Welcome to Second Semester!
Last week, we quietly moved through the end of our first semester of school for the year. I will be compiling and recording grades throughout this coming week and sending home report cards by late this week, or early next week. The parent-teacher conferences for this quarter are not technically required. However, I like to make myself available for face to face meetings to address questions you might have, so I have blocked out a few days in early February, during a week that is already interrupted by other things, so as to keep that type of thing from taking over the calendar and having 'something crazy going on' almost every week. Please know that dropping by before or after school is an option, too, if you don't want to wait till February (after is better if the matter is more delicate or lengthy in nature, as there will be fewer interruptions). I am typically here, at the school till at least 4:00 and most often it is actually more like 5:00 or 5:30 (except on Tuesday) If you want to discuss something shoot me a text, and let me know you plan to stop in for a bit, and I will confirm for you, that I don't have any meetings already scheduled (rare). I like to hear from you. Even just getting in the habit of popping in, in the morning, just to 'touch bases', perhaps about once a week or so, would be awesome, too, some parents already do this, and I find it tremendously helpful. We use our early morning time for corrections and some 'bell work' and journaling, so it is often possible for me to have quick, simple conversations with parents at that time. I enjoy having a chance to know what's going on in your life, too, as it helps me understand/connect with the students.
Also, I would like to encourage you, again, to see if you can find time to volunteer in the classroom. This not only helps the students see that other adults (besides their own parents and myself) are investing in their learning, it also helps you to better understand what the routines are, at the school, so that you have a framework upon which to hang questions your student might bring home. Even if you just come once a week (or even just once a month!), for 30 minutes, to listen to a reading group. It will make a difference, not only for you and your student, but also for the school as a whole. I know we all have busy lives, and I understand that this is impossible for some of you (it's impossible for me, to volunteer at my children's schools!) but if you can make it work, it would be awesome!
As you may have noticed in last week's note, I am no longer going to be posting the spelling lists, here on our school website. I still have this as a goal for some point in the future, but for now, it is an item that must go onto my proverbial back burner. Students will be provided with an extra printed copy of their spelling list which they will be encouraged to take home. They will also be encouraged to take a photo of their list, and post it to See Saw, so that you have a way of accessing it digitally, if the paper gets lost, or doesn't make it home. I realized last week, that there is a third way to access your student's spelling lists if those first two methods fail. All students should already have access to Spelling City at home. If your student is unable to access it there, please let me know (they should know their log-in!) What you need in order to access it there, once you are logged in, is the Unit number and Week number we are currently on. So, I will be getting in the habit of posting that information, to the dashboard each week so that you have what you need to access those lists. In fact, I think I will post information for you, there, about the entire Language arts unit (the theme, the 'Big Idea', and the Scripture associated with the unit, etc) so that you are aware of what your student is learning during language arts.
Since I will also be posting PBL info (which covers both Science and Social Studies, alternating) and Language arts (as noted, just now) I will additionally include information about what your student is learning in math class, along with a bit more than just the memory verse for bible, such as the current unit theme and specific bible stories we are discussing. This will allow you to tie in, to school learning, in at-home conversations more often. Studies have shown that this type of school-home connection is actually more productive (provides better understanding/outcomes on the part of the student) than homework assignments being sent home. In fact the key ingredient of the success of 'homework' seems to be the awareness on the part of the parent, of what is being taught at school. This allows for casual conversations that include these topics to occur (encouraging the proverbial 'teachable moment' to occur more often). So if we can accomplish the same thing through communication, I'm more than happy to provide that important information for you!!
So, please, visit the dashboard often and connect with what your student is learning at school!
Additionally, there has apparently been some confusion about my philosophy regarding homework. As I have stated in the past, I believe that students should most typically be able to do the lion's share of their structured learning while they are here in the classroom. I want the after-school hours to be hours where your child can enjoy the pursuit of hobbies, sports, and special interests. These activities enhance your child's ability to learn while they are in the classroom. However, there are times when a student simply needs extra time to complete activities from class. This can be due to a variety of factors, and should not be thought of as being the result of a student 'slacking off'. One reason can be that because of the nature of a multi-grade classroom, and the required rotations through small group instruction time with the teacher, an individual student may not receive direct instruction on an assignment until late in the day, leaving them with not enough time to complete it at school. I do my best to plan, in such a way that this happens as little as possible, but sometimes it simply can not be avoided. Another reason might be that sometimes the curriculum simply provides longer than usual assignments on certain days, to the point of requiring students more time than what is available in class. This is particularly true of the upper grades, as they move closer to high-school, their assignments become more involved and will sometimes require more time than what is available in class.) Also, occasionally, and on an individual basis, I have been known to encourage students to take work home simply because they may be able to focus better at home. Completing assignments in a quieter environment is better for some students, and frankly, our classroom is rarely silent - for one thing there is always direct instruction of some group, going on, in the background, to say nothing of the usual classroom noise and distraction that will happen even in the most structured of classrooms. Lastly, (and honestly, the least of my considerations, but sometimes true, just the same) sometimes getting an additional set of eyes on the assignment is a good thing. You know your student FAR better than I do, and sometimes you are able to explain things in a way that connects with them better than what I'm able to do in the more 'corporate' setting of the classroom. So, 'homework' will occasionally come home for valid reasons that do not include students being lazy in class.
Some parents have taken on a punitive attitude toward their students when they take work home. I am sorry if what I have said in the past has contributed to this. Please know that if your student is bringing home some of their schoolwork because they are slacking off, and messing around at school, I will let you know. Otherwise, please assume that if work is being brought home, students simply need a bit more time, or a quieter location to complete the things they need to get done. Please give them a break after school, let them run outside for a bit, get some fresh air, get their blood moving, perhaps have a snack, maybe even play a table game or do some other non-brain related activity (a simple chore?) then, after all of that, provide them with some time and any needed help, to complete their work, if possible.
One of the most important skills I am seeking to foster in all of my students right now is the ability to stay caught up in their work. I am implementing several guidance systems and reward systems for this, to encourage focus on this important life-skill. When students feel that they will be punished if they bring home a bit of school work, that can be very detrimental to their ability to stay caught up!
Also, please know that there are always standing items that can (and should) be done at home, such as spelling practice, drill of multiplication facts, memory verse work, and of course the ever so important independent reading that contribute GREATLY to your student's success at school, and in life.
Wow, that was a lot. I'll get off of my soap-box now, and simply say this, in closing: Your students are doing great! It has been such a joy to see so much growth this year! This concern, while it did take a bit to write out, is not a HUGE concern in my mind, just one of those small points of confusion that sometimes happen, and I felt the best thing to do was to get it all written out.
Thank you for the blessing of sharing your children with me each day. It is such a joy, to have the privilege of spending my days with them, helping them (and watching them) grow and learn!! Every one of them is an awesome little person that I treasure so much!
Calendar items of note:
January 13 - YES, there IS school - sorry for the confusion
January 20 - MLKJr Day, NO school.
Januray 23-25 - Final Empire Seminar at the church 7:00 pm each evening, plus 11:00 am on the 25th.