Educators can support their students and families by helping them develop a summer plan. These plans will vary depending on the grade level, and they can be divided into two sections. The first relates to information that we should share with next year’s teachers. The second section focuses on ways of supporting families and students during the summer. By creating these systems, educators will have the opportunity to engage in self-care, with limited mental interruption from work concerns during the summer.
Teacher Instructional Letter
When an outgoing U.S. president leaves office, they provide a letter to the incoming president. This letter contains tips, tricks, and secrets that can only be learned by being president. This experience can be compared to being a teacher, especially when you have a new set of students, and both roles can certainly feel overwhelming at times. At the start of the school year, a teacher may not know what instructional “shortcuts” they can take when working with a student. For example, what particular activity might trigger a student who has experienced trauma, or what scaffolds are needed to engage a student’s learning?
Consider writing the educator’s version of a presidential letter—a teacher instructional letter—to next year’s teacher. Some of the topics you can put in this letter are included below:
- Student Triggers: Many students come to school with social and emotional needs that can impact their ability to focus on instruction. These triggers can be as simple as teacher proximity to the student or classroom groupings that might resurface anxiety from prior experiences. These hard-learned lessons are important to give to the next year’s teacher. Providing a head start can be a major factor in creating effective classroom spaces for students to access learning opportunities.
- Instructional Motivators: Of similar importance to understanding student triggers is understanding student instructional motivators. How are activities structured to access students’ funds of knowledge? What intrinsic skills can you leverage to help students internalize and become proficient in academic standards? These are questions that every teacher has at the beginning of the school year. This instructional letter is an opportunity for you to support students’ learning by highlighting the social and academic skills that you have helped a student refine.
Student Summer Safety Plan
One of the biggest concerns for many teachers is what happens to their students when they are not with them in the school building. This can get magnified during the extended time away during summer. Many students who need social support can have a hard time accessing it when not in school. Educators can help bridge this gap by working with students and families to create a summer safety plan. This plan will be different based on the academic level that you teach.
When considering a summer safety plan for younger students, you will need to focus primarily on the family. How do we support parents, guardians, and caretakers to access resources during the summer? A proactive approach to dealing with this question is the best. Here are some topics to consider when talking to parents at the end of the academic year:
- Food Resources: Students who utilize the free and reduced-price lunch program might need to access food resources in the summer. What programs are available, and does your district provide summer lunch? Since many families have been disconnected from the school system, they may now know what is available and how to access those resources. Having a discussion or bulletin board that guides families to those resources could be a good way to end the school year. These resources can be related to the district’s McKinney-Vento program.
- Summer Learning Programs and Activities: As students head out for summer, we must support their continued engagement with academic and social learning. One way that teachers can be of help to families is by curating a list of summer cultural learning opportunities. These opportunities can provide students with a social and cultural fund of knowledge that can be leveraged to access new learning in the next academic year.
- Summer Employment Opportunities: Summer can be a time when students who face economic hardship can get access to funds that could help themselves or their families, which is why it’s important to support students to take the next steps in identifying their future goals. This can take the form of helping older students locate internship opportunities or assisting students with creating a basic résumé. Many job applications have an online component, so consider working with students to practice how to complete the documents needed to apply for a position.