Sunday, August 24, 2014

Back to school

Our kids started back to school this week.  The teachers started back the week before so it's been a pretty busy couple of weeks.  A lot of people don't really understand why teachers are so exhausted the first few weeks (months) of school so let me try to illuminate you.

Imagine that you've just spent the last two months do whatever you like.  For many teachers, this involves another job (like working summer camp, tutoring, or painting houses).  Then you come back to your real job and for the last two months, people have been thinking about ways to make your job more efficient.  In the first week of school, they spend time explaining to you how to do that.  Then you have to completely unpack and re-arrange all of your work materials because in the two months you've been gone, they've come in and cleaned the floors (you may also have had to move your things from one room to another room, possibly on the other side of the campus).  There may also be new materials that you need to review and learn to use in the next week.

Then there are the kids, who, in all honesty, are what makes this job really good.  But there are new ones.  If like me, you see all the kids in the school, there are a few new ones (in my case, a few is 40-50).  In most classrooms, all the kids are new to the teacher.  That means there needs to be a time to learn about your student (and for the student to learn about the teacher) so there need to be assessments and discussions of rules and expectations and reminders that even though you've spent the last two months doing what you want, there are 20 something of us in this room now and things are going to look different then when you are home.

It's fun coming back to school.  I love the anticipation of the new things that are going to happen.  I even like being back on schedule (although I wouldn't complain if the day started a little later).  I like seeing all the teachers and the kids.  School is awesome but I'd be lying if I said I didn't come home the first day and need a nap.

I did get to read some new books this week.  Every year we participate in the Sunshine State Young Reader award.  This is an award put out by the Florida Association for Media Education (FAME).  They put out a list of books and the kids who read them get to vote on which one they think is the best.  Our kids have been very excited about the books each year so I was a little annoyed that I didn't get the books on the list until this week.  I like to read them so I can recommend them to the kids.  So this week I read two.  The first one was called The Adventures of a South Pole Pig by Chris Kurtz.  This story is about a little pig named Flora, who really wants to go on an adventure.  She escapes her pen one day and finds that the dogs she's been hearing bark are sled dogs in training.  She REALLY wants to go with them, so one day, when men with a truck come to take the dogs away, and they come for a pig, she puts herself out there to go to.  She's very excited about all the new adventure and all the animals she meets along the way, but it's not really as glamorous as she thought.  She's down in a dark, smelly hold.  Rats eat her food.  She's by herself.  And the cook keeps calling her names like "my little pork chop".  She ends up making friends with the cat and helping the cat kill rats and then there is a shipwreck.  It's pretty exciting and has tons of great themes to talk about like how helping your friends can help you in ways you never thought possible and setting goals for yourself, even if they seem impossible.  I loved this one.  It would be great to compare this one to books like Charlotte's Web by E. B White or Mercy Watson by Kate DiCamillo which also have pretty heroic pigs.

The other one I read is called Elvis and the Underdogs by Jenny Lee.  It's about a boy named Benji, who was born prematurely and has many health issues but not too many friends.  He faints during stressful situations and one day instead of fainting, he has a seizure.  That means he's either going to need to wear a helmet or get a therapy dog.  His mom says no to a therapy dog so he gets the helmet and is immediately involved in what appears to be a bullying situation.  So they get the dog.  Except that the dog they get is a mistake.  The dog that comes is supposed to be the president's dog.  He's been highly trained and is super smart and he can talk.  Over the next few days,  the dog (who Benji calls Elvis) helps Benji make friends and go on some pretty exciting adventures.  I thought this one was ok.  Some of the fantasy elements were a bit much for me.   But I do think it would be great to compare this one to a story like Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo... the themes of friends and dogs would be good together.

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