Sunday, May 26, 2013

U of U Field Trip

I took a personal day last week (May 16) to go on a field trip with Michelle and her class. That is not how most of my colleagues would spend their personal days, but since I wasn't the teacher in charge of a class of 25 kids, it was pretty enjoyable. I enjoyed watching Michelle interact with her peers. Their school has an amazing partnership with the University of Utah, and so each spring they get a science camp taught by University of Utah students and professors. This year Michelle's class went to the Great Salt Lake on Monday, to Westminster College on Wednesday, and to the Uof U on Tuesday and Thursday. They learned about brine shrimp. They learned about the brine shrimp's life cycle, the water cycle and how it relates to the Great Salt Lake, and they learned about brine shrimp's DNA. On Thursday, they worked in groups to prepare a science fair board and presentation about what they learned.

I'm grateful for the opportunity my children have to become bilingual and biliterate. I'm grateful that they are able to spend so much time with University students and on a college campus. I'm grateful for Michelle's amazing teacher, Mrs. Darden, who I respect and who has been such a positive role model for Michelle.

I get a little emotional each year as another school year comes to a close. I know that these women who are my children's teachers have a tremendous influence for good in their lives. I am grateful for how dedicated and hard working the teachers are...I know what a hard but rewarding job it is.

My school and my children's school are currently trying to make a difficult decision whether to adopt the state model of dual immersion. (My daughters' school is a dual immersion school but not currently using the state model. There are pros and cons to adopting the state model. It's not an easy decision. And it is a long story as to what the difference is between what they are currently doing and how this would change... I can explain the difference, but I won't go into it here.) As I've been doing lots of pondering on these possible changes and how they will affect me, my students, and others, I keep thinking what an amazing job the teachers at Jackson have done. They started dual immersion before any other school in the state and they have successfully implemented dual immersion with very little support. As I pondered this, I felt the desire to applaud the teachers there for their hard work. I sent an email listing what I think they are doing right. Here's most of what I wrote in that email:

First, let me thank you for the amazing job you are doing. I am so happy with how my daughters are being educated currently and look forward to my youngest beginning kindergarten at Jackson this fall.

I feel that Jackson deserves some true praise for being pioneers in dual immersion. You brought dual immersion to Salt Lake District and to Utah. I don't feel like you are receiving the kudos or credit that this accomplishment deserves. So thank you! You are appreciated, even when it doesn't seem like it.

I also felt like perhaps you could benefit from hearing my opinion/my perspective on some of the things you are doing right. (That can never happen enough, can it?!)

*Jackson is a family friendly school. I love that you have photos of your families displayed. I love that parents feel welcome and invited. You have struck, in my opinion, a nice balance between maintaining safety and still making parents/community members feel welcome.

*Although I don't attend since I am teaching, I really support the Second Cup of Coffee and that you are willing to listen to community input and involve the community. You don't just give lip service to community involvement... and you keep families informed through your newsletters and so forth. As one of my colleagues said yesterday, how can you tell families you value their language and culture if you don't value their opinion? So thank you for valuing the community in the ways that you do.

*Jackson makes efforts to help students become not just bilingual but also biliterate and bicultural. I appreciate that at many (perhaps all? I don't attend most) student of the month assemblies and other events, the dual immersion students introduce their songs or their performance in both languages. I know last year the pledge was recited by the third grade in English, Spanish and Navajo. So very cool! In addition, I love that students can participate in Ballet Folklorico. The dual immersion classes participate in the oral history projects. These are all amazing ways that you foster these students.

*I appreciate your art grant that allows each child to learn violin. Thank you for doing what you can to support the arts in a political climate that doesn't always make that easy!

*I am in awe of your partnership with Adelante/U of U. It is seriously amazing! I can remember when my oldest daughter was in kindergarten and she started coming home telling me that she was going to go to college. College is a given in our family...we value education highly. But we really didn't talk that much about it when my children were 5, 3 and a newborn. So to have my little 5 year old lecturing her 3 year old sister about the importance of college and how great the U is, that's amazing (even though I'm a BYU fan, myself). And even more amazing for the families where education might not be a given. I love the field trips and science camps and the Adelante volunteers and all that Adelante brings to Jackson.

*My children's teachers have all been so good at listening to my children and showing that they really care about them, not just academically but also as people. So thank you. Thank you for caring about children as people first and not just as scores on tests or numbers on paper. Thank you for coming to know their strengths, interests, weaknesses, and idiosyncrasies. Thank you for showing them that you care!

*Thank you for running a successful (imperfect, but very successful) dual immersion program with little or no district support and no state support. Thank you for being there and leading out. The state and district ought to be acknowledging the important role you have played. Thank you to those who teach dual immersion (which I love!) but thank you also to those who teach English only classes. You are all important and you all add to the effectiveness of Jackson.

*Thank you for using PBIS and for Principal's 200 Club, Student of the Week, Student of the Month and so many other positives in my children's lives.

*Thank you for a great after school program that keeps my kids safe and engages them in some great activities. My second grader loved being part of girl scouts. Last year my oldest loved being part of Girls on the Run.

I recognize Jackson isn't perfect. There are issues with dual immersion. There are issues in public education. There are issues. I know there is room for improvement at Jackson and at Parkview and at each school. But we hear an awful lot about how we need to do better. So, thank you for letting me take a few minutes of your time to point out some of the things that I think you are doing that are great. I'm sure there are many more that I have forgotten or am unaware of. Thank you!
I truly feel grateful that my children go to a school that provides them with a wonderful education and that helps them feel loved and cared about. It may not be the right school for everyone, but it is a perfect match for us.