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Summer school — is it the new cool? PDF Print E-mail
Written by JOHN MORTON   
Wednesday, 19 July 2017 18:21

Andrea Graham is among the NOSD teachers who are having fun by creating fun for the summertime students

Not only does it not have to be a drag, summer school can be downright cool.
At the Northern Ozaukee School District, even the teachers are discovering this.
Shortly after Andrea Graham joined the district six years ago in her first job out of college as a Spanish teacher, she taught two years of summer school. Her class was remedial Spanish — not much of a departure from her usual curriculum and hardly a place the kids were eager to be.
“My husband laughed at me a little when I told him I wanted to teach summer school,” Graham said of her bypassing the often-coveted carefree summer. “But the classes were very structured and it was what I knew.”
Also, the wage was attractive at about $23 per hour.
Still, she didn’t want to burn out, so the past two years she decided to take a break from it. Instead, Graham worked for a vendor at the festivals in Milwaukee.
But this summer, with a new house in the mix, Graham decided to teach summer school again. This time she took a different route.
Instead of going back to what she knew, she rolled the dice and pitched the idea of two new class concepts — a Harry Potter class, which would allow her to discuss a subject she loved, and Fiesta Fun, where instead of conjugating verbs she’d be taking students on imaginary trips to Spanish-speaking cultures all over the world.
“It’s been as fun for me as it’s been for the students,” Graham said.
But it came at a bit of a risk.
“The way it works is you pitch an idea for a class and if 10 or more kids sign up, you get a contract,” she said. “Fiesta Fun was the one I was worried about, but next thing I knew I had 22 students on board.”
She also inherited two classes started by a teacher who left the district — a strategy class, which promotes critical thinking, and a Survivor class based on the TV show.
“The Survivor class has 29 kids, but I already knew that one would be popular,” Graham said.
As a result, she teaches from 8 a.m. to noon Monday through Thursday for a five-week period that wraps up near the end of July. And it’s been an eye-opener for Graham.
“I’ve really enjoyed seeing the kids in a different setting, where it’s more exploratory and fun,” she said. “I’ve seen no behavior problems. It’s just a great dynamic.”
And she has seen some kids blossom.
“I have a couple of students who I had during the school year and they were always so quiet and sweet, but in my summer-school class they’ve become incredibly competitive. It’s been a fun transition to watch,” Graham said.
Graham also likes the idea there are no grades and no pressure – including on her.
“I’m so happy I don’t have to give tests and grades and grade homework at night,” she said. “There still is a lot of planning involved — probably more than I thought – but they do pay for one hour a day for prep time, so that helps and it’s appreciated.”
Graham also enjoys meeting new kids, especially the ones at the elementary level. She teaches Spanish for grades seven through 12, so she knows some of them will someday be walking into her classroom.
“Yes, I think getting to know me beforehand helps a student be more comfortable, especially with a foreign language where everything is new to them,” she said. “Being familiar with the teacher is a plus, because it’s not like walking into a math class when it’s a subject they’ve been working on most of their lives.”

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