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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

End-of-year Review

      Enjoying three days off upon completion of a new job in the elementary school that my daughter attended a few years back, a school I have always been fond of. It was a very rewarding year in many ways, namely, I got to do the kind of work I love to do. My title was "site coordinator" but most of my time and energy went into planning and teaching after school enrichment clubs for children in grades K to 5, that are meant to reinforce what the teachers are doing all day in fun and unusual ways, and to prevent academic failure, especially in literacy. A perfect fit for me really. I never became a traditional classroom teacher because I can't stand the constraints of rules and regulations and need to have a fair amount of freedom to respond to what the students at hand most need. This year I was able to do just that.

     Not all of my clubs were literacy focused, though I work literacy into every one. Even when I teach children's yoga, I work literacy into the lesson. But many of them were all about books; The Eric Carle Book Club was a blast, The Pete the Cat Club was a big hit, as was the Beatrix Potter Book Club. For the older grades, I taught a Graphic Novel Club, a Playing with Poetry Club, and a BFG club where we put on a play at the end.

  Digital literacy is important too, and I introduced official author apps in my book clubs as an optional activity. These kids are trying the Eric Carle apps.
 A tea party in the Beatrix Potter Book Club was really a literacy / math activity.

       This pic was taken in a science club I taught that was all about elephants, but we did lots of literacy stuff as well.

      One of the first clubs I taught last fall was a Cursive Handwriting Club for grades 3 to 5. I think penmanship is an excellent enrichment program when schools have trouble fitting into the school day. I encouraged all of my students to enter the national competition and trained them for it. Only one of my kids wanted to go the distance. She practiced and gave me her best effort, and I sent her entry in. To my delight, she won the New Hampshire competition and her entry was forwarded on to nationals. Here she is receiving the award at the end-of-year assembly.

      In her winning entry she wrote, "It helps me be a better writer because cursive helps me learn how to write words in a fun way. It helps me be a better reader because when I write in cursive I see words ..."

   In addition to designing and teaching clubs, some of the other initiatives for literacy I took this year were to bring in the first after school author-in-residence, Terry Farish,
and to oversee an optional 25-minute silent reading session every day that turned out to be quite popular with a large group of children that really need some silent, downtime.
     Another addition I made was to end each day by reading aloud to the children, no matter their age. The reasons for that could fill an entire blog post!

      One more: early on in the year, I saw that the early release day programming, (when we have the children for an extended period of time), needed work. I decided that the only way I could endorse movie watching (which the kids enjoy and it does give them a nice change of pace) was if we made it literacy based. I curated a series of movies for the year that were all movies adapted from books, such as Stuart Little and Charlotte's Web. The movies were preceded by a book talk about the author and his/her work, and followed up by fun activities related to the story. Big kids had to write a film review. These two pics were taken the day they watched Paddington.

     There were lots of Paddington books to check out, including an antique first edition.
      Kids were encouraged to bring their own favorite bear to watch the movie with and then made name tags for them.

      I loved doing this work. Getting kids excited about books and authors, about reading and writing, and sharing my love for books with them is important work, and there isn't much I'd rather be doing. But I'm not sure I'll be doing it next year.       There are a whole host of reasons why I'm unsure; the job is changing and I'm not sure what it is changing into, the grant that funds the program is on Trump's hit list for complete elimination, and coming sooner, I've been informed I am likely to lose my ACA health care. I may be forced to find a job with benefits (I currently get absolutely none contrary to what Kellyann Conway says). I wonder how society is better served by me bagging groceries instead of working with at-risk students?

     I'll keep pondering it, but in the morning I am off to head up summer camp enrichment programming. I'll keep at it as long as I can ...

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