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Celebrated Summer

Celebrated Summer

Dan Thalkar

Dan Thalkar

Teacher, 4th/5th Ethnic Studies

Dan lives and teaches in Los Angeles. Over his nine years in the classroom, he has taught 4th through 8th grade, and in his free time he probably watches more cartoons than most of his students. He also enjoys poetry, critical race theory, and Kendrick Lamar.   

Ah, summer. Sweet, sweet summertime. A time for relaxation and peace, for lengthy samurai novels and Bruce Lee movie binges.

A time for families to be separatedviolent crimes to risecelebrities to kill themselves, the Supreme Court to legitimize inhumane practicesthe openness of the internet to succumb to the inevitable pressure of capitalism.

Hurray for summer.

I always appreciate this break. This year, I desperately needed it. This was a long, emotionally draining year, at the end of which I didn’t know how much more I had to offer. How many times can you hear children say ‘I want to die’ before it no longer burns?

And so I am incredibly grateful for afternoon naps, for waking up early to catch all of the World Cup games, for sitting outside with a beer in the middle of the afternoon (or, in the present moment, late in the morning). Yet, the world stubbornly refuses to relax and abide by a teacher’s schedule. The world keeps happening. As a result, summer is also when I tend to feel most impotent and lost.

These last few weeks have bordered on the surreal. Our president wants his people to respond to him the same way Kim Jong Un’s are forced to respond. Thousands of children have been ripped from their parents and held in cages — but, by the way, says Border Patrol, even though they are technically cages, let’s maybe not use that word? — and, though that may no longer happen, there is still no plan to reunite the families, and there is now a path toward indefinitely detaining entire families in cages and former Wal-Marts. We’ve left the U.N. Human Rights Council. We were never the most conscientious members, but the symbolism stings. And the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court.

This is our country. If history has taught us anything, it’s that this has, more or less, always been our country. We are habitually unjust to the oppressed. We have a lengthy tradition of exclusion and internment. This is us.

History has also taught us that we can fight, and we can be better. This is the pocket where I try to live as a history teacher. Our society is unjust and oppressive, but we are descendants of a long and proud legacy of resistance and love.

Lately, it’s been a lot easier for me to tap into anger than love. I don’t quite know what to do with myself. Venting brings me no relief. Phone calls and marches, though I do both, never feel like enough. I make meaning of myself and the world through teaching. I process current events with the kids in my classroom. It’s where I find hope and where I feel useful. I can’t teach right now. I also realize that I really, really need to take a break from thinking about teaching right now. I need to breathe.

When I was younger, my anger was enough to give me energy and push me through. It isn’t anymore. It probably never should have been. If I’m going to be my best come August, I need to let myself heal.

This work is consuming. We’re never good enough. We never do enough. We never see enough, hear enough, speak enough, listen enough. There’s always more to learn, more to plan, more to systematize, more to refine, more to interrogate. This work will consume you, if you let it.

Don’t.

We can’t do this work if we burn ourselves out of oxygen, be it through anger or passion. What I’m trying to let myself learn this summer is that it’s okay to feel impatient. It’s okay to spend time with discomfort. It’s okay to sit with my feelings and thoughts. It’s okay to heal.

Whatever you’re doing this summer — whether you’re working summer school, planting a garden, or sleeping and watching Netflix — please, please, let yourself heal. I know it’s hard, considering what’s happening in the world. If you’re anything like me, then teaching is part of your healing process. That’s fine (I tell myself), as long as it isn’t everything. We are, all of us, gloriously multifaceted. When we let what we do define us, when we let what makes us angry control us, we limit our humanity. This, in turn, limits our effectiveness as educators — and partners and parents and siblings and friends.

And so, as I watch the news and fume or phone Congress and feel impotent, I am simultaneously plotting new ways to teach civic engagement and finding new comics to read. I’m learning more about the origins of human rights so that I’m better able to teach them, but I’m also going for walks and letting myself process. I’m watching documentaries I might want to show in class, but I also just watched Power Rangers. I’m letting my mind wonder and wander and seeing where it takes me. I’m spending a lot of time with Walter Benjamin and the Bhagavad Gita. My theory is that the more whole I am as a person, the better I’ll be as a teacher.

I don’t know if any of this will make me a better person, but it feels right, and so I’m listening. If it does, if it helps me heal, then I’ll be better for it and able to keep growing when the school year starts. If it doesn’t, well, at least I watched Power Rangers.

 

Please Don’t Give Students Pointless Busywork This Summer

Please Don’t Give Students Pointless Busywork This Summer

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Summertime is a crucial period of rest for students, but as educators we know minds should stay active to retain the year’s learning and ensure brains “stay in shape” till back to school season. So how do we balance giving our students time to recharge, while keeping them academically engaged?

The key is to provide students with assignments that give them complete control of their pursuits.

Traditionally students have been bombarded with summer reading lists, math packets, and history readings to prepare them for their upcoming school year — but really, what we want our students to be doing over the summer is relaxing while retaining skills and not necessarily learning new content for next year.

It’s easy for teachers using Kiddom to support student learning through meaningful, student-centered activities all summer long. Need some ideas to kick-start the summer? Check out the following activities that can be used in any content area this summer.

Journal Reflections

Students do a lot over the summer, whether it’s going away on vacation, endlessly playing video games, reading books independently, or hanging out nonstop with friends and family.

By assigning prompts to students weekly, monthly, or at their own leisure, journal assignments can help students document and reflect on their activities throughout the summer. Here are some sample prompts you can assign on a recurring basis using Kiddom:

  1. Identify and explain something you learned today.

If your students were playing video games for eight hours everyday all summer, they learned a lot of new things. Video games use problem solving and inquiry to complete challenges, beat “bosses,” and win the game.

Ask your students to explain how they overcame challenges in their game and you’ll be surprised at how much of what you taught them or how much you will be teaching them, is used while playing video games!

2. How did you use something you learned last school year today?

3. How do you think what you did today might fit into what we are learning next year in class? Write a brief explanation.

This one works really well if you’re preparing them for a new course/subject.

Choose a Book

Keeping students engaged reading books is tough during the off-season. But there is a way to keep them interested and excited.

Instead of assigning them a book for the summer, why not let them choose a book on their own? There is no limit to what they can read: graphic novels, short stories, poetry, or a piece of literature. Have your students choose a book on their own and write a journal reflection about it. You can give them specific prompts, but leaving it up to them to reflect on their thoughts and challenges will help them remember why they love to read and also help them to reflect on their own perceptions and interpretations of the work they chose.

 

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Assign simple journaling prompts at weekly or monthly intervals. Set them up in advance using Kiddom Planner.

 

Use Kiddom to set up check in dates throughout the summer for students to post their reflections. Students can submit as many times as they want, for as many books as they want.

 

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If you want to go the extra mile, send comments to students throughout the summer — this is a great way to keep in touch with your students as they transition to the next school year. It’s also an effective way to get to know students you may have next year.

“Hack Your Summer Vacation” Project

Yes, “hacking your summer” sounds weird, but bear with us. This involves inquiry and problem solving. Have your students predict problems they might run into over the summer break. Then, encourage them to think about ways they might solve those problems. Perhaps they can even invent something that solves it! Students can submit their work to you throughout the summer to get feedback and encouragement from you.

Bonus: You could join in the fun and create your own invention and submit it back to your students for their viewing pleasure!

Here’s how to create your “Hack Your Summer” project in Kiddom:

1. Set up an assignment for each step of the scientific process or design process. Students can submit their progress to these assignments as they move along in the project.

 

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You’ll notice the assignments in Timeline at left, and additional resources for this project stored in my Planner at right.

 

2. Set up a general assignment for students where they can submit their inventions to you throughout the summer.

 

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3. Create a playlist of resources for students who might be struggling with ideas for a summer hack or invention.

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Here’s some more information on using Playlists in Kiddom.

 

At the end of the summer, you can share your class with their future teachers to showcase their work. It’s as easy as that!

Independent Research Topic

High school students are often the hardest to get engaged in meaningful summer work, so why not give them an option to investigate a topic that interests them in your content area?

We can use summer assignments to get them excited about the classes they’re set up to take in the upcoming school year. By setting up an open-ended research assignment in Kiddom, students can submit their thoughts, perspectives, articles, and analysis throughout the summer. This is a great way to keep students honing their critical thinking and inquiry skills all summer long. Even better: not only are students working on skill sets that will be necessary for next year, but you’ll gain a wealth of knowledge about your students and their interests throughout the summer! So if you’re spending some time planning curriculum for your new set of students over the summer using your Planner, you’ll also get to learn more about your students and their interests!

You got this

Keeping students engaged during the summer months is tough and rightfully so. We all need a break. But that doesn’t mean completely shutting off all summer is good either. Just as we make our own choices about how we learn in the summer, let’s let our students do the same.

 

 


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Written by: Sarah Gantert, Success Specialist

 

P.S. Want more resources to kick-start your summer? Check out Kiddom’s content library for access to hundreds of resources from popular content providers.

P.P.S. Are you an administrator seeking resources to support your teachers? Book a 1:1 walkthrough with a member of our team.