By Heather Lewis, PerformancePLUS Educational Consultant
Ahhh, summertime! When I was a kid and dreamed of being a teacher, one of the selling points I made to my second- and third-grade friends (who did not have the love of school that I did) was, “But you always have summer vacation!” How silly, right?
While my elementary school age thoughts were a little obtuse, I recognized very soon that, regardless of the season and the changes that occur around the year, it was difficult to escape my education-driven mind. Before I began to work with school districts across the country in my role as an educational consultant with SunGard K-12, I volunteered in classrooms in North Idaho and rural northern New York State, and taught in the classrooms of Harlem and the South Bronx of New York City.
Throughout my career, I have looked forward to summertime for two opportunities: the first is to continue work with students in much smaller groups, and the second is to have some “free time” to reflect on the previous year and make plans for the upcoming year. Summertime became an opportunity for me to catch up while I was still moving forward to put plans into place for when the next school year begins. With tools that make assessment and curricular data available at any time and from anywhere with Internet access, I could complete this work much more efficiently and effectively. As a teacher, I could access those tools I use all year during the school breaks (without hauling home binders and tote bags of supplies).
As we find ourselves in the “lull of summertime,” more school staff are not only able to explore tools that are already familiar to them, but they also are able to capitalize on the potentials available. For me, summertime was an opportunity to find trends in my students’ performances and gave me the opportunity to cross-reference those trends with curricular expectations that were in place for me. I could develop new activities for and approaches to those areas in which my students and I needed the most assistance. Because school was not in session, of course, a lot of this was reflection and flexible planning. This may seem like it’s a lot of work for a hoop dream that will be ravaged on Day One because of class changes, but even the flexible planning gave me a launching point for the school year. I was also able to cultivate procedures for how to handle scenarios as they came up in the school year. By taking some time in the summer to identify specific points in the school year and even in the school day when I could make the most meaningful changes, I was not only able to move into the school year feeling prepared but I was also able to still enjoy that blessed summer vacation I romanticized as an elementary child.
With tools like those in the PerformancePLUS suite, teachers, staff members, and district decision makers can access the resources that they use all school year while on the school break.