flies by, and we have a great time. These kids aren't here as punishment. And for the majority of the students summer school isn't necessary for credit recovery purposes. Opportunity to bountiful here in our town, and it reflects even in our summer school.

When I try to figure out how an entire semester of Geometry can be successfully taught in just 3 weeks, I come to 3 main conclusions:

  1. I have only 12 students! In a four hour window, I can easily connect with each kid on every topic covered. Individual attention is almost guaranteed, so those 2 students that are re-taking this class are thriving in a super supportive setting. They know they can ask me anything, and it's familiar to them. Technically, this isn't brand new material. They've seen it already. 
  2. These 12 students are completely motivated. I have 10 kiddos that are pumped about getting ahead, and spend their time competing with each other on which of them is going to be done and correct first. That energy is pumping through the entire room! So instead of having a room of 32 kids that a mostly just "getting through" the hour of math each day, I'm surrounded by a crew that could be thriving in a classroom led by a monkey. They push each other; even the two re-takers!
  3. There are no other distractions. They are not worried about the English paper due, or the 2 other tests they have later that day. Their focus is only on Geometry. There is no lunch room drama, or passing period breakups (I experienced 2 of those... really ruins a day!). Just four hours of Geometry, and the kids love it! They want to do all of their classes this way, and ask me why we couldn't change the entire structure of education! For the two that are succeeding at a higher level than the first time, I can see the excitement in understanding the material in a way they didn't know possible. 
Ultimately, I'm working in the perfect classroom environment. I'm responsible for the educational success of 12 kids in one content area over a 6 week period. And these kids are amped to be here. The only way to make this fail would be if I visibly didn't want to be here. But then why would I be teaching? If I didn't myself get pumped up to be in a classroom with kids that wanted to learn, why would I do this job in the first place?

I'm excited to start the 2nd semester next week. I'm anticipating the addition of a few more students that didn't pass the second semester of geometry this past school year. It'll be interesting to see if they jump on the already rolling summer school bandwagon or if I'll have to drag them a little. Either way, this experience has been eye opening, and well... fun!

Use the comment section below to tell me about your own summer school experience as a teacher or a student. I'd love to hear your thoughts!