Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Calling Ants, Students and Families to a Picnic

I've wanted to write about hosting a before school picnic and the benefits. Last year was the first year I had a picnic in my backyard the week before school started, but the idea had been brewing for about 6 years.

I took one crazy (I mean INSANE!) and educational (for me more than the kids) year and taught in a bush village in Alaska. I was feeling a little smug about my teaching, and boy, was I humbled. (--thought I'd never teach again, but 2 years later I got back in the saddle!) So I thought about what I wished I had done differently to feel more success in Alaska, and one thing I always came back to was feeding my students and their families before I had them set foot in my classroom. Feeding people has a different value in their culture than mine, but food and hospitality are important everywhere.

So last year I finally got brave enough to collect addresses, send out flyers, and wait in my backyard to see who would show up. You might think that I teach in a place that supports this sort of thing, think again! Many of my coworkers don't even know I did this, and some of those who do look at me ascance. (nothing new there!)

And if you think I must live in an amazing place to invite these people over, I'll paint you a picture: I live in a rental in a city neighborhood. The paint is completely peeling off the garage and the yard is a little weed patch. (It looks lots better with lots of blankets thrown down.) I prayed it wouldn't rain, because even with all the furniture pushed back, I don't know if we have standing room for 30 people--and that's if no one moves their elbows! I love my home, and I love to offer hospitality. It's more about opening the heart than opening the home.

So over half of the students came on out! Kudos to their families, too. I mean who's ever heard of going to the teacher's house before school starts?

So I provided soft tacos and the fixings, lemonade and water, and paper products. People brought other foods, and there was more than enough. Everyone wore nametags. Kids enjoyed seeing old friends. I shared a little information about the year that was about to begin. The most fun part was a game of charades where the adults were the actors and kids were the guessers. It was a great ice breaker, even though it was late in the event.


Well I did not have many parent issues last year.

I think it builds more trust and makes the teacher a real person (not the Charlie Brown teacher robot voice.)

We were more of a team together than versus each other.

Great way to offer family outreach.

Good start on communication

Shy kids had already met me, so I saw a lot more comfort on the first day.

Kids and families already knew some of what to expect on the first day.

It is a tangible manifestation of my belief that teaching is not just a job.

I could recognize student family members and didn't just spend time wondering if I should know who they are.

I'm sure there are many more, too! Was it just a fluke? I don't know, but I'm testing it out by hosting another picnic later this week!

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