School’s Out!!

Our last day was last Thursday, May 22. I think the teachers were all as glad to see the end of school as the kids were. There’s something that happens to kids at the end of school where, when they see it coming, they just shut down. About three weeks early. Rumor has it that our school is going to a balanced calendar in the near future, so there won’t be any long vacations. I don’t know if that will help with the shut-down issue or not. Kids are kids, and when they see a vacation in the offing, school is the last thing they want to be thinking about.

I think things ended pretty well. This semester, all but one of my students passed English. There are going to be a lot of kids in summer school, and there are no aids there to offer support. The curriculum isn’t as challenging, but a lot of my kids just need reminded to keep focused on the matter at hand, that being school. I hope they do well.

We are testing reading levels using Accelerated Reader as a way of showing how our students progress. I saw the stats for two of the “regular” English 12 classes, and I was taken aback. AR gives reading levels by grade, and none of the “regular” students were reading at sixth grade level. My kids are only a small percentage of these classes, so the problem is bigger than lack of ability.

What is it then? There are, I think, several factors to consider.  Here are just a few.

1. Our district is rural,and a lot of the families are poor. Many of the parents don’t have a lot of literacy skills themselves, and school is not a priority for them. I think it’s easy to see that students will have problems if the adults at home cannot help them. Many of these families are busy just surviving.

2. Technology is an issue. As every adult knows, kids know all about technology. They don’t see any reason to look things up in a dictionary or an encyclopedia when they can just Google things for reports or go to An added benefit of these sites is that no one needs to alphabetize, a skill that every school child is expected to know. Is such a skill outdated? Maybe. However, we are always putting things in order. You can’t just Google things from textbooks; you have to know where the index is –or the glossary–and how to use them. You also need to be able to use a table of contents. Alphabetizing is one of the simplest kinds of ordering things, so in my humble opinion, it’s still a necessary skill.

Another problem that I see with technology is that it is a distraction for the kids. Cell phones and I-pods that come to school find their ways into the classroom, usually when they shouldn’t. I know parents want their kids to be safe but, theoretically, once your child gets to school, he or she should be there until the end of the day. Any communication you need to have with them could go through the office. That would be much less distracting. As for the tunes…my kids are in a special program in part because they are easily distracted. We let a lot of them listen to the tunes when they study, but it can be a problem keeping the ear buds out of their ears during regular class time.

The last problem I see with technology is this–I don’t think kids in general pay sustained attention to much of anything. When you are dealing with high school students who have attention spans of ten minutes or less, a forty-minute class period can become a kind of torture. Parents are always complaining, wanting teachers to make things more interesting, and I see their point in a way. You should try to make your lessons interesting and connect them to your students. However, you cannot interest all of the kids all of the time, and some things have to be learned whether you like them or not. For me it was math….

3. Partially because of the pace of our society, adults don’t talk issues out with kids, and in my opinion they are desperate to be talked to. They can’t know about issues if you don’t bring them up, and it’s hard for them to get in the habit of thinking things through if they have not been taught to do so. As I said, the poorer families in our district are just busy surviving, but in some of the other households, the kids are so busy with jobs, friends and other things, that they seldom interact with adults. I remember being a teen and thinking that adults didn’t know much, but if you can’t talk something out with someone who has more experience, what do you learn?  And when?  I don’t really know if the problem is talking or listening…

I am grateful for my job. Being an aid is a way for me to contribute without the stress of a full-time classroom. At the end of this year, we found out another English teacher was leaving, and all eyes turned to me. I’ll admit, I thought about what it would take to get me back teaching full-time, but the hubby and I made the decision to “down-size” to this job together, and I am teaching. I don’t get the big bucks, but then again, when the bell rings at 2:30, I go home without any papers to grade. I am not in charge of either planning or discipline in the classroom.   I have a limited number of students that I can reach more effectively.

I’d like to end with a popular, sappy teacher quote that really expresses what gets me up and going to work each day. I hope God grants me the drive, the enthusiasm and the health to continue doing so.

A hundred years from now, it won’t matter what my bank balance was, the sort of house I lived in or the kind of car I drove…but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.

–Kathy Davis

My world is different–and oh, so much better–because the kids are important to me.

2 Responses to “School’s Out!!”

  1. 1 Carol May 27, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    Hi Becky,

    Congratulations on making it through another school year! Next week will be our last week of homeschool here at Abundant Life Academy, and I am ready for the break. I totally understand about technology being a distraction for the kids. Our kids wanted to get i-pods a couple of years ago, to which we said no. I’m so glad we did, because it seems like i-pods are just another method for kids to tune out and be isolated from their families and adults in general. Our daughter does have a cell phone but has been pretty responsible with it. She mostly talks to friends who don’t live around here and her aunt(my younger sister)with whom she has a close relationship.

    One thing I really do like about homeschool is that we often have opportunities to talk about a lot of the issues of life. I think kids really need that, and there are so many that don’t have this available in their homes or their schools.

    Anyhow, I’m glad there are teachers and teacher’s aides like you that are making a difference in these kids’ lives. I can tell that your heart is in that, and I believe your students must sense that too. God bless you as you continue to work with these kids.

  2. 2 Becky May 28, 2008 at 8:50 am

    Do you and the kids have special plans for your summer off, Carol? I think my kids sort of relished the lack of structure vacation brings. I hope you all have a wonderful last week and that God brings you all sorts of refreshment over the summer.

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