Saturday, June 28, 2014

The end of June...

 the school year's dust has settled, for better or worse.

 It's done.

I've moved past those last few days of school when I just wanted to be DONE, when I couldn't wait for those kids to be GONE... to - gosh I MISS THEM!

So I find myself drawn to the stack of new math textbooks sitting on my home desk, that novel I want to share with students in the fall, and an urgent sense of working on school work, preparing for the fall.

Spread out before me, like birthday presents waiting to be opened.... I find myself once again sucked into school land, excited for the school year, excited to be learning along with the kids, and excited to find my way through another year of adventures.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Summer time = LEARNING TIME
Parents, don't just let your kids sit and vegetate all summer. Get them involved in some sneaky learning. Here are a few ideas:
 1. Check out your local library for summer reading programs. Parents of preschool and elementary parents often consider this option, but many libraries offer programs for older students and even adults. Our local library offers a series of 'tasks' for students to complete - some as easy as liking the library's page on Facebook - to earn rewards.
2. Check out your local museums, state parks, or National Wildlife Refuges. Just this week, I took my 5 year old granddaughter to Seney National Wildlife Refuge where we were thrilled to participate in Turtle Talk Tuesday  and learn all about turtles. Our adventure had her not only learn all sorts of science-y stuff, but she also got to make a fun turtle craft and release the demo turtle into one of the ponds. Most public venues offer summer programs for kids. What a great way to learn about something new!
3. Try your hand at cooking with your children. There are tons of cookbooks for kids. We really love the Candy Construction book that shows you fun creations to make from foods. Or check out a cookbook geared towards kids like Williams-Sonoma Kids in the Kitchen. Any recipe will help your child practice math skills, direction following, reading, and best of all, IT IS FUN.
4. Plant a garden. Ok, so maybe we are getting late in the season, but it is never to late to grow some salad greens or herbs. Both of these options are quick return and easy to grow, even in a small window box.
5. Volunteer together. It can be at a local food program, your church, or other organization, as or simple and unstructured as picking up trash together at your favorite playground. Teach your child that giving to others can be rewarding.

Whatever you do, do it together. Summer days fly by and before you know it, school will be back in session, the house will be quiet and clean again, and you will miss the bickering and whining ;)

Speaking of back to school, when you mind wanders to getting the kids ready for THAT great adventure, check out Personal Creations for cute personalized items like backpacks, lunchboxes and more. This company does a fantastic job of keeping your kids looking great while they are moving on with their education.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

The school year will officially be over at noon tomorrow, at least for students. Staff have to be here, technically, until 3:08, and then again next Monday, for our last day of professional development. But for all intents and purposes, the school year is OVER.

Like all years, it has had its highs and lows. 

I've seen students grow up; I've seen them soar; I've seen others regress; I've been impressed with some; I've been disappointed by some. I've loved them all, through thick and thin, and I will be sad to see them go on to high school.

While I still love my job, I find myself, with every passing year, losing more and more of the feeling that my job defines me. Part of that may be personal, with grandchildren who know take much of my free time. But the bulk of that loss comes from the changes in education.. locally and nationally. 

A good friend, a former middle school teaching colleague, is considering retirement. Another former colleague, who taught in the middle school with us, came to talk to me, asking about pranking the potential retiree. Back in the good ole days, the middle school staff was a bonded unit. We laughed, we pranked, we taught, we planned fun activities to challenge students, we had competitions between classes for fun, for academics, for just because it was Friday...

We took academics seriously. We pushed kids to their outer limits. We expected them to meet our expectations, behaviorally, academically, and socially. 

But we were a family. A large rumbly family, rough around the edges, but fiercely protective of each other, and most of all, of our 'offspring'. 

The middle school was THE place to be, the place to teach, the place to learn... WE were the COOL KIDS.

Now.. we are sucked into the high school... the 6th grade hovers on the edge of elementary. None of us really belong anywhere. We just exist.

And I wonder.. how much of THAT causes the apathy among our students... our staff... the lack of respect.. the lack of motivation.. 

So much of what we do now revolves around testing and test scores.. pre-tests and post-tests... And push 'em harder, and learn 'em faster, and get 'em ready for that next leap.. that we've forgotten they are just kids. We've forgotten that school ought to be about more than scores and learning. It is about being part of something bigger and better, where together we ALL are better.

If we could go back, be a middle school again, be US again.. would that change anything??