Monday, April 17, 2017

Origin Story

I was an elementary school teacher for 12 years, including 9 years at inner city public schools. I've also tutored kindergarten through high school, both while I was teaching full time and more recently as my first out-of-the-house-job in many years. I also have three kids of my own who sometimes let me help them with their school work.

And every kid I've ever worked with has lost academic ground over the summer. 

Every. Single. One. 

You might say - as I did, for the first few years I taught- well, this is only a problem for the kids who are already struggling or behind. And then I looped - I moved from first grade to second grade with the same group of kids. They were great kids. And I knew exactly where we'd left off academically, so I assumed we would jump right into the second grade curriculum. I even gave them 20 pages of worksheets to do over the summer! It wouldn't be like those other years, when I'd had to backtrack and go over things they should have learned the year before. I knew they'd all had a very competent (ahem) first grade teacher, knew that most of them were where they needed to be to jump back into second grade.

But much to my chagrin, even my most capable students had lost ground. I still spent the first 6 weeks reviewing first grade, despite the fact that almost every kid did their summer homework. And that review time was not great for anybody. It was too fast for the struggling kids, undermined the self-confidence of capable kids, bored the highly capable students and frustrated me.

Research showed me that my class was far from unique, but didn't exactly tell me how to fix it - overhauling the entire educational system and making year-round learning available for all my students were way beyond my pay grade.

I tried, instead, to give them more quality summer learning activities and to emphasize to their parents how important it was for them to read every day over the summer. Guess what? The parents who had the time/energy/resources/interest to make their kids learn over the summer had kids who didn't lose much, if any, ground over the summer.

The secret weapon of all successful teachers, schools and districts is always the parents.

This site is for those parents who aren't obsessive former teachers like myself, but who do want to stop the summer slide.

Read. Read. Read. Then Read Some More.

One of my kids doesn't like to read. He only confessed to me recently, though I've had my suspicions for years. Even though he was...