Stop talking about the slide

The summer slide has been discussed in schools across the country for the last few years as one of the major obstacles for educators to overcome if we are ever going to be able to reach the lofty academic achievement goals that are set before us. Teachers every spring begin to throw up their hands in frustration believing that so much of what they have taught over the course of the year will be lost over the 70+ days of summer vacation and kids will slide back to where they were months before. Each fall teachers can be heard grumbling about the fact that they have to begin the year with so much review because students enter their rooms having forgotten nearly everything presented to them the year before.

Some teachers are fighting back against this by killing summer fun, family vacations, and student innate curiosity by sending home worksheet packets, summer reading lists, and workbooks. They have a belief that by keeping kids minds busy doing these tasks, students will be fresh and ready to go when the new school year comes around. The irony is, that it is often these same teachers who take the stance of “I don’t check my e-mail at home, because that is my time and I need time to rest and recover.” Yet, giving our students time to rest and recover is unthinkable. Giving them the chance to be kids and truly explore the world around them and refine their passions without the strict guidance of mundane teacher directed tasks is seen as a waste of time. Not only are our students being given way too much homework during the school year, we are now beginning to miss the mark in the summer.

Now is a good time for me to state that I believe the summer slide is real. It has been proven through countless studies to be a reality. But the the problem has nothing to do with our students, their inability to focus during the summer, or their ability to keep their minds fresh. The fault is actually all ours.

If you are reading this on the day I am releasing it, Christmas Day was 150 days ago. That’s approximately twice as long as the 77 days that comprises a typical summer vacation. If you were to ask any of your students if they could remember that one day of the year (Christmas), a day that occured more than five months ago, I will bet the vast majority of your students will be able to describe for you the gifts they received, when they woke up, maybe even the weather outside. Yet we worry that our students won’t be able to remember the lessons that we have taught day after day, all school year long, only 77 days into the future? The issue has nothing to do with whether a child has enough worksheets or books to read to maintain their memories (my own kids have done no Christmas related worksheets or read any Christmas books since December 25th). The issue is that Christmas Day was made to be an event. It was not presented to kids as a task, a lesson, or something to be memorized like so much of our school based instruction , yet it has made its way into our children’s memories.

As educators, our job is not to create lessons, but to establish memories. We need to stop saying that we teach content, and beging to embrace learning that lasts, education that endures.

As your school year is wrapping up now, don’t spend your time brainstorming the extra tasks students can do for you this summer, begin to think up ways you can create some amazing experiences kids will remember long into the future. That’s where lasting learning comes from.

It’s Like Riding a Bike– it really is. We have all heard the saying “Once you learn how to ride a bike, you never forget.” This is so true. Even if you haven’t hopped on a bike in years, if you learned as a child, you can get on a bike tomorrow and go for a ride around the block. The learning you acquired when mastering this skill has endured. This is lasting learning at it’s finest.

So in these last few days/weeks of the school year for so many, I challenge you, don’t treat these days as lame duck days. Treat them as opportunities to make memories. Memories last. Lessons are forgotten.

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Feel free to check out my full site at www.schmittou.net to see other thoughts and writings I have or visit https://www.amazon.com/Like-Riding-Bike-David-Schmittou/dp/1480845124/ to order your copy of It’s Like Riding a Bike: How to Make Learning Last a Lifetime, today.

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