Sunday, June 28, 2015

One Last Heart-Warming Story from 2014- 2015

One of the final activities of the school year is "Relay for Life" (walking to raise money and awareness for cancer patients) .

As you may have recalled from earlier posts, one of my classes got very passionate about the water situation in developing countries. We were in touch with which provided some fabulous educational resources, but with all of our fundraising initiatives already in place, we didn't fit raising money for them in.

But just to honor their awareness the grade 6 class developed an "extra credit challenge" to "Relay for Life." We labeled (five) 5 gallon buckets with this message ... "Kids in developing countries have to carry water for their families many miles each day . Can you do it ? "

We put the filled buckets out during the Relay.

I introduced the challenge by saying "We want to see if these buckets can make it around the field once . You can carry for a bit and put it down and hopefully someone else will come along and pick it up. "

Those buckets didn't touch the ground once during 90 minutes.

There was no incentive, or prize. Kids who normally wouldn't even think of drinking tap water out of their faucet without filtering it, were willing to carry big buckets of dirty water around a field on a 90 degree day  !

It was beautiful to see who rose to the challenge... it wasn't only the predictable "good students" or traditionally "do gooder" helpful kids. It was all different types of students; Ones that were normally quiet, ones that wrestle with behavior or learning problems . So many different combinations of pairs or triplets , different grade levels genders. A small grade 5 girl was trying to carry one and two bigger grade 6 boys came along to help. One student dressed in long sweatpants carried it by himself around the field twice !

I hope it will resonate with them as an empathetic experience. I know it showed me and everyone who witnessed it,  the amazing character of our middle school students, and made my heart sing before leaving for the summer.

I know it isn't anything compared to the real struggles that some students around the world have, but it is reassuring to know that kids can care and understand. I will try to get those (now) grade 7 students organized to set up a fundraiser and maybe all the students who participated will also help donate.

I hope each of us finds small ways this summer to try to understand how others live.

Holly Foley

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Closing doors- opening windows ?

The end of school year is always a precarious time. Everyone is exhausted from diving to the finish line. You feel that that you have created such a strong bond with the students you've spent every day with for months and months. You reflect back on the learning and growing and really are so impressed with the miraculous journeys.

On a personal level, I am at a hugely precarious juncture, as I am being considered for the job of my dreams right now. I will probably know the fate of that situation early next week. I know I'd have so much heart, soul, experience and learning to share with this new community of learners. I've provided the committee with every shred of evidence I can think of, to convince them to take a chance on someone who has not yet been a principal. All I can do is wait and pray at this point.

In the meantime, in class this week I have a few touching stories to remind myself that if this door closes:

 1. The room I am left in in,  is an incredible place and I am very lucky to even be there.
 2. The lessons I teach every day about grit and tenacity won't let me give up, and I know I will have a friend or colleague ( and probably several) who will always be there for me to help me through tough times and help me look for the next window.

Story number 1 - I do end of year reflections. I ask students about the topics they feel they have become the strongest experts on, the ways they've grown as a learner and person, the policies, projects and resources in my classroom that I should "keep" or "ditch" . Again this year I am overwhelmed by the variety of experts, the amazing learning, the honest and helpful feedback from my students. I love when I anonymously read aloud the "keep" and "ditches" and get powerful arguments from students who want to defend, what someone else wants to ditch . And the several responses of "don't  change a thing, this class is perfect and I've loved coming here every day" don't hurt either.

Story number 2 - One class of my six  (a grade 6 class),  due to scheduling conflicts, is ahead of the others and completed all the reflection activities, so I gave them a choice of free time or finishing up a movie they watched one day last week. Only one student voted to continue the movie. Students split themselves up into small groups to play card games, talk or draw; a few read or draw alone comfortably). I use these times to monitor and observe friendships and note what students do when they aren't programmed or scheduled or told what to do (like the other 99.9% of their lives) .

That one child who has been struggling on and off socially throughout the year was visibly unhappy when everyone split off and he didn't have anyone approach him about joining an activity. (He really would have preferred to finish the movie, he doesn't want to read or draw alone) After giving him a few minutes, I called him over and said

Me - "you know if you just ask "Can I join ?, any group would let you "
Him - " no I really can't do that"
Me-" Do you want me to go with you ?"
Him - "No,  can I just go to the nurse, my neck hurts"
Me - I realize that if I switch the activity to the movie and ask groups not to talk, it will be obvious and may reverberate in resentment from some students. I also can't assist putting him in a group against his will because that will embarrass him. Sometimes I can make eye contact with a student and get them to realize what is going on, but no one is really paying attention to us. So I say I have a few errands I needed him to run if he wasn't busy and his neck is ok . He is reluctant, but a little grateful for the exit strategy.

Then in swoops a superhero student (and not one I would have predicted) who is watching my interchange from with ### from across the room .  He says "Hey Mrs. Foley, you know I really really want to watch the movie too. Maybe we can put it on and sit close to the front of the room and the people talking softly won't bother us. " I want to hug this child . Great idea ! A few others joined him and ### was rescued and supported by these peers.

I know my peers will rescue and support me from any disappointments too.

I know we have all had a great year of learning and growing and we all have many adventures ahead. I will be fine continuing in the middle school classroom if that is the outcome and if I do get the position I am desiring any blog fans will be inundated with my new adventures and experiences.

Have a great summer !