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Today I did the unthinkable, I basically gave my students the day off. In a time when seat time, classroom time and time on task are seemingly the most important thing in pedagogy in some circles, my kids needed some time to unwind. I know that many will say that they can get that outside of school – today I strongly disagreed.
We have been in standardized testing mode for the past three weeks. First was 2 weeks of NECAP (our high stakes test), one session a day and then the school schedule on a rotating class routine. I understand why they had to use this schedule, but it still left staff and students confused and stressed out.
Then we had DRA and the District writing prompt this week, by the end of the day yesterday I could tell that these kids were toast. Their behaviors, attitudes towards class, being cranky and all those other signs of being burnt out were present. So this morning I brought in “Night At the Museum” and “Inkheart” and on the way to work this morning I stopped at everyone’s favorite local bakery and bought a couple dozen doughnuts. No it wasn’t health food, it was “comfort” food.
The kids kind of dragged butt into classes this morning and then when I brought out the DVDs and Doughnuts and told them what we were going to do, you should have seen the change take place in front of my eyes. There was excitement, arguing about which movie and the merits of each from the students who had seen them as only 7th graders can. Block 1 chose “Inkheart”, and Blocks 2 & 3 chose “Night At the Museum”, then we ate a doughnut each (Yes I had 3 – but breaking bread together is the right thing to do).
After finishing the food we watched the movies with the subtitles on – I explained that we had to have them in order to say we were “reading” today. Everyone settled in and made typical 7th grade remarks during the movies. It was a more relaxed atmosphere than we have had in class since before the testing began and I stand by my decision to lighten up the atmosphere in my classroom – we all needed it.
Although we didn’t finish any of the movies, everyone seemed to leave satisfied and several of them (from different classes) told me as they left “Thanks Mr. Shaw – we really needed that”. On the faces of the departing students, I saw many more smiles than I have in a while.
Those smiles were definitely worth the cost of some doughnuts.