While many teachers are sending students home for summer vacation with worksheets and equations to tackle, one Pensacola teacher is thinking outside of the box with her approach to keep kids sharp over the long break.
It's basically "the non-summer packet, summer packet," and it's been detailed in a now-viral Facebook post created by Lipscomb Elementary School first-grade teacher Betsy Eggart.
Eggart, 36, encourages parents to get back to some of the basics of life with their kids like tying shoes, behaving at the dinner table and putting away the iPhones and iPads to spend quality, uninterrupted time together.
The teacher of 13 years also reminds parents of the importance of slowing down and letting kids rest and relax so they're not burned out by the next school year.
"I feel like when we just keep going and going and going, we hit a wall, and I think as adults we know that," Eggart said. "We know for ourselves when we've been through a really busy season at work we hit a wall, and our kids do, too."
She sees a lot of burnout happening during the spring. That's when baseball season picks up and the height of state testing season coincide. Getting involved with extracurricular activities is great, Eggart said, but she's seen it tire kids out by the time they get to class. That's why she believes recharging during the summer months is key.
"We wanna do the sports, and we obviously do school and all the things that come along with it, but I feel like summertime should just be summer and a time to breathe," Eggart said.
Eggart said she was inspired to create the post — which is nearing 200,000 Facebook shares as of Thursday — when a parent of one of her students asked if the teacher would be sending students home with a summer packet. She told the parent "no" and felt a little guilt about it.
"I felt a little like, 'Am I a sub-par teacher or something, maybe I should have done that!'" Eggart said. "But I just haven't ever seen the true importance of putting together a packet of worksheets to send home with my kids, so I've never done it."
Eggart offers nearly a dozen bullet points of advice within the post that she thinks could help children develop both in school and everyday life:
- "Teach your child to tie their shoes. Find a fun trick! Watch a video! Give an incentive! Be persistent! Just make sure your child isn’t the one dragging their laces through the bathroom and cafeteria then asking the teacher to tie it."
- "Sit at the table and eat together. Really watch your child. Is he sitting on his knees, mouth wide open, food everywhere? This is how he looks in the cafeteria. Work on that."
- "Don’t rush to the rescue. Hear me out. Our children need us. But they need us to let them learn to problem solve. If your child is in a situation that is frustrating, but not harmful (example: can’t put together a new toy, can’t open a Lunchable, can’t decide which color shirt to wear) let them work it out! It saves time and our nerves to just do it! But in the long run, it’s crippling our children of the basic and necessary skill to problem solve and think through an issue ... for themselves. Hang back ... just a bit. They’ll be OK!"
"You have no idea how many kids cannot open their lunches in the cafeteria," Eggart added, in an interview with the News Journal. "And need us to come open their Tupperware containers and things like that because they're used to it being done for them."
A mom in her own right, Eggart has two kids: 8-year-old Jackson and 1-year-old Emma. She said she practices what she preaches with her own kids. Some of her ideology on summer break was even inspired by a moment she shared with her youngest.
"I'll tell you the cellphone moment with me, when I said, 'OK, this is not good,'" Eggart recalled. "I was looking at my phone, checking email or something and my 18-month-old came up to me, and she pushed it out of my hand. And that's when I thought, 'Oh my goodness. I'm gonna make time when I get home from work to just leave my phone on the counter.'"
Eggart said she's been blown away by the response to her post. The reaction online has been almost exclusively positive.
She was even interviewed by Good Morning America on the subject.
It's not clear if the packet will be made into an official packet endorsed by the school anytime soon, but Eggart has made her "Summer Packet Letter" into an online document that can be bought and downloaded for $1 on TeachersPayTeachers.com, an online marketplace where teachers buy and sell original educational materials.
Eggart said she was tipped off to the website by a friend and has already sold more than 600 copies of the letter. She added that the whole last week-and-a-half since making the post has been amazing and she hopes it leads to a lot of productive — yet chill — summer seasons for kids everywhere.
"It's made me proud, and I think teachers as a whole, we like what we do and we're passionate about we do, but a lot of times we're unsung heroes to the point where it's almost awkward to say I'm proud of it," Eggart said. "I'm happy it's resonating with a lot of people because I'm hoping lots of children are going to have a really full, meaningful summer."