There's an easy way to tell that school is about to end: the video count.
For a few years now, my children and I have kept a tally of what they saw on the big screen each week at school.
Things like "Squid and Their Habitat" don't count, since they're not available at the video store. What qualify are flicks like "Mighty Ducks 2," "A Kid in King Arthur's Court," or "The Flintstones" - ones that don't quite pass a test for educational value, but all got shown in the last few weeks of my daughter's school.
The problem is most prominent, of course, toward the end of the year. It's a reminder that any talk about extending the school year should be preceded by talks about simply making better use of some of the current 185 days.
Music teachers could, for example, assign the whole family to watch the flick that goes behind the scenes of "Thriller," and then discuss Michael Jackson's footwork. Then kids could have a class on dance - or a scavenger hunt for items that Michael might wear on the set. Or a "Thriller" version of Trivial Pursuit. Kids would at least practice verbal skills and get some exercise.
Anything but another in-class video. The content is one thing. But worse is sending kids to school to sit with their jaws hanging open - a skill they've already learned at home. They don't need the repeated message that teachers have more important things to do than interact with the class. But kids could use reinforcement, right up to the final bell, for another lesson: that fun doesn't have to involve something jumping around on a video monitor while all around it is silent.
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