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Sterne School Summer School: Ed McManis

May 10, 2010

From time to time, I interview camp directors to get their advice for parents planning their kids’ summer. Last week, I spoke with Ed McManis, the Head of School at Sterne School. Sterne School runs a summer school program, and is one of the few programs in San Francisco that enable students to earn academic credit over the summer. I was very interested to talk to Ed and learn more about summer school.

Let’s start with a very basic question – what’s the difference between an academic summer camp and summer school?

Summer school has a set curriculum that it covers during the summer period. It may even offer academic credit for classes taken. In contrast, a summer camp will take a more exploratory approach to the material. A writing camp may take on creative writing, allow kids to try new styles of writing. Summer camp programs will often take a more leisurely approach to the subject matter. By contrast, summer school typically focuses on skill development and ensuring the key topics are covered.

Who can benefit from summer school?

Many students can benefit from summer school. Of course, summer school is often recommended for students that are struggling or a little behind their peers in the core academic subjects. But summer school can also help any student with executive functioning – learning thinking strategies, study skills and developing “college survival skills.” These skills can really help students in the later high school years and in transitioning to college, even if they are already performing at a high level.

How can parents be sure to find the right summer school for their child?

Talk to the teacher directly. This can help you make sure that the program will meet the needs of your child.

What questions should a parent ask a summer school?

-How tailored is the program to the needs of your child?

-What is the training and background of the teachers?  Do the teachers already know the program or are they being brought in from outside to teach the courses?

-How much flexibility is there in the curriculum?

-How many kids are in the class?

Smaller programs staffed by teachers experienced in the program and with strong training, will have a much greater ability to tailor the course to the needs of the individual students.

How do you prepare your kids for summer school?

Have your kids be part of the decision. Summer school can have a negative connotation. Help your child understand why this is a positive choice for them, and how they will benefit. What will be the impact of attending summer school? Discuss the plans for summer school in context of the full summer. Your child won’t be in summer school for the full summer – what other activities are planned that they will look forward to?

Also, keep in mind and let your child know that the summer school experience is very different from the school year experience. For a struggling student, school can be stressful as they feel behind the other kids and as if they are not quite getting it. In summer school, classes are smaller and attention more individualized. Teachers can meet the students at their own level and help them along. It’s a very positive experience for students.

Any last tips for parents?

-Be nice to your kids! Remember, it’s all developmental. One year, your child may need academic support, another year, they may need support in social skills. Parents can sometimes get overly concerned that their child is attending summer school. Summer school allows you to give your child the support they need so they can move forward.

-Focus more on your child’s strengths than their deficits. Their strengths will be more important in the long run.

-Remember, it’s their summer experience. Give them ownership for summer school and let them learn from their mistakes.

Lastly, please tell us what is special about Sterne School Summer School.

-The teachers are highly trained and know our program. That enables them to provide individualized attention to the students.

-Students get to learn about how they learn. This can help them achieve greater academic success going forward.

-Students will learn skills and techniques that will help them beyond summer school.

-Students can earn academic credit in our program.

-Students get valuable prizes! I can’t tell you what they are. You have to come to see!

Parents can call any time to ask more specific questions.

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