WARNING: This may not be acceptable to Lucy Calkin or Arnie Duncan
Today was the last day before we started our Christmas Vacation, or should I call it Winter Break. When I was a child we looked forward to our winter break as a blessing and an exciting time. I am sure my parents thought differently, but it was accepted that breaks were for the Children. Unfortunately, the powers that be now look upon Winter Break as a problem, a time when children can “slide” back. I personally find this attitude disturbing and actually quite arrogant. Our principal talks about it like a reoccurrence of Polio.
My principal, on our last day, called my grade level team to a meeting to do a little Christmas celebration by “digging into the NWEA” data. NWEA is a whole different can of worms that I don’t want to open. However, she told us that we needed to make sure that we sent our students home with PACKETS in order to prevent the Dreaded Winter Break Slide (DWBS). She spoke as if a child having time off, to enjoy their family and rest their growing brains, was somehow detrimental to a child’s educational future.
Just when our students were enjoying their “healthy snack” at our Winter Break Celebration, our principal came to WARN the children of the “dreaded winter break slide”, DWBS. Our principal didn’t come in to remind our students that winter was for fun and exploration, rather she warned them of DWBS. It worries me that a figure like a principal in a school of children 5 to 11 years old can’t remind children to enjoy their childhood. Is she so learned and centered that she can tell children and adults how they should spend their vacation? I remember our principal coming around with a Santa Suit, smiling and sharing fun. I am sure he told us to read, but he didn’t warn of us DWBS.
I find this whole mind set to be quite arrogant and misguided. Children need their time off, their fun, and their mistakes. I am in no way a neurologist, nor a child psychologist, but I have a feeling studies might tell us to RELAX during our breaks. A child’s brain is like any other body part. It needs to rest. It needs to learn about the world in different directions and different angles. Children need to dream about Santa Claus, spend time with their relatives to learn about family history and tragedy. Christmas (or whatever holiday we celebrated) was like a gift from above that reminded me why we live, why we work.
DWBS, SS (Summer Slide). These seem to all be something that popped up in the world of ISAT and NWEA. NLCB and Race to the Top have turned children into Data points that need to be processed in the sterile world of our education. Children are seen as Data points; we almost literally probe their brains every few months to see if their numbers are increasing. I haven’t had one meeting in our school that ever asked “are the children happy?” Happiness seems to be inconvenient. We now talk about if the children are Driven or goal setters. Winter and Summer Break are just inconvenient breaks that make children slide backwards? Perhaps they are sliding back into their humanity. Winter break is now a bad thing? We have taken the joy of exploration, and family get-togethers and mad them inconvenient.
Perhaps I am old fashioned, maybe I am just panicking. However, the attitude towards children and education scares me very much. Our country has literally taken children and turned them into “projects” that we fear will be corrupted by free time and family get-togethers, and just general child exploration. If history is any proof, I think Winter Breaks haven’t harmed any great thinkers yet. Let’s just look back at some of the greatest minds and humans of our last century (I will try to be apolitical here). I am sure Martin Luther King, Bill Gates, Michael Jordan, Madonna, Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, Steve Jobs all enjoyed a little winter break to create THEMSELVES..
I am not saying that winter packet or little reading list is harmful. However, we, as educators and adults, need to stop for a minute. Think of our childhoods. Much of what we learned came from our schools. However, those moments when we watched channel 11, or talked to our uncle about World War II, or learned about our Grandma’s story about meeting MLK, sleeping until noon, or just watching the snow fall, were just as important. These are the things that GREW our minds and filled them with our unique personalities.
I really imagine when my principal and I spoke about DWBS, my students only heard the old adult Charlie Brown Voice “Wha Wha Whaa Whaa Wha” as they dreamed of the gift that they saw hidden in their Parents Closet. And you know what……ITS OKKKKKKKKKKK
So this winter break…just leave that bag of student papers in the BAG in your trunk and be a kid again!!!! Your students will be better off without you!!! I promise you! And when they return, maybe they won’t be able to multiply double digits quite as fast, they will read 6 words less per minute, but they will be different, relaxed, and more creative than when you left them!! Let’s look at DWBS as a blessing! The only slide they should worry about is the one for the snowy hill in their neighborhood! Let them slide back to their humanity.