Summer Learning in 2020: Addressing Unique Challenges for the Coming School Year



Summer Learning 2020: The Challenges of Back to School this Year

Since the start of nationwide shelter-in-place orders due to COVID-19, I feel like I’ve been stuck on a treadmill. As the world shifts beneath me, I have been running to keep up with no clear end point in sight. I have had to adapt to a new style of working and learning that requires consistently seeking and developing new skills and knowledge. I suspect this feeling is shared by many people, but perhaps even more so by educators. We know that school is more than opening a textbook and learning material. School serves as the central component in many young people’s lives. For some, it is where several of their most meaningful relationships develop, where they learn how to work through their emotions, where their confidence is built, where they become critical thinkers, where they learn about social justice and unconscious bias, where they may eat the only meals they will receive that day, where they feel heard—and so much more for so many students. For schools to move to distance learning, educators were tasked with the challenge of figuring out how to continue to deliver those services to students on the fly. Then with the reigniting of anti-racist protests following the murder of George Floyd, educators have had to re-examine and adapt their lessons to support students and meaningfully incorporate these teachable moments into their curriculum. In short, educators have been running, running and running to keep up.

Now that school is out for the summer, the pace on the treadmill can be slowed a bit and time taken to reflect on lessons learned and how to move forward and prepare for the upcoming school year when so much still remains uncertain on what that will look like. While in-person summer learning opportunities may be canceled, the American Federation of Teachers and Share My Lesson are still continuing to provide free, for-credit, summer learning opportunities through weekly live webinars (later available on demand with closed captioning in English and Spanish) so that educators can enter the next school year feeling confident and have some reflective moments to share ideas, collaborate and catch a collective breath.


summer learning resources


Summer Learning: Adaptive Lesson Planning

Recognizing the lack of certainty moving forward, it is important to develop the skills and ability to be flexible and adapt lessons and teaching techniques when circumstances require it. Schools may open in the fall for in-person learning and then switch to distance learning (or vice-versa), requiring the need to adapt. Additionally, due to inevitable learning loss by many students resulting from the untraditional ending to the school year, students may be entering the classroom at many different learning levels, requiring the need to adapt lessons to meet each student’s needs. These webinars can help ensure that you are prepared to adapt to whatever is thrown your way:

Summer Learning: Building and Improving Skills

Responding to the pandemic this spring and the anti-racist protests against police brutality ensured that educators learned many new lessons; and now through these webinars, you can reflect on those lessons, figure out how to continue to build on them, maintain rigor for students learning remotely, and ensure that the most essential knowledge is being taught:

Summer Learning: Focus on the Self

As you prepare for the new school year, it’s also important not to forget to take time to learn how to practice self-care. I wish I could say that I practiced good self-care and took a step off the treadmill sometimes, but to be honest I didn’t take a break from the treadmill until I fell off of it. This forced me to modify my pace moving forward and to take mindfulness breaks. To name a few actions I took, I started going on walks and bike rides where I aimed to just focus on the environment around me, I started to take some time each day to eat my lunch with the work laptop closed, and I started reading a little from a book each night before bed that was meant purely for entertainment. As educators, one of the most important things you can do to help your students is to first take care of yourself. If you are mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted, you will not be able to best meet the needs of your students. Check out the following webinar that will help you take a step off the treadmill before you fall off:

Summer Learning: SEL and Trauma-Informed Practices

After learning to take care of yourself, you can better support your students. Students will be entering the school year with varying experiences; some might be traumatic experiences or fears resulting from COVID-19 and police brutality toward people of color. It will be helpful if you are able to enter the classroom with more resources to support social emotional learning and trauma-informed practices. These webinars can help you with this venture:

Summer Learning: Supporting Special Populations

Students who belong to special populations were among those hit hardest by the move to distance learning in the spring. To help meet their needs regardless of where the learning takes place this fall, check out these webinars:

Summer Learning: Primary Sources and Critical Thinking

Finally, the recent anti-racist protests are a much-needed reminder that we must dive in deep to re-examine what is being taught in our history and civics classes. I remember sitting in my high school freshman American history class while my teacher explained that history was more than what was presented in textbooks. In fact, we ignored the textbooks completely, and they remained neatly stacked on the bookshelf in the back of the classroom for the entire school year. Instead, my teacher pulled out a notebook containing detailed notes she had put together on every event and historical figure we would be learning about. She would paint pictures and weave stories of these events and people with her words; and she would discuss how the portrayals of these events and figures often depended on the person who was writing about it. She had us delve even deeper into American history through the exploration of primary sources, helping us become critical thinkers. It was after this class that I began to question and ask whose story exactly is being told in history. Check out these webinars to help students become critical thinkers and learn that U.S. history is broader and has many more, often difficult, perspectives than the often rosy picture depicted in textbooks:

While preparing for the coming school year is a bit different this year, we hope these webinars from the AFT and Share My Lesson have made it easier to jump into summer learning and prepare for the unique challenges ahead. Check out Share My Lesson’s complete curated Summer of Learning for Educators collection here. And don’t worry, the free, professional development webinars won’t end with the summer. More exciting for-credit webinars will be held this fall, so be sure to check back in!

Have you found other resources that have helped you prepare for the new school year? Let us know in the comments!