The year was 1979. Rod Stewart and Peaches and Herb were topping the charts, and there I was staring blankly at my math test, feeling lost. Although I should have been able to do two-digit long division, I really couldn’t. It all seemed so complicated and I froze.
The fourth grade was coming to an end and instead of feeling proud of all I had accomplished, I felt overwhelmed by what I hadn’t.
But that summer, my mom made one of the best decisions about my elementary academic career that she ever made: she hired my teacher, Mrs. Lewis, to tutor me over summer break.
I remember my mom walking me over to Mrs. Lewis’ house, just a few doors down the street from us. I would sit around the kitchen table with Mrs. Lewis a couple of times a week for an hour each time, and although I never really wanted to go to see her, when I left, I felt so relieved. She helped me to review fourth-grade math concepts and to preview what was to come in fifth grade. This review-preview technique was really effective and the summer was a perfect time to use it!
By the end of the summer, I was finally understanding long division, and I also understood fractions, decimals, and percents. I had come a long way since that fateful end to fourth grade… When I went back to school that Fall in the fifth grade, I had never felt so much better about math, a subject I never liked my whole life.
The time I spent with Mrs. Lewis really paid off. Not only did I feel confident going into fifth grade, but that confidence motivated me to actually study for math, something I had never done before. This also helped me to get great math grades, another feat I had never been able to accomplish.
Although my grades in math were never bad before my summer tutoring, they were mostly Bs with an occasional C, I really didn’t understand the work at a deeper level. I superficially knew how to solve the problem, but I didn’t really understand how numbers were connected to each other, and I had no idea why I even converted fractions, decimals, and percentages in the first place. But now that I was in fifth grade fresh off of summer tutoring with Mrs. Lewis, things were clicking and making sense for me—I had both the content knowledge and the confidence to tackle fifth-grade math with ease.
Fifth grade ended with me doing well in math and because of this, my mom was happy and I really didn’t do much of anything that summer. I watched a lot of General Hospital and Days of our Lives. I went to a few camps, but I didn’t work on academics, and boy was that a bad decision.
After that summer, there I was in sixth grade feeling lost yet again. Although I was young at the time, it really hit me how much one-to-one instruction I needed and the positive impact it had on my life.
This pattern of taking summers off continued until I was in high school when I finally realized that my mom was right and staying academically active over the summer was the right move for my academic career and my emotions.