I voted against the two-week spring break schedule. The union put it to a vote last year, and the two-week break won out 51-49%. I liked starting later in the fall, and spring around these parts is pretty windy, while fall is postcard weather. And it puts a big Christmas-like hole in the middle of whatever you’re doing this time of year. Etc.

Right now though, it’s looking pretty good. I just realized that we’re eight days into April, and I haven’t worked a lick this month, and then some. I’ve been sleeping in every day, and even managed a couple of days of skiing. It was the first time in 12+ years, and I rented a pair of those short dog snow skates, 99cm, the better to imitate my fruitbooting experience, and didn’t crash…much. The weather was beauty, the snow was fresh, and everybody else was back at school, so the place was empty. I’m actually a bit tattered because I got so many runs in, and sunburned. So maybe next year I vote yes…?

Obviously I’ve been lagging. That’s the problem with this two week break thing; you forget how much you think you’re going to do but don’t actually get to because it’s not as long as you thought. Besides this blog, here’s what else I’m lagging on because I figured that two weeks was an eternity to get a few things done (HA):

1. Reading/grading their district writing assessments. “Write a well-organized essay where you show how the story ‘Thank You M’am’ by Langston Hughes illustrates the importance of trust. Be sure to include example from the story to back up what you say.” Grade that on your 1-4 rubric. I left this for the sub to hand out/collect on the last day before the break, because I had a gig the night before, and didn’t want to get up the next morning. Now I gotta read them. I don’t think I will tell you you how long I spend on each one. That’s a proprietary secret.

2. Reading/deciding what to do with their “Pages.” Some years I keep them, and don’t give them back…yet. I tell them to come back next year when they’re in 8th grade. Then I’ll give them back so they can see what they thought was important way back in 7th grade. I stole this idea from a now-retired colleague who taught 8th grade for years. She made them write a letter to themselves about what was important to them, put it in an envelope and seal it and address it to themselves. She would then collect and keep them until they were seniors in high school, whereupon she would mail them all out (at district expense in those days). I still remember the boxes stacked all over her room with dates on them. Obviously four years would be a bit much for me.  When I do this, only a handful of kids come back for their pages. But most of those are stoked that they did. Some years I give them back on the last day of school to put in the yearbook. Some years, I even grade them. Usually I just correct mechanics and tell them to send the revised version to Grandma.

3. Modifying/narrowing the curriculum for the video production class we’re trying to add to the seventh grade elective rotation. They have a full-blown video class with professional equipment and a custom-built studio out at the other middle school in our district. The guy there worked for years, and fought many a battle with our IST department to get his program to where it is now. He did all the heavy lifting and wrote a beauty curriculum and everything. Our school has access to enough money from our cable franchise fees to do the same thing, but we haven’t pulled the trigger for years because nobody has wanted to take the lead. The money has just been sitting there collecting interest, and there’s a lot of it. This year, my principal and I went out there and talked to them about the program. We decided to try something smaller – their program is a full year, 8th grade elective – and go for a quarter-long seventh grade elective, and sort of learn and build from there. So I have to take his curriculum, and narrow it down to a nine week taster sort of thing. Well, then. Next year’s blog might have some interesting new material. Any tips would be appreciated.

4. Trying to figure out what novel is next. Most years we would have already read Tom Sawyer by now, but I just haven’t been able to face the work that it going to take with the group I have this year. Fifteen years ago, it was the other cornerstone of my class (along with…duh). But now…

More on this one tomorrow.