August 18, 2014
For over three decades come mid-August, plans for the up-coming school year’s bulletin boards and the content of my back-to-school letter occupy my thoughts. In fact, I am composing this in-flight from California where my husband and I enjoyed a mini trip to Mendocino. Tomorrow I’ll return to Athey full time.
Because learning is what our connection is all about, I’m going to tell you what I learned this summer. I’ll start with the fun stuff: stand-up paddleboarding. You probably know that this water ‘sport’ involves standing on a surfboard-like platform while maneuvering with a long paddle. Falling off occurred often my first day, which embarrassed me because those paddleboarding around me made it look so simple. I considered throwing in the towel, but I persevered, not allowing myself to give up. For a week, every day I lugged that heavy board beyond the breakers, hoisted myself onto the board, and sitting or kneeling on the board, I paddled until I became accustomed to the rolling motion of the swells. Then I would attempt standing up. Honestly, I never fell into the water after the second day, but I fell onto the board a few times, even bruising my ribs.
Perhaps you paddleboard like a pro, and think it’s easy – – – you’re not wrong. I gained skill with practice, but Mother Nature continued to present a challenge as Hurricane Iselle approached Kauai. The wind churned the ocean, increasing the size of the swells, but I persisted despite the conditions that caused a bit of fear.
When I wasn’t in the water, I lounged with some good books. Summer is my reading season, when I devour fiction. Additionally, I require myself to read at least one teacher resource book. This summer’s was Academic Conversations, which detailed how organized classroom talk serves as an instructional activity for students. I’m excited to use classroom conversations as an in-class learning tool this year.
Also, I’m excited about two new novels that will serve as the primary sources for units of study during second semester. Both novels, Alligator Bayou and Warriors Don’t Cry are seeped in historical context that will prompt academic discussions, critical thinking, literacy development, and personal growth in reading and writing.
Two weeks ago many language arts teachers attended curriculum camp where we worked together to create the units of study. The 8th grade teachers from all three middle schools worked diligently to complete our units by the due date. Not only did I learn about the content of the novels and some United States history, but also I witnessed the power of working in a group in which each member contributed valuable ideas, resources, and individual task completion.
It is my hope that you take tip or two from the points I’ve embedded in this letter about learning. Can you identify three of them?!