Notes From The Education Underground
The TeachWonk Diaries: The Extracurricular Kids
Our institution, Howard Taft Junior High School, is populated by about 900 7th and 8th graders.
Every year, the school's administrators put on a "Welcome" assembly for each grade.
Yesterday, during first period, it was the 7th grader's turn.
Now I have to admit the Principal, Mr. Phi*sh, did an outstanding job of delivering, on an overhead projector, a 15-minute presentation that included information that he believes is essential for student success.
The principal strongly urged the kids to take advantage of these opportunities to enrich their Taft J.H.S. experience:
Wacky Wednesday: Several times per month, kids participate in a series of activities at lunch time designed to get them even more wired before they come into our afternoon classrooms. Examples include the notorious eat-the-candied necklace-off-a-member-of-the-opposite-sex contest, the raw-egg/ toss, water-balloon slingshot hit-the-kid contest, and Fun With Shaving Cream.
The Monthly Dance: Right after school, our 12-14 year-old students get to spend an hour-and-a-half bumping and grinding (and what they call freak dancing) in a darkened room while teachers and administrators blithely look on. (No parents are ever to be seen.)
And then there are those extra-curricular activities that are tailored to a more specific group of kids:
Annual Turkey Trot: This little
What was once called "The Christmas Mile" then, "The Holiday Mile," and now, "The Winter Mile:" In the week before winter vacation, in the late morning, our student athletes once again get the opportunity to demonstrate their prowess in front of their lesser-fit classmates by running one mile around the school's track. The girls go first, and then the boys. Large trophies are awarded to the winners.
Powder Puff Football Game: This annual
Student/Faculty Softball Game: This end-of-the-year rite of passage features our schools best 8th grade athletes in a slow-pitch softball game with their classroom teachers. As it is held during the last week of school, everyone gets treated to the chance to watch the game.
Regular Sports: Our school's athletic
Did you notice a pattern? Did you see what types of activities were missing?
While our school does a great job of providing more-than-ample opportunities for the
There is none. Nada. Nothing for the smart kids. There is no "Mock Trial," no "academic decathlon," no competetive chess, writing, math, or poetry contests. And we can forget about spelling bees and Jeopardy-type games completely.
What message do you think that all this emphasis on athletics communicates to our students?
I remember a few years ago when our then-principal, Mrs. "J," killed our "Academic Decathlon" program because she considered it to be "elitist."
But the celebration of sport goes on and on.
And Mr. Phi*sh's presentation? By the time he was finished speaking about all the wonderful opportunities for extracurricular
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