There’s an article about Reschool Yourself in the Sonoma Index-Tribune today. Thanks to reporter Emily Charrier and photographer Robbi Pengelly for capturing the spirit of the project so beautifully.
For those of you who are new to Reschool Yourself, welcome! Here’s how to get to know the site:
1. Get oriented.
Use the menu across the top of the site to browse pages. The content of these pages is updated occasionally.
The left-hand column contains blog posts about my reschooling experiences in and out of the classroom. The most recent posts are at the top of the page, and the blog is usually updated daily. Make sure you click on the red link to read the rest of a given entry.
The middle column contains a project summary, a link to my fundraising page, a list of recent comments and posts, and a link to my online photo album.
The right-hand column contains tools for finding older blog posts by topic. Categories organize posts by general subject. Tags organize posts by specific topics. Clicking on an item, such as “Reschooling Tools” or “busyness,” will bring up a list of posts on that topic.
For the first few days at school, I got to know the teachers at my elementary school by eating lunch with them in the teacher’s lounge. They’re a fun bunch of people who exchange stories about their students and their lives, and they welcomed me right away. As I’ve mentioned, a handful of them were teaching at the school when I was a student, but none actually taught me. (My teachers still live locally, however, so I’m in the process of getting in touch.)
When I moved on from kindergarten to first grade, I missed the kindergarteners and thought it would be fun to start eating lunch with them in the cafeteria. I also thought it would be only fitting for me to buy “hot lunch.” When I was a student, the only day I’d buy hot lunch every week was Friday: Pizza Day. It just so happens that Friday is still Pizza Day, so I paid my $3.50 for an adult lunch and stepped up to the lunch line.
The crates of milk were just inside the door as they always have been, but as I mentioned, chocolate milk is now available every day instead of just on Wednesdays. As you can see in the photo, the chocolate:regular milk ratio is 2:1, and I’m surprised that any kid would choose regular. I certainly went for the chocolate myself, though an ill-advised sneak at the label revealed that it contained corn syrup. Dedicated to “method lunching,” I decided to drink it anyway.
If you’ve wanted to share your own classroom memories, the things you’d still love to learn, or ideas for Reschool Yourself, you’re in luck. The Reschool Yourself forum is finally up and running. Thanks to Stephen for helping shape the forum topics, and to Darren for prettifying the page.
I intend for Reschool Yourself to be not just about my experience, but about all of us grown-ups who find ourselves limited in any way by our schooling. It’s for all of us who still want to learn and do challenging new things — like learn to do a cartwheel at age 28 (yes, I plan to do this) or travel to Egypt after age 70, like my friend Sally. To share ideas and memories, please post your comments on the new forum. I hope that by developing an online community, we can inspire each other to process our experiences of education and move beyond them.
I’m entering my third week of elementary school. So far I’ve spent:
3.5 days in one kindergarten class, beginning with the first day of school
5 days rotating through five first grade rooms, spending the morning in one class and switching to another in the afternoon
I’ll spend this Tuesday through Thursday in second grade, and Friday through next Tuesday in third. (Yes, I’m moving quickly! The teachers think I may be a prodigy.) There are a couple of major changes I want to make:
1. Participate in the kids’ activities more than teaching them as a volunteer. So far, I’ve been experiencing my return to the classroom from an adult perspective, whereas the point is to reconnect with the joy, wonder, and intuition I had as a child. I can go volunteer anytime, anywhere, but this is my chance to learn to be a kid again. I plan to roll Play-Doh, read kids’ books, run around at recess, and build with Legos.
Will middle school students hit the books, show up on time and be on their best behavior if they’re getting paid?
As Washington, D.C. students start back to school this week, that’s the thinking behind a new program just launched in the district. As early as October at 14 of 28 D.C. middle schools, students will get paid to perform as part of a pilot program that rewards kids for good grades, attendance, and behavior.
Kids could rake in up to $100 per month, getting paid every two weeks through the program.
Behind the program is D.C. schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, who’s getting a lot of press for her new approaches to old problems. I’m all for new approaches, if they happen to be better than the old ones. Here’s the comment I posted on ABCnews:
I think I just hit a goldmine. It will be a boon, at least, for those who want to make fun of my last name not just in English, but in German as well.
For me, this discovery is the most amusing reschooling in etymology, foreign language, and genealogy that I could ever want. Tonight I felt inspired to look up the German translation for “Dicker,” my last name, after reading my future brother-in-law’s blog post about Andy Dick’s recent arrest. Dick accosted a 17-year-old-girl and urinated in public outside a buffalo wings “emporium,” which sounds like a classy joint for a classy guy. The incident just provides further evidence for what I already know: Having “Dick” as part of your name may correlate with a life of crime (Exhibit A: Mr. Cheney). Before you know it, you not only have profanity on your birth certificate, but you also have a permanent record and “Dick” as the fitting caption beneath your mug shot.
My sister Gill and I are proud of our dad’s German heritage and family. We are also staunch feminists. However, since we were little girls, we have dreamed of the day we could get married and change our name to something a little more….humane. Next January 17, Gill will achieve that dream and become a Burgess. I, on the other hand, expect to relive the playground teasing and the “Is that really your last name?” disbelief as Reschool Yourself takes me into the upper grades. (When substitute teaching 4th grade years ago, I found that the kids were still innocent enough to turn my last name teasingly into “Miss Sticker” or “Miss Tigger,” and nothing more. I just about hugged them.)
Turns out that my hand is twice the size of a first grader's.
It’s been one week since I kicked off the classroom phase of Reschool Yourself, and I have so much to share. The challenge lies, as always, in time. I’ve been busy adding features to the site and will post more writing this weekend.
As I mentioned in the video log, I finished up in the kindergarten on Monday morning and began rotating through the five first grade classrooms. I prefer staying in one class, to build relationships with the kids, but the first grade teachers each needed my help. There are a few benefits of rotating, such as observing different teaching styles for the same age group, getting to know all the teachers — they’re a cool bunch of women — and meeting a variety of kids.
I do miss my kindergarteners! Since I was part of their very first school experience, they seemed to get as attached to me as I did to them. On Friday, due to another meeting, I came late to school (no, I didn’t need a pink tardy slip). When I walked into the kindergarten, several kids bombarded me with hugs around my waist and exclamations like “Where were you?” and “You’re heeere!” With those long eyelashes and baby-toothed grins, those kids turn me into putty in their hands.
Here’s an update on what I’m up to in the classroom this week. Fingerpaintin’, here I come!
(FYI, this was recorded Monday afternoon, 8.25.08)
In the second video, I read from my journal at age 5, to remember who I was at that age. Having spent a lot of time with 5- and 6-year-olds this week, I’ve been trying to piece together what I was like myself. I bet you’ll never guess my answer to “If I could be any famous person, I would be…” (answer at 2:12)
Class photo, 1985-1986
This week I’ll post about:
My 6-year-old admirer and other amusing pint-sized characters
Kids’ creative answers to “What’s the name of this letter of the alphabet?”
Recess, the cafeteria, P.E., and other elementary school memories
Wise words from a kindergarten teacher
If you have journal entries or keepsakes from your school days, share them here or on the new forum.
Tonight I broke my digital camera. I had the lens extended to take a photo, and I dropped the camera on the kitchen floor. The lens wouldn’t move, and I reacted as follows:
1. Swore at the top of my lungs.
2. Googled “Fix Digital Camera.” Followed suggestion to hold down the power button while twisting the lens outward. Managed to push the lens back in, but it still wouldn’t extend.
3. Ate half a bar of dark chocolate. I always default to this when at a loss for what else to do.
4. Decided that breaking the camera might be a blessing in disguise.
5. Resolved to use my parents’ camera until I can get a new one.
I’d wanted a different camera anyway, since my camera takes terrible low-light pictures and has recently started shutting itself off randomly. It also has one of those ridiculous docks to download photos, instead of a cable. Since I’ll be documenting my reschooling and travel experiences through photos, it’s essential that they’re good quality and easily transferred. If I hadn’t broken the camera, I probably would have continued to get by with my old one and compromised the quality of Reschool Yourself. So even though I’m still annoyed at myself for being Miss Butterfingers, I choose to believe that the mishap opened up the opportunity for a better quality camera during the early stages of the project.
I can’t say why this is so, whether the universe has some kind of master plan. All I know is that it doesn’t hurt to think that things happen for a reason, that there’s a hidden opportunity in every challenge or mistake. For example, if you miss your flight, consider that perhaps that plane might have had a serious problem, or lost your luggage. Perhaps you will meet someone on your new flight who will become a close friend or romantic partner, or connect you with a job. Maybe you’ll inspire someone or pass on a life-changing recommendation. The best part is that you may not ever know what opportunity arose from a certain challenge, but you can assume that one did — or will in good time.
When things don’t go according to plan, brainstorm the wildest and most positive possibilities that could result. I don’t know yet why I dropped my camera today, but I have some ideas. Maybe it’s so someone will donate a Sony Cybershot camera to the project, ya think?
Update: Through some generous donations, I was able to buy a Sony Cybershot in October. Thank you!