Connecting with Students Experiencing Summer “Loss”

Andrea BitnerBlog, Connect Better


  • While many experience feelings of joy and freedom when summer arrives, other students dread it.
  • What are ways you can maintain connections with students over the summer months?

Peace Out? Maintaining Summer Connections 

It was the last day of school!  As I gathered my take-home treasures and sprinted with satisfaction toward the school parking lot, I couldn’t help but feel a moment of conquering.  “We DID it!”  We finished the 2021-22 school year.  A year that many of us found challenging.  A year where on many unpredictable days, we had to dig DEEP to “find the good.”

Many of our students flew past me, each celebrating their own accomplished mountain in some way.  Shouts of “School’s Out!” “Peace Out!” and “Slay All Day!” echoed in the halls as middle schoolers soared to the local park to celebrate.

I no sooner reached the parking lot than my phone was buzzing.  I peered at the screen and it read “School Office.”  “Hmm, I thought.  Did I leave my keys with them?”  I gathered my wondering and answered the phone.

“Ms. B?” they said.  “N is here crying.  Her teacher sent her to find you.”

“N?” I questioned.  “That’s strange.  We high-fived chatted and hugged to celebrate summer this morning.  What’s going on?  Put her on the phone.”

As I heard N pick up the line, she was gathering her breath and sniffling.   “Ms. B.,” she quivered. “I am just so sad.  I don’t want it to be summer.”

It was at this moment that I was reminded of the feelings that “taking a break” from anything in life can cause. For some of us, it’s jubilation.  For some of us, it’s restorative.   Yet for others, it’s heartbreaking. For some of our students, the term “Peace Out!” takes on an entirely different meaning.

It was at this moment that I was reminded of the feelings that 'taking a break' from anything in life can cause. For some of us, it's jubilation. For some of us, it's restorative. Yet for others, it's heartbreaking. Click To Tweet

The Impact of Summer Vacation

Many schools spend time teaching and learning about academic loss during the summer break.

We read articles that share information such as:

“This study found that the average student lost 17–34% of the prior year’s learning gains during summer break, as well as that students who lose ground in one summer are more likely to also lose ground in subsequent summers” (American Education Research Journal).

I wholeheartedly recognize the importance and advocacy of academic sustainment for our students who need it most.  The summer opportunities that our schools tirelessly create, promote, enroll, and instruct are often the life jackets that students need to continue to swim towards achievement.

However, with N’s phone call on my mind, I am also wondering: Who will sustain her social and emotional growth? How can we continue to support her, and other kids who are losing their peace too, with their daily cup of connection that is often severed for 10-12 weeks on the day school ends?

Below are some ideas I shared with her.  By the end of our 15-minute conversation, she had stopped sniffling.  A plan was established.  She spoke confidently, calmly, and with hope.  My hope is that the conversation below does the same for other students who are losing their peace too.

Creating a Plan: Summer Connection

“N,” I answered.  “I understand why you are sad and worried.  It’s hard when your favorite teachers, friends, food, routine, and safety are halting.  I want to remind you, that it is only for a short time.  Less time than it takes to make a season of “Stranger Things!”  But, do you know what?  I know that summer can be a time of fun for you.  Mommy has my summer phone number, email, and Talking Points App.  Remember how she just messaged me yesterday?  She can find me anytime!  I also know you love hanging out with A, B, and Z.  You’ll be heading to the park a lot too!  And, you can go to W anytime you want!”

N’s voice stopped cracking.  “Yes!” she replied.  “I love hanging with Z!  And W!”

“Absolutely,”  I responded.  “I also know you love to go to the beach.  Will you email me family photos of you with your eight brothers and sisters?  Or if you are having a fun day at the park?  I can’t wait to see how many adventures you will have there!  I also want you to remember I created a class page for everyone to post their summer photos with family.  You have to add yours!”  She started smiling through the phone.  I could feel her confidence and sense of control growing.

“One more thing,” I added.  “If you have any new trouble.  Any house worries at all.  Do you remember what we talked about?  You can walk to school and talk to the office team, call 911, email Dr. T, or share with someone at your daycare.  We are all here to help you, and you can always, always find us.”

N sighed.  I’m not sure if it was a middle school sigh of annoyance or a sigh of relief.  What I do know is that she felt validated, informed, and prepared.  In the last 30 seconds of our last day of school, she said “Thanks Ms. B.  I’m ready to go back to my teacher now.”

[scroll down to keep reading]

Summer of Connection

It is students just like N who depend on the option of a summer connection.  It will sustain her emotional needs through the frightening hiatus that occurs for her every year.   As educators, I encourage us to validate, inform, and prepare our students who need emotional sustainment.  It ranks high on that totem pole along with academics.  I look forward to hearing about the creative ways you encourage your students to connect with you, and each other, in the summer!

Remember:  You are their ticket to academic and emotional success!

About Andrea Bitner

Andrea Bitner is a proud wife and mother of two beautiful daughters. She lives on the East Coast among some of the fastest-speaking people in the country! She has worked with students from all over the world in grades K-12 through her twenty years in public education. Her work as an English Language Teacher, Reading Specialist, Literacy Coach, Presenter, and High School English Teacher inspired her to continue to share the great news: Learning a Second Language is an asset, not a handicap! She hopes to inform, influence, and inspire all readers and leaders to continue to be a champion for all stakeholders in the education community around the world.