Tuesday, January 1, 2013

'Tis the Season

This has been a holiday season like no other. While the final week of school leading to vacation is always frenzied, this one was tinged with fear and worry. The tragedy in Newtown, CT, lead to fear and anxiety all over the country for students, parents and educators. It was a long week that culminated in those who chose to prey upon people's fears and spread rumors to further disrupt what is normally an exciting time of year. How anyone can see what the community in Newtown is going through and use that as an opportunity to amuse themselves is beyond me. I know for me and my students we tried to focus on what we could do to help.

During Tutorial, I and my social studies teacher shared with students how a call had been put out to help to transform the new building that will house Sandy Hook Elementary when students return from the holiday break. While psychologists are recommending that the classrooms of this former middle school be made to resemble student's classrooms as much as possible (even down to where markers or a water bottle was left), they are decorating the halls to look like a winter wonderland. They have requested for anyone who would like to help to send unique and creative snowflakes to create a fun space for these children that have been through too much.

Our students rose to the challenge and worked together to create the most amazing and wonderful snowflakes you have ever seen. It was a fantastic way to put their nervous energy to a purpose that will do some good in the world.

Students also gave in a different way this season. In lieu of presents for their team teachers, we asked students and their families to contribute to Heifer International. This organization allows you to gift farm animals to struggling farmers all over the world. As our collection came to a close on Wednesday, we were astounded when the grand total of donations by students, parents and teachers came to $1708! Students who participated (over 70) voted for which animals we would purchase. They chose:  1 cow, 1 llama, 1 sheep, 1 goat, 1 pig, 1 fish farm, 1 water buffalo, 3 rabbits, 1 bee hive, a flock of chicks, a flock of geese, and a flock of ducks. This fundraiser was an amazing success due to the overwhelming generosity of our team of students, parents and teachers.

In language arts as we made our way to the holiday break, students were working in small groups to make a difference in the world by producing public service announcement videos (PSAs).  We began by discussing how our world is not a utopia but rather is complicated with big and small problems.  We watched an episode of 60 Minutes that featured a man who began fighting the injustices of child labor in the world as a seventh grader.  He runs a large charitable organization called Free the Children that not only continues the fight but inspires and empowers young people to find their own cause to make a difference with.  Hia 7A's PSA videos will air on our FMS TV Morning News program in the hopes to raise awareness among the student body with the problems that each small group chose to research.  We will be having a PSA film festival on January 25 at 2:15, where family will be invited in to join as we watch each video.

My final keepsake from the last day of 2012 that I spent with my students is an image of what I like to call the Christmashawk. When people shake their heads in dismay when I tell them I teach 7th grade, it's moments like these for why I truly love this age!

So as we begin the new year in the hopes of leaving behind the things that we would rather forget, I will hold on to these final moments of 2012 and relish the community that is Hiawatha 7A.  I feel very lucky to be a part of this team.

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