After a year of teaching kindergarten, the thought of standing in front of middle schoolers filled me with anxiety this morning. It was the first day of summer school for both these students and me. I was unsure if I would be able to communicate effectively or personably with students who stood taller than 4 feet.
As I anticipated, the dozens of seventh and eighth grade students who sat in my classroom weren’t as thrilled for their first day of summer school math as my 17 kindergarten students were last fall. Apparently sitting in class wasn’t at the top of their summer break list.
However, responses from a survey I gave today tell me that these kids understand their need to be in class this summer. When asked what they hope to get out of these quick 4 weeks, several students wrote about wanting to have a better understanding of math. The majority of students expressed wishes to be able to pass to the next grade. One student wrote about how academically behind she is, and that she hopes this summer will lead to a better GPA next year.
The pressure of academic gains weighs on me as I begin to grade diagnostic assessments. I have four weeks to help these students possibly move forward a grade — to help them play catch-up in various skills so that they can stay on track in their academic career.
Looking back on the day, I see my biggest challenge as making math relevant to these kids — a relevancy that they can see as immediately applicable to their 7th- and 8th-grade lives. Not only will this help them understand the content, but maybe it will motivate them and keep them *almost* as engaged in lessons as my 5 and 6 year olds. Perhaps a few of them could even find a new love or appreciation for math? For whatever stretch of the imagination that might be, I would settle for a summer of active participation, genuine curiosity, and well-deserved passing grades.
The week’s end will reveal a better sense of what’s to come. Until then, here’s to another early morning tomorrow — but this time a morning replaced with a serving of confidence.