Retaining Knowledge through the Summer

My kids come to me in the fall remembering very little from the previous year. We spent three days on nouns at the beginning of the year. Three days! In 9th grade!

Who knows what our students, especially those in urban settings like mine, go through during the summer. As a school, we have tried to brainstorm ways to keep our kids engaged during the summer months. However, these activities are a lot of talk with little action behind them at the moment.

What strategies have you used or heard of to keep kids engaged through the summer and retain the knowledge and skills they need for the next grade?

Evaluations

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I had my first evaluation meeting this week and I was surprised how well it went. Although I’m not the biggest fan of the system our district uses, it was a huge morale booster to receive some positive encouragement! I’ve heard some real horror stories about evaluations from other teachers.

How does your school do evals? Any issues or incidents?

Committees, Satan, and Congress

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Ever heard the idiom, “too many cooks in the kitchen?” I felt this first-hand last week, as I’ve been assigned to a committee that very few people in the school look favorably upon. 

One of our tasks was to plan out an assembly for the students. If you’ve read some of my other posts,  you know that I have a lot of experience planning and carrying out youth events. I know how to make them fun and engaging for the kids. Well, apparently we also had 5 other people on the committee who felt the same about themselves. This made for a long meeting where we didn’t really get anything done. And, tomorrow, we’ll produce an “okay” product for the students.

I come from a ministry background, and churches that use the phrase “Let’s form a committee!” are not usually successful churches. In fact, I find the terms “Satan” and “decorating committee” almost interchangeable. As teachers, we should know that sticking five people in a room without a defined leader will not yield the results we are looking for. So, why do we continually form “committees” that are typically more a source of stress than productivity?

We should know that sticking five people in a room without a defined leader will not yield the results we are looking for.

Look at congress! When’s the last time a congressional committee did something that benefitted you? Just last week, they were deadlocked because there were too many opposing viewpoints in one room. Don’t get me wrong, I like the structure of our government and the system of checks and balances. However, I think that there are times where we just need to give a leader a task and let them run with it – trusting that they’ll carry it on to completion.

There are times where we just need to give a leader a task and let them run with it.

Have you had any stressful committee experiences? How does your school handle these things?

How do you feel about the Common Core?

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I’m just curious because I’ve heard many different perspectives.

Personally, I like the fact that the Common Core dumbs everything down to just 10 standards. However, I hate the fact that there is very little information, even on the Common Core Website, on how to properly implement the standards. This leaves districts hurriedly creating new pacing guides and materials that basically equate a shot in the dark.

There is very little information, even on the Common Core Website, on how to properly implement the standards.

I also don’t like that some of the grade-level standards are almost a paragraph long. If you’ve read my last post, you know that I am a fan of simple. I don’t like it when someone takes the concept of  ”writing a personal narrative” and tries to include every tiny skill and method that goes into that process in one standard. After all, I am an educated professional and should know how to teach kids to do that anyways. Give me a one page list of things students should know how to do before moving onto the next grade. This would be more practical, easier for the students (and teachers) to understand, and would help provide this “unity” that the american education system is seeking – which to me, is an unnecessary venture in itself.

They can win.

I’ve known since I met them that my students come from households characterized by chaos. I know that many of them are involved in gang activity in their neighborhoods. In fact, the idea that they can come to school in the midst of that and still concentrate amazes me.

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Anyway, I’ve noticed something. Because I work with a very difficult population, my classes are smaller. Sometimes I may even have one student in a class.

One on one, these students are like any other kids in any other school. They are usually pretty friendly and cooperative. However, as soon as they get out in that hallway, they are cussing and going back and forth with their peers. Today, I had to prevent two students from fighting each other who are usually pretty tame by themselves.

I want to hypothesize that this is all just a survival tactic. These kids know that if they don’t act tough and use their fists every once in a while, they’ll be eaten up by their chaotic world.

If we could convince students that they don’t need to act tough – that maybe being responsible and respectful in school will ultimately bring them the success they want – than a lot of our behavior problems would be solved. But that is easier said than done.

I propose that we as educators focus on developing meaningful relationships with our students.

I propose that we as educators focus on developing meaningful relationships with our students. The axiom, “rules without relationships builds rebellion” has never held truer than in urban education. If kids can see us setting an example and believing in them, they may just see that they can do it. They can win.

What do you think?

Where do these aggressive tendencies come from? What experiences have you had with this?