Today I had the chance to dig myself out of the office for a while and go out to visit schools. I love doing that because it always reminds me why I’ve chosen to do the work I do.
I visited our district’s alternative school first. This alternative school is not a disciplinary setting like many alternative schools. The program is designed to allow students who’ve gotten behind in credits to make them up on an accelerated schedule. Kids apply to get in, and they have to be committed to turning things around. The best thing I saw during this visit was a writing class where students worked in groups to develop background information for essays to be submitted to the “This I Believe” segment on NPR. The groups discussed a series of common statements, such as “Money can’t buy happiness,” and “You can see a person’s true character by the way they react in a crisis.” Then, they indicated whether they agreed or disagreed with the ideas. The ensuing sharing session was incredibly moving and a real insight to the challenges that brought most of these students to the school in the first place.
A visit back to the high school, where I worked for 8 years prior to taking my current job, highlighted a lot of what is right with today’s kids. Yes, I said what’s right! The seniors read The Ultimate Gift this fall, and now many are participating in service projects inspired by the book. Hearing about how committed these kids are to making a difference in their world, by providing new clothes and toys to the local emergency children’s shelter or travelling to Mexico to build homes during Spring Break, is so inspiring. As one girl said, “What I realized from reading this book is that senior year shouldn’t be all about me. I’m worried about stuff like where I’m going to go to college, but so many people are worried about things like where they’re going to live or how to get food. This has helped me not stress so much about college or what I’m going to do after that.”
Once I’d had a bit of the secondary school experience, I headed to a couple of the elementary schools to get my fix of cute kids! In one school I watched as kindergartners used the language lab. They are so absolutely adorable, and I am always in awe when watching a really effective kindergarten teacher–talk about classroom management.
I ended my trip at Soccer Boy’s school. He is feeling much better today (though Gym Girl seems to have caught his bug!). I couldn’t resist sticking my head in his room and saying “hi” as I made my way on down the hall. I also saw a lot of his friends during this visit. It’s always funny to see their reactions since they think of me as “Soccer Boy’s mom” and not as a school employee.
Once I’d said my hellos, I visited some teachers who are working in teams to meet all their students’ specific needs in reading and math. Using pre-test data, they divide the kids into four groups twice per week and then each teacher takes one group. Doing this allows them to address the needs of all the kids, whether those needs are for remediation, enrichment, or on-level instruction. It’s challenging to do all of these things at one time, and this partnering allows the teachers to really focus on just one piece during the team times. It was great to see all the students and how excited they were about their lessons today.
All this visiting provided some inspiration to tackle my afternoon meeting of the day. Fortunately, I have a bit lighter schedule tomorrow which should allow me to get my evaluation summaries written as well as to dig out from under the pile of paperwork that’s collected over the week. I’m looking forward to the weekend, which I hope will bring a nice recovery for Gym Girl as well.