Advice from a real teacher.

Dear Mrs. James,
Should I send my son to summer school even though he "passed" the grade (but just barely)? He had two Fs and two Ds. The school said it is up to me. He's in seventh grade and I feel like I should give him another chance. I don't want to ruin his summer. I was thinking I could tell him that if he does this next year then he's definitely going to summer school and I'm not going to be playing around. What is your opinion?
Sincerely,
Sasha
Westerville

Time out. Did I just hallucinate? Did you just tell me that your son had two Fs and two Ds and that you don't want to ruin his summer? Did you then remind me that "he did in fact pass the grade" after you told me he got two Fs and two Ds? Are you trying to make my head pop off?

Sasha, let me help you. This is what I would tell one of my students' parents as well as any of my relatives about their children if they were in this same predicament. You're right. You shouldn't be trying to ruin his summer. You should be trying to ruin his LIFE! Two Ds and two Fs mean that he has done absolutely nothing all year with no concern about the consequences.

You definitely should send him to summer school. Definitely. Without a doubt. I'd ground him too. It's not about the fact that he technically passed the grade. It's about the principle. It's about the teachable moment. It's about the lesson that you're teaching your son that he will remember for the rest of his life.

What do you want your son to remember? What attitudes and values do you want him to develop? What type of work ethic are you trying to cultivate in his personal belief system?

Send him to summer school, Sasha. He may hate you for a while, but then thank you when he's older. You also are more likely to see a change in his academics next year, since he knows what the consequences will be if he doesn't change. If you don't, next year will probably be worse because he may learn that there are no real consequences for his academic misbehaving. Either way, you will be teaching your son an invaluable lesson. Let me know what happens. I know you'll make the right decision.
Love,
Mrs. James

Dear Mrs. James,
My daughters will be going into sixth grade next year. I don't want to overdo it (or make you threaten to slap me!), but I definitely want to still work with my girls over the summer. What's your opinion? If you agree, what books or other materials do you suggest?
Thanks! We love your advice!
Kerri Underwood (No, not the singer)

Hello Miss-Not-the-Singer-Kerri-Underwood! Thanks for writing me! No slapping here. I actually think you've got it just right and I agree wholeheartedly.

Keeping your children academically stimulated during the summer is extremely important. Think of it this way: whatever is taught during the last nine weeks of fifth grade is a prerequisite for the first nine weeks of sixth grade and most teachers do not review the previous year's material.

Many children who do not practice their academics over the summer tend to forget what they learned at the end of the last school year, which makes them underprepared for the following year. Follow me?

I think you should purchase a grade-appropriate workbook and require your girls to complete at least one worksheet every other day. My fellow science and social studies teachers might slap ME for this one, but I think it's a good idea to focus mostly on reading and math. This will keep their little brains stimulated so they can maintain the knowledge needed to be successful during the upcoming school year. You'd be surprised, but it really does help. A little bit goes a long way.

Whatever you do, don't overdo it! You're so right in having that mentality! You want this to be something fun and not too demanding for your girls. Remember, so many situations can be opportunities for learning. Purchase a Leap Frog game that the girls can play. On family game night, play Scrabble or Monopoly. Ask the girls to help you with cooking and measuring ingredients. They're all opportunities to learn.

Over the summer, let them have as much fun as possible, but keep them learning at the same time! E-mail me if you have more questions! Until then ...
Keep up the good work!
Love,
Mrs. James

Dear Mrs. James,
I want to know what you do over summer vacation.
Sincerely,
Myshenique Thomas
Fourth grader

OMG! Aren't you the cutest cutie pie!? This is officially my first letter EVER from a kid. Aww! How sweet of you!

Well, Myshenique, lots of teachers teach summer school because they can't stand to be away from their darling students for three long months! Some go on vacation, hang out at the pool every day, or even go back to school. I have a couple of friends who do volunteer work and enjoy the hobbies that they don't always get to do during the school year.

I plan to do some traveling, read as many books as I can, spend some much-needed time with my family, hang out with my dog and sleep in every day! Holla!
Have a great year!
Love,
Mrs. James

Rashaun James is the founder and owner of Mrs. James' Learning Club. As a successful and innovative middle school teacher, one of her many professional achievements includes the OCTELA Teacher of the Year Award. She lives in Columbus with her husband.