• Robin Glembotzky

A Summer Slide like no other

Today is June 17th. 3 months ago, schools here in Colorado, were on their Spring Break. But it was a Spring break, unlike past Spring Breaks.

COVID-19 had arrived. The first case, in Colorado, was identified on March 5th. We already had seen how fast it was spreading in other States. There was much that was not known about it, including how easily it spread. But the term "social distancing" was rapidly becoming part of everyone's vocabulary. And this Spring Break was surrounded by questions.

Would students be returning to school after Spring Break? And if not, what would be going to school look like? Would there even be school? How would the teachers teach?

As millions soon found out, the school was about to change and it was not going to be easy.

Many teachers found themselves having to rewrite their Spring Semester lesson plans. Often at the last minute. While many schools made the decision to close their doors for the rest of the school year, some held out from making that final decision. I had a student, in Massachusetts, who was told they were going back the first week of May. Only to find out, at the end of April, they were not going back at all. This was not an unusual situation. So, many students, parents, and teachers were left waiting to hear a final decision.

All of this resulted in enormous stress on everyone.

Because the biggest stressor was not knowing.

-Not knowing if students were going to go back this school year.

-Not knowing how students were going to take exams.

-Not knowing how students were going to be graded.

-Not knowing how teachers were going to teach.

But one of the biggest unknowns was, "how will this affect the student's learning?"

For years parents have heard about the "Summer Slide". It's a term used to describe the learning loss over the Summer break. How students lose their reading and math skills over the summer.

But, this model was based on data from the 1970s and 1980s. Back then, if a student wanted to read books over the summer, it wasn't so easy. They would have to convince Mom or Dad to drive them to the library and back again. Sometimes you ended up with your already read library books sitting around. Life is different now. Students can pick up their phone and read a book. Many libraries have an assortment of ebooks available.

A more recent study (Early Childhood Longitudinal Study) presents a different perspective. This study followed two sets of students. One group started kindergarten in 1998-1999 and the other started in 2010-11. The data showed more of a "Summer slowdown" than a loss.

So, what does this all mean in our current situation with the pandemic?

Again, there are many unknowns. Because things happened, so abruptly, it was difficult to put new plans into place. Some schools held live classes, via Zoom or Google Classroom. Others posted assignments for the students to keep up. In many States, finals were eliminated completely. This resulted in many parents fighting with their children to study. If there was not to be a final, there was little incentive to continue studying. Other school districts offered a final to help boost your grade if you were borderline. But what if you were sitting at a solid B and taking the final wouldn't change that? Would you study?

Many teachers, suddenly found themselves teaching online. It was akin to being thrown into the deep end of a pool after only swimming in the shallows for many years. I teach at an online college. It's been online long before COVID-19 ever arrived in the United States. And there is a great deal of training we, as instructors go thru to teach online. The K-12 teachers didn't have that advantage. The teachers did the best they could in a difficult situation. They are to be applauded for what they did.

So, what is the bottom line? Will students have a more severe "Summer Slide" or "Summer Slowdown?" That picture is still fuzzy. COVID-19 is still around and it is turning this Summer into anything but typical.

So, how can we help students to be ready for the Fall semester?

Here are some ideas to help your student.

Encourage them to read. As you know, I tutor high school students. How about having them pick out a book that you can discuss together? Maybe they are reading The Great Gatsby or Animal Farm. Something you read when you were in high school. Pick it up again and chat with them about it. They may see something new.

Help them stay organized (or get organized!). While we don't know, exactly what the Fall will bring, we do know that students will be back learning. And that means a schedule, of some sort. Help them prepare. Get them a planner, but let them choose it. And get them to start writing things down. "Talk to Mom about book".

Help them explore the world. Even virtually will help them keep learning. Here is a link to some museums, around the world, that you can visit virtually. My favorite, the Smithsonian National Museum is offering virtual tours, as well.

And remind them it's ok to ask for help.

They've been standing on shaky ground for months and now they are finally able to take a breath. We don't know how this pandemic and the school closings will impact the students this Fall. All we know is we can do everything we can to help them start off on solid footing.

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