Sunday, September 28, 2014


The author as a 7th grader.
Methinks the self-pity was appropriate. 
I was your text book under-achiever back in middle school. I scored well on achievement tests, particularly for reading and writing, but my grades hovered in the C range. My only As were in chorus. Had there had been courses in teen angst, self pity, and general malaise with suicidal tendencies, I would have garnered a place on the honor roll for sure, but science, math, social studies? Not so much. I was not built, then or now, to sit at a desk and absorb information and then spit it back out again, and I was certainly not built to complete fill-in-the-blank worksheets. If memory serves correctly, my teachers chalked up my issues with homework completion and lack of focus to my being LAZY. If they had looked a bit closer they might have seen that, along with my being a text book under-achiever I was also a text book child of an alcoholic, and homework was the last thing on my to-do list. But to be fair memory may not serve correctly -- after all, it's been nearly 30 years.

Every year I have a certain number of kids who I can point to and say, "Yep - this kid's just like me." I know I'm not supposed to have favorites, but honestly, the bright kids who suck at school are my favorites, because I can relate to them so well. There's also a place in my heart for the kids who are bright in non-academic ways, the kids who can build a computer or know about crop rotation or can tell you anything you want to know about every kind of fish in the Saco River. And since those are my favorite kids - the slackers and let's call them the "hands-on" kids - I have been thinking a lot over the years about the myriad ways I am letting them down.

When I say "I", I don't just mean I. I also mean the structure of Saco Middle School, the way we "do" school. Ever since I watched this video and this video of creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson, I have been questioning, worrying, and trying to figure out how to create change within my little 55 minute block of ELA. It seems bananas to me that after all we've learned about education and the way kids learn we are still sectioning off our day in 55 minute chunks of "sit and git." I've become an avid reader of the website and have tried to incorporate the ideas of Project Based Learning, again within my little 55 minute block. And I've looked for opportunities to share my ideas with colleagues and my principal. I even wrote up this proposal and this idea to try and get my message out there.

And guess what? It worked. My principal and I met last week and she and I are putting together a committee to try and re-think the way teams/scheduling/Alt Ed are done at SMS. I'm super excited about the possibilities...and super nervous that all my teacher friends are going to hate my guts. Change is hard, you know?

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