Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Got the Summer School Fever

Today is my one and only day off this week, and will be my last day off for the next two and a half weeks.  Starting tomorrow, I begin my time of teaching summer school for 12 days.  I was lucky enough, though, to land a couple of days of substituting for a fellow co-worker who needed to take Monday and yesterday off.

Teaching the second session of summer school is hard.  Getting out of school for the year, having a few days off, and then going back to teach for two weeks isn't the most ideal situation.  Everyone that teaches summer school covets the first two week session, because it's a lot easier to carry on the routine as usual for an additional two weeks and then being done for the rest of the summer.  It doesn't really bother me either way, because as long as I'm getting some time to teach, I'm happy.

Up until Monday, my assignment that starts tomorrow was going to be teaching elementary P.E. in the morning and Minecraft in the afternoon.  I was OK with that assignment, but I had originally asked to teach Jr. High.  Last year, I had such an amazing time teaching summer school with the Jr. High kids, that I wanted another go at it this year.  Unfortunately, Jr. High teachers get first dibs on that, and there were enough of them that I wasn't able to get a spot.

However, last week, I was feeling a little relieved.  The Jr. High kids this year are quite the rambunctious group.  They are loud and hyper, and there are SO MANY OF THEM!  There are WAY more kids in the Jr. High classes than there were last year.  So, I just accepted my assignment and thanked my lucky stars that I was going to be with the elementary kids, and the time would fly by with ease.

A few weeks ago, my fellow Jr. High teacher friend found out that I was kind of bummed that I didn't get Jr. High and asked me if I wanted to sub for him for a couple of days.  I quickly agreed, thinking more about the extra money than having the opportunity to work with the older kids for a couple of days.

Well, once again, I have caught the Jr. High summer school bug and thoroughly enjoyed my last two days.  Are the kids rowdy?  Yep.  Are they loud?  Oh yes.  Can they be disrespectful?  Sure.  Did I have an absolute blast?  ABSOLUTELY!!

I was given the assignment to teach Social Studies in the morning and games in the afternoon.  The social studies topic was World War II.  I'm not exactly much of a history buff, so I was a little nervous about taking on that task.  The teacher explained what they'd been discussing for the first week and a half, and told me that the scheduled assignment for the day was for the kids to work in groups to figure out how to "ration" supplies and food to feed a family for a month.  I was also given the option to "do my own thing" if I could think of something else to do.

Do you really have to ask which option I went with?

Yeah.  I came up with something else to do.  I know these kids, for the most part.  I know their interests, I know what gets them curious and willing to give up the "I'm too cool for this stuff" routine.  That's not saying that I think what I want to do is better than what they would have done had I not been there, but I wanted to do something I was comfortable doing.  Something I had some knowledge of doing.  Something that I actually did with my 4th graders last year, and they enjoyed so much.  So, I printed off blank Facebook profile pages and had the kids create Facebook pages for people that would have lived during World War II.

At first, they were kind of unsure.  I had several that didn't want to break their routine of acting like they were 13 going on 30.. but after they saw everyone else getting in to it and talking and sharing their ideas and "status updates" they all started to follow suit.  I had some that chose to be soldiers, some that chose to be Nazis (that was a little scary), some that chose to be wives that were sent off to work in factories, some that were kids, all focused on the stuff they had learned about the war thus far.

It was so interesting to see some of the stuff kids came up with.

One of my students chose to be Eva Braun (Hitler's long-time girlfriend, short term wife).  We Googled her to get some info, so her Facebook information would be accurate.  Then the student wrote comments such as..

"Nobody knows him like I do, he thinks he's doing the right thing #Jewsarebad"

Other students made up status updates such as..

"I'd much rather be home taking care of my house than working in a factory #missmyoldlife"
"It's hard to kill people, but I want to defend my country #soldierlife"
"The world won't be saved until all Jews are gone #WorldDomination"
"I hope I can save enough sugar to make a birthday cake for my kid #rations"
"Hiding is no fun at all, but at least I have my diary #DiaryofAnneFrank"

Don't you love the hashtags?  Several of the kids really did a great job of tapping in to what they thought life would be like back then.

The afternoon was pretty laid back.  I made my first summer school mistake (probably won't be the last) by having the kids participate in a full class game of "Brain Quest Truth or Dare".

And I bet my bottom dollar that anyone read that and just thought "WHAT?? She allowed her students to play Truth or Dare??!!"  It was those feelings you're now feeling that made it a short lived game.  Once my principal heard about it, he quickly shut me down.  Not because I was doing anything inappropriate, but because of the stigma that's attached to the name of the game.

The sad part is, the stigma is attached to the game because it was a game we played as kids, and how we played it as kids.  Of course, it DEFINITELY wasn't a game we played in a classroom.  It was a game we played with our friends, and the truths and dares were always edgy, risky, and downright embarrassing.  That's NOT what I was doing AT ALL.

I had the kids break in to four teams.  Each turn, the team designated a team representative.  That rep came in to the middle of the room to answer a question from Brain Quest.  Basically that's a trivia game based on school subjects.  They had to either spell something, figure out a math puzzle, answer a social studies question, or name items in a group.  If the representative got it wrong, they had to complete a truth or a dare.  I was the keeper of the truths and dares, so I dictated what was going on.

When the kids missed a question, I had them act like monkeys, or sit in the center of the room and sing a song, stuff along those lines.  The "truths" (which I only had 2 kids choose that option) asked who they thought was the best teacher in the school and to share an embarrassing (school appropriate) moment with the class.

It was all very comical, and EVERY single kid participated without being coerced.

But, again, the name of the game got me in a little hot water.  Had I named the game "Brain Quest Challenge", I'm sure I'd have been allowed to continue.  Yet, I sometimes forget that it doesn't matter a bit how innocent something is if there's a stigma and automatic judgement attached.

So, that game was axed as fast as it was invented.  My bad, I live to learn from my mistakes.

Yesterday, I changed up my approach and the classes, instead, played a game of Pictionary Charades.  Basically, I broke each class up in to two teams and each round a person came up and got to choose to either draw or act out a given thing.  I gave them books, movies, places, things, people, etc.

Once again, EVERY single kid participated without coercion and they all had a blast.

I enjoyed my time so much that I have agreed to switch with another teacher who would like to spend some time teaching elementary kids for the second session.  I will teach Jr. High in the morning, and then teach Minecraft to the younger kids in the afternoon.  The best of both worlds.  And I can't wait!!

I don't know what it is about those older kids that makes me have such a good time.  Maybe it's because I'm a big kid at heart, and I sometimes forget that I'm 32 and the "teacher".  I participate in all the games and activities I teach, and it gives me a chance to have a lot of fun.

The best part is the fact that I earn the kids respect by being such a goofball.  I don't have to worry about them being disrespectful or misbehaving when they are with me, because I have one rule when it comes to being in my class:  Treat me the way you want to be treated.  If they are nice to me, I'm nice to them.  If they're not, well, then they realize the 30 minutes they get to spend with me will probably be the longest 30 minutes of their entire day.  It won't be fun.

I make mistakes.  Like the Truth or Dare incident.  I try and find activities I think will appeal to them, and don't really take time to think about the repercussions.  Not because I blur the line between teacher/student relationship, but because I am naive enough to think that if there's no harm in what I'm doing, nobody will care.  But, there doesn't have to be harm for their to be speculation.  And in this day and age, I'm realizing that speculation is just as bad as inappropriate behavior.  I don't have to be doing something inappropriate for speculation to come about that I am.

It makes me very sad, but I understand the rules completely. I just need some friendly reminders now and then that we live in a world where you have to be more careful than ever before.  I'm just happy that I have an administrator that can deliver the news to me in a way that helps me learn rather than knocks me down.  And I am still learning.  Nobody's perfect.  Everyone makes mistakes.  As long as I learn from them and move on, I'll be just fine.  

For the second session, I'm going to be teaching volleyball in the morning to the older kids, which is what I was going to do with the younger kids.  I like doing active stuff, it's the little bit of exercise I can make myself do.  We may throw a few games of dodgeball in to the mix, because the kids sure do love their dodgeball.  It's going to be an amazing time, and I'm going to enjoy every minute of it.

Today, though, I'm going to enjoy my last day off for a couple of weeks.  I finished reading another book, so I'm going to take a trip to my local library today and get a library card.  I don't remember the last time I was a member of a library, and that's crazy because I LOVE reading.  Having the library card will also give me something to do with Jelly when summer school is over.  She really loves me reading to her before bed, so we'll be able to run down to the library and pick out a few books.  She's also starting to read them herself, and it's so important to keep kids reading during the summer.

Alright, that's it for me.  Have an awesome Hump Day everyone!!

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