Friday, June 13, 2008

In The Good Old Summertime

There's time in each year

That we always hold dear,

Good old summertime.

With the birds and the trees

And the sweet-scented breeze,

Good old summertime.

When your day's work is over

Then you are in clover,

And life is one beautiful rhyme,

No trouble annoying

Each one enjoying,

The good old summertime.

In the good old summertime,

In the good old summertime,

Strolling through the shady lanes

With my baby mine;

You hold her hand

And she holds yours

And that's a very good sign

That she's your tootsey-wootsey

In the Good Old Summertime.

The 2007-08 school year is over today...Friday, the 13th. Most kids and teachers are counting it as a "lucky day" (not unlucky). This will be my last post for this school year. I'm undecided whether I will continue it next school year in late August. It has been fun and I have learned alot because it made me much more observant. The blogs effectiveness is still in question on whether it changed any mind-sets, opinions or practices in relation to its goal: to promote and be an exponent for the expanded 3 R's (cubed) i.e. less teaching to and for testing and more learning/teaching for the pure pleasure of it. I have observed the very best and the very worst in practices and rubrics and tried to report/journal on them. I have tried to suggest and summarize my beliefs and opinions about what our public schools (k-8) should be doing. Who knows if it will have any measureable or recognizable ripple in the mainstream of current curriculum.

Two days ago I had occasion to visit three of my favorite classrooms/teachers from this past year. I had to thank them and let them know they were a positive part of this blog. I also had to sing a couple new songs to two of the classes. In the one, I had to share "woody" my new ukulele. It was in this class that my old one broke in my hands while I was playing it. I shared a song that came to me while I was "reclining" in my new chair and feeling "retired". It is the song above. It is probably an old "wood-shedding" barbershop ditty. (yes, that's part of me too) I asked the kids if they knew when summer, as a season, really began. None knew it was the "Summer Soltice", June 21st, the longest day of the year for us. Most thought that summer started when they got out of school for the year...when I was I child, I did too. It was just a different feeling time, i.e. I could go barefoot, run in the sprinklers, play board games and go camping. They had a laugh when I tried to explain "tootsey-wootsey" as an old fashioned way of saying "sweetie-pie" or "honey-bun". (or whatever they say today) Actually for me, it was a time when I missed my "school friends" especially my current "girl friend". Now I'm with my life long "sweetheart" and we hold hands alot. I met her at camp in the good old summertime.

I also sang a new version of an old song they knew, "My Bonnie". I got these new words from my daughter-in-law from Va. She has recently been our house-guest. They go like this:

All rabbits have cute shiny noses.

I tell you this just as a friend.

The reason they have shiny noses?

The powder puff's on the wrong end.

Wrong end, wrong end...

It is cute and they had another laugh. One of the special teachers gave me the pencil you see above leaning against the hour glass. She was giving them out as prizes to her top students in music.(she was the Orff-Schulwerk teacher) It allows me to come back next year and "play any of her marvelous instuments". Oh joy! (my favorite is the biggest bass marimba)

The other teacher was in between classes and handing out yearbooks. She had some of the most creative art lessons that I had to interprete...under the stress of a few reluctant, recalcitrant and rambunctious students. I don't know how she does it everyday. I could see that the kids use her room and her as a "harbor" and "safe place" in that "storm of a school". Yes, I assured her, she could invite me back next year, even though I know I'll have to go where they send me on my "art prep period". (it is the law) "They own me for 7+ hours" and I may not end up where I signed up to go and teach. My lesson from her? Her level has to be a "nicer, kinder place" for these intermediate aged students. I saw the results of her kindness and "second-third-fourth etc. chances" that she regularly gave these stressed out students. Her rubrics were there, first of all, to help the kids find themselves and like themselves and Art.

There are other teachers that I have shared this anonymous blog with. They are also my favorites. They were trying to do the job on top of "testing" and teaching how to take tests. They are creative and inspiring teachers and I wish them well. I hope they don't get burdened down in the "testy" district's regs/standards and their obsession with proving their worth only on paper tests at the end of trimesters. School and Life Long Learning is so much more than that. Peace out! RRR

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Current Events Time?

With all that is currently and catastrophically happening in our world today, it is no wonder that this educational "time" has been stricken from the curriculum by most "upper grade" teachers. In all of the 4th through 8th grade classes I've worked, I've found no evidence of any awareness of the latest "news" local or around the world. It is just simply ignored and not part of the "standards" which are so required and tested for.

When I taught, back in the "prehistoric times" when "dinosaurs roamed the earth", I required a weekly "current event" oral report from each student. I had certain qualifications and limitations. It couldn't be about "gang violence, murder, politics, religion etc." It couldn't be about "adult subjects, i.e. child kidnapping, rape, porn etc. It could be about local news, environmental, science, national or international places, outer space, sports etc. They could bring in the actual newspaper clipping or a write up off the TV news program or radio.(most families don't get the newspaper anymore) They each had their day so we had about six reports a day. They were very brief and oral with only the "5 W's" and maybe a "how" for extra credit. i.e. who, did what, when, where, why and how? One sentence per "w" would do it. If they could use the map with Lat. and Long. they got extra credit. We had a bulletin board for their "news" and it was cleared, by the students themselves, once a week. It prompted great discussions and questions about our growing awareness of our city, state, country, hemisphere and the world. Yes, it was geography.

Just for fun this last week in a couple 5th grade classes I mentioned the "Triple Crown" which happens today. Only one boy even knew about it and it was because his father watches the "Sporting News Channels". They were so interested in it and whether "Big Brown" would be the next "Triple Crown" winner since it hasn't happened for 30 years. Many of the girls perked up when we got to talking about horses and the tragic result of the Kentucky Derby's 2nd place, (filly) winner. This got into a discussion about "euthanization" and the possiblility of running "Big Brown" too hard. He has had a bleeding hoof. Are they pushing these racing steeds beyond their capabilities? Just the oral exercise of "thinking on their feet" and organizing their thoughts about the "five question words" is a tremendous challenge for our youngsters. They would underline the "w's" in the article and/or assume one or two of them and that then would be open for discussion.

Now, most classes open with the "Daily Bite" which are 6 questions on the overhead to "edit" and answer. One or two are about punctuation and capitalization. One is about math (story prob.) and one is about U.S. geography. Then they might have a paragraph to write about a current topic the teacher thinks up, i.e. "What if "you are what you eat" were really true?" Then we get the usual question, how many sentences make a "paragraph"? (current ans. five sentences) I usually answer that it depends on the subject and what you know about it. Sometimes it is harder to write less sentences and make them more precise. (like this blog post)

I recently found a geographical quiz in the AARP magazine that I reproduced in larger, poster type title tags for a group quiz. The title of it was, "Organize This." Then it had 4 categories: Oceans, Seas, Lake and Rivers. Then there were 20 different titles of the same, 5 in each category. ie. Atlantic, Caspian, Nile, Michigan. I have tried it in 4 classes so far and it has been quite a revelation. 50% is the average score...maybe less. They are not required to actually locate them, just know whether they are Oceans, Lakes, Rivers or Seas. Wow! Is this a part of our knowledge that is no longer necessary?...except for nerdy Geo-Bee contestants? (most of these are home-schooled)

For this very reason, "Camp Gramma-Pa" is going to be a "themed adventure" again. Last time, last year, it was "Around the World in Three Days" (stopping in as many countries as possible for prizes) This year, "Seven Wonders by Seven Seas" (of course you can find many, many more for prizes, wonders can be ancient, modern, natural, engineering or undersea) Our two grandchildren are now eight and ten...perfect ages for this mapping adventure. We will emphasize traveling by water, sea, oceans, lakes, rivers, gulfs, bays etc. We are planning crafts, games, arts (fine and performing) all around this theme. ie. "Oceanopoly" (just like Monopoly) We'll have "Davy Jones Locker with a treasure trove" It ought to be fun...even for the grandkids! RRR