Saturday, June 18, 2011

Playing the Game of School

This year, I had a group of 10 8th graders as part of a special team designed to help at-risk students before they move on to high school. When describing the goal of the program, perhaps my principal put it best – Our job was to get these kids to buy into school.

The year was not without its challenges, but I enjoyed it. At night while eating dinner with my family and sharing stories of our day, the group affectionately became known as “the bad kids” by my four-year-old daughter. And by the standards of school, that’s what they were. They were always in trouble. They swore. They fought. They were late to class (if they even bothered to come to school in the first place).

Last Tuesday, we loaded the group onto a school bus and headed to a nearby state park for a field trip. We spent the day geocaching, fishing (yes, we let the “bad kids” handle sharp hooks), and cooking hotdogs. And you know what? It was the best field trip I have ever been on. The kids were an absolute delight. They were patient while we bushwhacked our way through the woods in search of hidden caches. They were supportive of each other while fishing – taking turns with the poles and helping each other get their catches off the line. We even let one girl who aspires to attend culinary school someday man the grill and cook for us.

While playing Kanjam with the group, one of the kids joked that he never realized that his teachers were actually normal people who fish and play games, and eat hotdogs. I don’t think he realized how insightful the comment was. Because it wasn’t until that moment that I realized that this wasn’t a group of bad kids. It wasn’t a group of at-risk, attendance problems. It was just a group of kids.

So what if they aren’t good at school. That doesn’t mean they aren’t smart.

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