Quite too often, the stretch of school year from Spring Break to the end - in the case this year 10 weeks - can be much too long. I affectionately refer to this period, from time to time, as the grind. This is not due to the fact that we are at school and working. On the contrary, time usually flies with a steady stream of full weeks and plenty to do...those are my favorite stretches of time. What can make this stretch tough is two weeks splintered by state testing (Mid-April), an increase in meetings - staff, team, annual IEP, year wrap-ups, next year preps, etc. - throughout these weeks, and a subtle yet powerful pull of students 'checking out' as the end approaches and the mercury rises. It's hard to blame the students too much; we all did it, it's part of being a kid and certainly a human being. You look forward to the end of school years, to summers with friends, to being done with homework. Another contributing factor is state testing. Once they are done, many students feel their 'work is done' for the year, and instilling the philosophy of being a lifelong learner can be a challenge.
Because of all this, breaks in the action are always welcome. Tomorrow brings a great change - our community service learning day. A chance to get outside, get our hands dirty, do some physical work and help a great cause in the process. Every fall, our entire 6th grade group (roughly 315 kids) goes to Camp Friendship @ Camp Edenwood in a neighboring suburb. Students spend the day goal-setting and using teamwork to conquer obstacle courses, low-ropes courses, and finally high-ropes courses and rock-climbing walls. Last spring, we started giving back, going for a day to help clean up camp, plant gardens, clear buckthorn, clean up the beach, paint cabins, and anything else that needs to be done around the camp. Why? The money saved by the organization, Friendship Ventures, can be used to provide scholarships for kids to attend summer camp there for people with physical and developmental handicaps. Additionally, it makes the camp a better place for these kids to be.
No matter how the weather turns out to be, it will be a great day of service learning. Our students will get a chance to see the world through someone else's eyes and help the community around them. For all of us, it will be a great break from the 'grind,' helping us all re-charge our batteries, sharpen our focus, and appreciate all we have in our lives.