Bah Humbug

Where I come from the school year never went past Memorial Day. It typically ended sometime the week before. In Minnesota the year drags on into June. It’s just painful. Honestly I’m not looking forward to spending summer home with all four kids, but at the same time, I stopped caring about anything related to school a good two weeks ago.

And gathering from the curriculum of field trips, picnics, sports days, concerts, and service projects, it’s clear that the schools no longer care either. As someone with a background in education, I understand how difficult it is to hold a child’s attention not only toward the end of the year, but all year, and that’s why I get so frustrated with the school schedule. Instead of extending the year to the point where everyone is so burned out and full of summer fever, and the only alternative is to do, basically crap, I wish we could cut back on the number of meetings, in-services, testing, and other garbage throughout the year. The constant push I hear from educators is that the kids need to spend more time in the classroom. I disagree. They need to spend more productive time in the classroom.

But I don’t see myself running for the school board anytime soon, so I just sit and write out checks. $10.00 for a field trip to the Landscape Arboretum. $20.00 for an end-of-the-year movie trip. Donations for this charity and that. With four kids, it adds up exponentially. Then the worst thing of all. The e-mail from overly involved mom organizing the teacher gift. These frustrate me to no end. And it’s not because I don’t appreciate the job that teachers do. I do. A million times over. But it’s really no one else’s business to dictate to me how I should express my gratitude. If I want to buy a little gift or just send a personal handwritten note about what the year has meant to my child and me, that’s my decision. The biggest problem I have with this is that I know there are families in my kids’ classes who do not have the means to contribute, and I think it unfairly puts them in a very difficult position. So starting a few years back, I made the decision to ignore those e-mails. I don’t know if my child’s name is signed on the card or not, and I don’t care. I’m not sending $20.00 in a backpack for my kid to give Susie Lou’s mom to sign my name to a gift card.

So I guess that makes me the springtime equivalent of Ebenezer Scrooge, but it irritates me. Why waste two whole weeks? So much learning can take place. It’s a golden opportunity to make subjects like science, history and language arts FUN. And without the pressure of tests, homework, quizzes and projects. Games, documentaries, puzzles, discussions, role-playing, books, art, models, competitions. I could go on for hours. The last two weeks could easily become the most fun as well as the most meaningful two weeks of the year by simply immersing kids in the subject matter. Just don’t let them in on the secret that they’re not just having a great time with their friends, they’re picking up valuable information too.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2012


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