Inevitably conversations will begin to arise in teacher’s lounges across the country about how to avoid the summer slide. Brochures for summer school will be handed out and in some cases summer homework will be assigned. Teachers and parents alike will be worried about their children and students losing their hard earned progress from the soon to be ending school year. The summer slide will be on everyone’s mind and yet our focus may be on the wrong type of summer slide.
As I walk the halls of school, I am already hearing the whispers and giggles about plans being made for a summer of camps and s'mores or vacations and parties. Kids are counting down the days to freedom and fun with their friends and family. I myself am looking forward to my annual road trip with just me and my sons. It is a time of bonding, fun and memory making that I cherish greatly. Yet, there are many students who are not taking part in these conversations and excitement about the end of the school year approaching. For them, the summer means something completely different.
Rather than attending camps, some students will be at home caring for younger siblings because their parents are working or absent for other unknown reasons. Others will be forgoing any vacations because their parent(s) are barely able to survive paycheck to paycheck. Still others will be left to their own devices and roam the streets because there are no adults or family members around to care for them. Some of the students in our classes will go home to abusive or unloving homes with no joy or happiness. Even worse are those who don’t have a home at all to go home to.
For these students, and many others, the countdown to the end of the school year is filled with fear and anxiety. For them, school is the best part of their day and often the bright spot in their life. They cherish every moment they are with their peers and caring teachers. The thought of taking break from that is heart wrenching for some which often leads to misbehavior and acting out in the final days.
With this in mind, don’t count down the last days of school. Instead, seek out those kids who you can see struggling to let go and fearing the unknown of summer. Support them and encourage them in anyway you can. Make plans to connect over the summer if even through an email or a postcard. For them the summer slide is not about a dip in reading scores but a drop in access to safety, security and love.
Take a few minutes this summer and send that postcard or email to let them know you care and are looking forward to seeing them again in the fall. It may just be the thing to get them through their summer slide.