Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Small Successes: summer school part one

Right now, I am blogging because it will give me thirty minutes or so where I will not have to think about the pile of homework I just received from the two classes I started today to work toward my masters. It will give me thirty minutes or so to not think about my own personal frustrations. It will give me thirty minutes or so not to think about the fact that I REALLY need to clean my house.  It will give me thirty minutes to only focus on one aspect of my life in June that I anticipated being as frustrating as the previous statements, but has come to be a really awesome part of my day. Summer School.

I can readily admit that I agreed to teach summer school as soon as my principal asked, but I fully believed that it was going to be terrible.  In my mind, I saw the summer school classes that we all see in the movies.  I saw a bunch of kids who were resentful toward me about having to be there, completely unwilling to learn, and throwing paper wads and spit balls at me and others when my back was turned.  I could not have been more wrong.  I have had the pleasure to teach the first five days of a fifteen-day summer school session to some of the sweetest, most willing kids you could imagine.

Now, I'm not saying school is their favorite place in the whole world.  They're in summer school because they have not succeeded this year.  For some of them, it was because they would rather act up and get sent out of class than make an attempt at school and fail.  For others, there were some major learning gaps that just could not be regained in a class of 28 kids during the regular school year.  Regardless of why they were there, the students in my two summer school classes have thrived with the smaller class size and the individual tutoring time.  It's been thrilling to me to see the "light bulb" affect happen for these kids.

For most of them, the key is validation.  They're so afraid to believe they're right that they second guess themselves.  Building their self confidence in English is what they need more than anything.  I told a kid yesterday, "You can do this. You're so smart." He looked at me like I was a crazy person.  For some, the idea of being "smart" is against the group norms in which they live; it's not "cool" to be smart. For others, who have struggled for years, the concept of being "smart" seems silly and foreign.

The thing is, that everyone is smart.  We're just all different kinds of smart.  Some of those kids can see things and find things in video games that take so much critical thinking it blows my mind. Others are strong athletes, even for their age, and can analyze a basketball court in a split second. Others are amazingly creative and artistic; they can draw so well it makes me jealous.  Regardless of our talents, we all deserve to be praised for our successes, both large and small.  Even if that small praise is just a sparkly smiley face sticker on a worksheet, a little goes a long way.  So this week, I think the lesson I learned is to be a "validator." It's not just the big things that deserve a pat on the back, and that's an easy thing to forget in the busyness of everyday life.  When all we do is rush, the simple successes that others have go unnoticed.  Be a noticer. Be a validator. Celebrate the small successes.


  1. After a rough day of summer school, I thought I'd pop in (since you invited) looking for a bit of youth and enthusiasm . . .

    Luckily, I found both.

    You not only write well, but your writings reflect an admirable enthusiasm . . .

    I'll check in again :)

    Have a good summer . . .


    1. Thanks Glenn! Hope the rest of summer school went well, and you're getting to enjoy a much deserved summer break!