After writing a reflection after the fifth day, which was a very vulnerable piece for me, many colleagues encouraged me to write a final reflection. It's hard to capture all the excitement and creativity from the students and teachers in a blog post. Hopefully the sampling of pictures below will help show the wonder of this year's summer school.
1) The Students.
This structure of summer school really had an affect on the students. Through the work of the district's Minority Achievement and Talent Development committee (MATD) one of the recommendations was to shift the focus of summer school from the traditional efforts of intervention and remediation to enrichment. Their research, studies, and analysis of data revealed that the majority of students in traditional summer intervention programs don't make significant improvements in math and literacy. Students who attend summer school have also not been in favor of attending summer school. Why go to school during the summer to work on things you struggle with and feel the effects of having this knowledge, the social aspect of others knowing this, and also missing out on experiencing things often associated with the summer months? In addition, many students who attend summer school have parents who are working full-time and may not have the opportunity or the means to provide those summer activities. As a result, summer school focused on enrichment was created. Make the program so exciting with enrichment opportunities that students will want to attend summer school. Provide students enrichment opportunities that they otherwise may miss due to the challenges of time and resources. Engage the students in design thinking and design challenges, genius hour, passion project, MysterySkype, science and engineering projects, discussions about growth mindset and neuroplasticity, field trips to The Computer History Museum and Hiller Aviation Museum, creative art projects, number talks, and interactive read alouds.
This was definitely achieved throughout the summer as I saw students come off the buses smiling, greeting me and their teachers, asking what they'll do that day, and many running to class. Students wanting to come to school. This was evident on the last day by the tears on many faces as they walked towards the bus at dismissal. "I'm going to miss you, Ms. ----." "I don't want summer school to end."
2) The Staff.
It was an absolute pressure serving and partnering with the teachers, aides, custodians, librarian, secretary, campus supervisor, and coach during summer school. The teachers were all committed, dedicated, and passionate educators who were creative, curious, flexible, and purposeful with their lessons with the students. It was such a powerful summer experience for all. Partnering with Jenna Segall, a fifth grade teacher at Palo Verde who served as the principal for the first session of summer school, was such an incredible experience. Jenna truly made the transition from the first session to my second session smooth.
As mentioned in my Fives for Five post, I really worked on communicating my appreciation and acknowledgement of the teachers' hard work. Often, a teacher's efforts goes unnoticed and it's important to show recognition of those efforts. I feel it's equally important during summer school, if not more. Those teachers could've spent their summers doing a variety of things but they chose to share their summer with the students. What a wonderful gift to the students.
Before I began this position as summer school principal I made a plan to recognize and acknowledge the teachers' efforts.
Week 1: write personalized thank you cards appreciating teachers sharing their summer with the students.
Week 2: send an email message to teachers' principal during the school year sharing the awesome ideas and projects their teachers are sharing during summer school (copying the teacher on the message as well).
Week 3: make personalized etched glasses for the teachers along with the staff appreciation brunch on the second to the last day of summer school.
3) The Curriculum.
Having a summer school program focused on enrichment and 21st century skills providing the teachers the freedom and flexibility to create their own lessons and curriculum. It was great to see the teachers try out lessons and activities they were passionate about, interested in exploring, and took risks in trying. It was an honor and pleasure to observe and support teachers with all their wonderful activities and lessons. Some were:
- Designing model cars
- Designing bird feeders
- Egg drops
- Lessons around growth mindset and neuroplasticity
- Amazing art projects
- Exploring items that sink or float in regular water and salt water
- Creating parachutes
- Engineering Is Elementary kits
- Explorations with soil, dirt, and bridges
On the last day of summer school, I faced the biggest challenge of all. The night before the last day I received an email from one of the teachers asking if we could talk the next day. When we met, she shared with me her suspicion of physical child abuse with one of her students by the child's father. A call to CPS. In my over ten years of being an educator I never made a call to CPS (fortunately). On this last day of summer school I was making my first CPS call. What makes this situation extra unique was the teacher who shared her suspicion was entering her first year of teaching. What a way to start a career.
In short, after contacting my supervisors for advice and guidance, I assisted the teacher in calling CPS, filled out and faxed the report, recorded the entire experience, and circled back with my supervisors to share what happened. A call to CPS - on the last day of summer school. What a way to end the summer.
Summer school principal. What an incredible experience - seeing the students' excitement and engagement, supporting the teachers, seeing the fantastic activities and lessons, and, of course, all the challenges as well. I didn't really consider applying for this principal position; my boss suggested that I apply. Now, as summer school is over, I am definitely glad I did. What an incredible experience!