Every year, as the final week of December classes approaches, I’m taken back to my first year at the school. As houseparents, Martha and I had been told that decorating took a while and that it was both meaningful to the kids and fun for adults to help out. So at 11:00 on the designated night, we tiptoed down our corridor and down the stairs so as not to tip off the (hopefully!) sleeping sophomores and juniors on our corridor that they would wake to a magically transformed winterscape, and gathered in the Capen Room with a good-sized crowd.
Founders’ Day is a middle school tradition originated by the 10 founding students of the program. In late spring of that first year, they proposed that beginning in the following year, the middle school have an annual holiday from classes in May, with all activities completely planned by students. Their goals were to honor the middle school, to have fun, and to remember the Founders. The seventh grade Founders, of course, were also able to participate in the first annual Founders’ Day as eighth graders, and so they helped set up a number of traditions including breakfast brought in from Dunkin’ Donuts.
This year, then, was the 9th annual Founders’ Day. The students began with an overnight in the middle school building. Their first activity was tie-dying, followed by laser tag and other games and then by a movie (they voted for the Lindsay Lohan version of The Parent Trap). Sleep came... when sleep came.
Spearth Day was born of a series of compromises, but has become one of the key dates in the waning weeks of our school year. Many years ago, the students asked for a special day to celebrate the mailman who played such an important role in their lives (today's students, for whom email is old-fashioned and texting is routine, would probably find this odd). We called it "M and M Day" for "Mail Man Day," and besides presenting him with a card and gifts when he finally showed, we played an all-school game of Capture the Flag and found other ways to celebrate. Over time, M and M Day evolved and became more organized - for one thing, the tradition of the talent show was begun. Meanwhile, earlier in the spring, Earth Day remained a day off for service - cleaning up local parks and rivers, clearing trails, and so on. The two days were eventually combined into one, and the name "Spearth Day" comes from "Spring-Earth Day." We spend the morning doing various service projects on- and off-campus, have the Talent Show after lunch, follow that with games and booths organized by classes and clubs, dedicate the yearbook and pass out copies, and end with a barbecue. This year, for a special treat, there will be a dance performance by the Senior IB dancers.
Filed Under: Spearth Day, Teaching, Alumnae, School Happenings, On Education, Bill Ivey, Celebrating Holidays, Beautifully different, On Parenting, community, In the Classroom, Performing Arts, performing, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Graduation, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School
Annual discussions of whether making New Year's resolutions serves any purpose, and if so how best to make them, are by now as much a part of New Year's traditions as the resolutions themselves. But for those of us who teach, the chance to make mid-course adjustments is often irresistible. That tug may be especially strong in a year when many teachers report a more subdued holiday season than usual with the events of Sandy Hook so fresh in our minds.
As I do every Monday, I walked into my Humanities 7 class and asked, “Who wants to read their independent writing today?” Several people did, but a greater number said they weren’t sure and asked for me to write their name on the white board in parentheses, our special code for “I’ll decide at the last minute.” The last few weeks, there had been increasing numbers of parentheses, a trend I had decided needed to stop in its tracks.
So while the students who were reading were starting up their laptops and pulling up the documents, I decided to whip open my iPad and search online for Taylor Mali’s poem, “Totally like whatever, you know?” The poem begins, “In case you hadn’t noticed / it has somehow become uncool / to sound like you know what you’re talking about?” and ends with these lines: “Because contrary to the bumper sticker, / it is not enough these days to simply QUESTION AUTHORITY. / You have to speak with it, too.” We had a great discussion about the poem, and they totally like, you know… got it that I am working to teach them to “speak with conviction.” Our discussion ended with the following dialogue:
Filed Under: Middle School, Teaching, Grades 7-12 and PG, School Happenings, All-Girls, Dream, On Education, Celebrating Holidays, Boarding and Day, All Girls Education, In the Classroom, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, The Faculty Perspective, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Martin Luther King Day, Education
The signs were there for anyone to see, so on Thursday evening, when I passed a large group of middle schoolers standing out on the oval talking in hushed tones, I was no more suspicious than I already had been - even when several kids called out in falsely hearty voices, "Hi, Bill" and they all laughed. It seemed this would be an April Fools' Day to remember.
December is always an odd month for schools with boarding programs. We have less than three weeks of classes, not even enough time to complete a full unit, and it seems that students are filling out travel forms for the next vacation before they’ve even completely transitioned in from the last. The month is especially difficult for many middle school students, as young adolescents tend to thrive on routine, and the feeling of unceasing change can unsettle them even more than older teenagers.
Yet it is also a festive time. Several students announced the first day of Hanukah, and one of them passed around bags of chocolate coins. A student turned 13 and became a teenager, sharing chocolate chip cookies and receiving congratulations. Another student announced Saint Nicholas Day and described her family’s traditions for that occasion which include putting out shoes the night before in the hope they will be filled in the morning (they were). And as one student who was Christian began a countdown to Christmas in the “Non Sequitur” folder for semi-random email announcements, another student who was Jewish began to post messages explaining which night of “(C)HAN(N)UK(K)A(H)” it was in a friendly point-counterpoint.