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Preparations for departure…

 

We have one more week of school.

Laptops are being returned on Monday. (Thank goodness. I’m tired of battling the distraction.)

The students have been irritable, anxious; some who began with some growing to do, some maturity to gain, have regressed. Some have grown. That’s middle school: they have a few short weeks between now and the looming monster that is high school. (I doubt many of them have my option of hiding under a cabinet, listening to Dark Side of the Moon for hours. In the dark. With bucket headphones. And a bad haircut.)

My two sons experienced at least one fantastic real-life voyage in their lives, away from the tedium and mediocrity–one went to France for his senior trip, and one to Costa Rica (with his dad). But most kids don’t have access to trips outside of their own apartment courtyards. Many are riddled with anxiety they can’t name for fear of being disloyal to their hardworking parents and the guilt for feeling envious of how the media portrays summer. If I can tell them one thing before they go: it’s a lie. We make our own magic.

Some folks encourage boredom for kids, with advice to privileged parents to “let” their kids be bored. And though I see where this advice is coming from and would be cynical of me to think it comes from a place solely of privilege, in a way it does. Many of my students have plenty of chances to be ‘bored’ simply because the expectations in summer include watching siblings, cleaning. They do not include safe rolling parks to gaze up and imagine cloud shapes, nor long hikes in local national parks with sturdy REI hiking boots and toxicity-free mosquito repellent.

Boredom is not the same as drudgery. Boredom leads to flow. Creative constraints lead to production (a paradox, but yes, giving oneself boundaries encourages creativity, not dampens). Drudgery leads to despair and anxiety. So how do we sell students, no matter their status or privilege, think and grow their brains, breaking out of drudgery chains?

Idea List:

  1. Get a notebook. Use the composition notebook I gave you. Clean up your notes, and annotate what you thought about.
  2. Make a list of 50 things you want to do this summer.
  3. Have a dance party.
  4.  Think of a problem or conflict you have, and brainstorm ways to solve it using math, science, writing, drawing, etc.
  5. Keep five blog/websites handy: http://www.kerismith.com/
  6. Give yourself a ‘creative constraint’ such as no phone or another electronic device for one hour, and
  7. Learn origami. Learn how to tie a Windsor knot. How to serve proper British tea.
  8. What do words like ‘colonialism, social justice, imperialism, etc.’ mean?
  9. Come up with a new exercise routine.
  10. Learn about another religion, country’s history, or why a news story may have impact
  11. Find three old black and white ‘film noir’ films to watch — what do you notice? Does the absence of technology affect the plot? How? Ask a lot of what if questions.
  12. Start a book club with one or two friends, or join Goodreads.
  13. Learn about Japanese bookmaking.
  14. Make your own Illustrated Interview about yourself, or one of the members of your family

https://static01.nyt.com/video/players/offsite/index.html?videoId=100000004033427

 Even if you don’t have access to a computer over the summer, you can and should sketch this out on paper first.
What else? Any other ideas you can share would be most welcome!

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