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Summer lament.


"I have never surfed. But my inner surfer always feels this way, like a sad Beach Boys song, in August..."

Every August, for years, I felt that something ritualistic or noteworthy was missing to mark the occasion of summer’s end. The perfumed, yet sulferic combination of back-to-school supplies and popsicles doesn’t buff up the mojo as I would wish. Since becoming a teacher, I straddle both worlds, between anticipating the school year for myself, my students, as well as balancing emotions for my own children. And, yes, even for my own personal expectations.

What did I want to accomplish? Did I “relax” enough? (And in asking, that feels stressful in itself.) 

Fortunately, very timely, two bloggers I thoroughly enjoy recently posted their thoughts on summer’s end. One, Doyle, provides his viewpoint using all the sensory images, and sure enough, there IS a holiday associated with this time of the year! I KNEW it, I just KNEW it! There had to be….this time of year, between the summer solstice and fall equinox, had to be marked by some acknowledgment that the light is waning, and the sun is growing ever more shadowy and elusive. It’s called “Lammas.” “Lament” can be a verb or a noun.

The second writer, John Spencer, writes about how he spends his time in the summer. Or rather, doesn’t spend his time.

When I tally up what I did this summer, some of it will feel less like a harvest, and more like a molting. I chose to do nothing this summer, or at least the bare minimum. No conferences, no workshops, no professional development, no classes, and no thinking, really. I went to one day-long seminar to hear John Medina, author of Brain Rules, speak, at Seattle Pacific University. He had some golden nuggets to relate, but it was just as if not more valuable to catch up with some of my colleagues and talk with teachers and business people from around the state/country.

The only thing I have to do is finish up a unit, including incorporating the new common national standards, and making sure it makes sense to others. Sometimes a work of art makes a lot of sense to the artist, but not to the audience.

My musings take me to wonder, though, does the word “lammas” give us the word “lament?” Lament means to grieve, or a grief. There is always that long shadow cast over me this time of year, the end of summer. Maybe some Halloween candy will do the trick to ease the pain.

intransitive verb : to mourn aloud : wailtransitive verb 1 : to express sorrow, mourning, or regret for often demonstratively : mourn
2 : to regret strongly

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Top Ten Things: Back to School

It seems that everywhere you read, look, and listen, there will be tips for getting ready for back to school. They are ubiquitous this time of year. I have edited these lists, and come up with some hints and tips that I find helpful, too.

Getting mentally and physically ready to start a new school year is important. Why? Gee, I don’t know. Something about your education equating to your ability to get a good job, make money, and eat. (Eating is good.)

So — make a list, check it twice, and take the advice you think applies to you:

1. Change your sleep habits. Many of you haven’t figured this one out by April. You still think it’s okay to stay up until 11 or later, and be at school fresh and ready to learn when the first bell rings at 8:25. Um, no. Your first period class is also not optional, by the way. Showing up is half of your success.

2. School supplies: I can promise you right now you will need the following at our school:

  • Sturdy 3-ring binder with divider tabs
  • Composition notebook for Science (I will provide you one for my class)
  • Pencils, hand-held sharpener THAT CATCHES THE PENCIL SHAVINGS (can you guess what is a pet-peeve of mine?)
  • Black or blue ink pens — you will not write finished work in anything but one of these two ink choices. Write in pink, and it will be turned right back to you, no grade until redone.

These are hard times for everyone. PLEASE – don’t freak out about school supplies, and don’t let it stress you or your family out. If you need supply help, come and talk to me, or anyone in the front office, okay?

3. Goals: don’t make such overwhelming goals that you don’t accomplish anything, just make some doable smart goals for next year. Write them down, and keep them somewhere where you will remember to look and think about them. For example, instead of saying, “I’m going to make straight A’s every quarter, just say, “I’m going to make sure I fill out my planner and stay on top of my homework, day by day.”

4. One New Risk: think about one new thing you want to try next year, such as a sport, a club, or another way to spend your time that is fun, relaxing, and meaningful to you. Do you know that I started the Anime Club because a student wanted me to? You have more creativity and ideas than you may think, and the teachers at Mill Creek want you to be there, so if you have an idea for a club, or need information on how to participate in sports, ask any one of us. You may want to get your check up now for sports.

5. Teacher Talk: get to know your teachers as soon as you can. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions, and find out where the year is headed.

Okay – one last thing: do something to make your summer memorable. Read a book you think looks crazy interesting. Learn to play chess. Practice blowing the biggest bubble gum bubbles you can (because you won’t be doing that in school, that’s for sure!) Take a deep breath, relax, and know that we’re looking forward to seeing you, and having you in our classes.