This weekend I wrapped up my five weeks of working outside the home. Every summer for the last eight summers, I have been a teacher for the AASK (Aardvarks Advocate Skills and Knowledge) program which is a partnership between Oregon Episcopal School and the Beaverton School District (particularly Whitford Middle School). This year I taught outgoing fifth and sixth graders. The program is literacy based, and filled primarily with students who speak a language besides English at home, and need extra practice or help over the summer (although there are a couple exceptions). I taught at Whitford in the mornings, and in the afternoons the kids get to go over to OES and have fun “summer camp” like activities.
The special thing about AASK is that although it is literacy based, it is much more broad in its scope than normal school. We get to look at the whole child. When I design curriculum I get to include service learning, incorporate my students’ culture into the classroom, and design more experiential and hands on projects. It really is a lot of fun!
Even though the rest of my life is an absolute mess when I am working (How do working moms have time to cook and clean? What is a real dinner again? Will I ever see my bedroom floor again? Do I have any clean pants? Oh wait…that bill was due three days ago?) teaching for AASK rejuvenates me in a way that nothing else can.
When I am teaching I feel human again. I feel like a real person, and not just a mom. For five weeks I get to do something bigger than change diapers. I’m not trying to belittle being a stay at home mom. I love staying at home with my boys and I’m so thankful I get to do so. But sometimes I forget who I really am. What am I passionate about? What really matters in this world? If anything, it gives me a better perspective in how to raise my boys the rest of the year. Besides, I love teaching, and it’s nice to feel still connected to the teaching world even if it was only for five weeks.
This year, our theme was “Be Legendary.” We talked a lot about what it means to be legendary, and really empowered the kids to feel legendary themselves. We also focused on how nature is legendary, and how we as humans are connected with it. What does nature provide for us? In what ways is nature legendary? How can we give back?
On the final day, we had a parent night, where a lot of the students’ work was displayed in the woods at OES. The display was very moving, so I thought I’d share just a bit of it here. I am so proud of my students. They are just such amazing kids!
For one of our projects, my students wrote a poem entitled “Where I Am From” It is one way for them to feel validated in their culture (which is often ignored during the school year), it helped us get to know each other, and it helped the students think about where they came from and what is important to them. Not to mention all the work we did with poetry, vocabulary and word choice.
Then, I taught them how to make paper. Elias helped me make a video, and my students loved it! (On a side note…attempting to make paper with 80 kids all at the same time may be a bit ambitious…but it turned out alright). Each of my students made their own paper out of recycled and natural materials from the Whitford campus. Then, I had them choose their favorite line from their poem to write on the paper and display in the woods.
This project was just so moving I had tears in my eyes as I walked through the exhibit. I wanted to take pictures of them all, but here are just a few of the 80 that were displayed:
Another project we displayed in the woods was an art reflection. We had studied four animals of the northwest, and talked about why those animals are legendary: the salmon, the eagle, the beaver, and the frog. Then, the kids chose which animal they identified most with, created a piece of native american art, and wrote how they are similar to that animal. The pictures don’t do these justice at all. They were quite beautiful with the light streaming through.
Here is a close up of two different ones.
“I am free and independent like the eagle.”
“I am like the eagle because I am proud, loud and social. I like to soar above boundaries and over obstacles. I also sometimes like to show off like the eagle catches its prey.”
The final project we had displayed with a leaf spiral. A lot of the kids didn’t know the difference between adjectives, verbs, and nouns, so we had them write a diamante poem about how they are legendary. This was after a lot of work with words, discussions, vocabulary charts, and thesauruses!
Here are two out of the many beautiful poems:
Although I am a little relieved that life will settle down for me a bit, I am sad to be finished with summer school. I am very proud of my students and of myself and my team. This is the work of our future. It makes me feel hopeful. I am leaving with my heart full.