I have been inspired into blogging this summer’s days. I teach 7th grade Language Arts and Social Studies in Naperville, Illinois. Toward the end of each school year, the students begin to count the days until the last day of school. Teachers secretly take part in this annual ritual. In the spirit of trying to keep the kids on task – I have turned it into working very hard to making the days count. Hence the name of this blog, Making the Days Count.
About seven or eight days (in class days) before our final day, I admitted that I too was counting the days. A student in the back of the room piped up “Yeah!” I retorted “But I have another number for you to consider.” I opened my planner and begin counting another set of days. Dave, I said, “Add these numbers for me – will you?” “Sure,” he replied. “Three, thirty, thirty-one, and twenty-one. What does that add up to?” I asked. He replied, “eighty-five. Mr. Watkins – what is eight five?” Several students interjected and asked the same question. So, I answered, “Do you know how long summer vacation is?” Dave responded by beginning to sing the Phineas and Ferb theme song, “There’s 104 days of summer vacation and school comes along just to end it…..” I stopped him and the class laughed – I did, too. “Dave, unfortunately we have fewer than Phineas and Ferb, there are only eighty-five days for us,” I told Dave and the rest of the class. They seemed disappointed and I reminded them that our summer break this year was much longer than last year or the previous three years. I asked them about their summer plans. They responded – vacation, sleep, video games, spending time with friends. It was a great moment as they dreamed of the days to come – to spend time with their friends and family resting and relaxing. I redirected the class, and we began our lesson for the day a presentation on the Scandinavian counties of northern Europe and I put the moment in the back of my mind. After class, I re-checked my math and discovered I had made an error. It was really eight-seven days – I had shortchanged them and myself as well.
The next day – I informed the class by calling on Dave and informed him that I needed to apologize for my error – that there were really eighty-seven days and they all got two more days of summer vacation. They were all excited. I redirected and began to talk about the idea that we need to make sure that our days count. I challenged them to make their summer vacation valuable and told them that if the best they could come up with was sleeping late that there were far better ways to spend a summer.
On the second to last day of school I shared a presentation with my Language Arts class with the song “Today is Gonna be a Great Day” by Bowling for Soup. The Phineas and Ferb theme song is adapted from song. The song’s chorus is:
This could possibility be the best day ever!
(This could possibility be the best day ever,)
And the forecast says that tomorrow will likely be a million and six times better.
So make every minute count, jump up, jump in, and seize the day,
And let’s make sure that in every single possible way,
Today is gonna be a great day!
I distributed index cards numbered one through eighty-seven throughout the room and instructed them to write their own summer activities on their index cards. I encouraged them to be serious about their activities. I collected the cards, asked Dave, and another student to organize the cards in numerical order. I read them off day by day and challenged the students to enjoy their summer to their fullest – use their eighty-seven days to rest, reflect, and rejuvenate. I referred back to the song and pointed to the chorus and told them each day could possibly be the best day ever, so make very minute count, jump up, jump in, and seize the day. Carpe diem. Then I distributed their yearbooks and they looked back on their seventh grade year by looking at pictures of themselves and their friends. The time-honored ritual of signing yearbooks began and a few students asked me to sign their yearbook. I did and in each inscription, there was a challenge to make the days count, to seize the day, to make time matter to them.
Which leads me to where I am right now, school is over. I do not get eighty-seven days, I get eighty-two. Some of my summer vacation is already spoken for; a trip to Paris with my brothers and my stepmother; staff development classes to improve my teaching, summer camp with my son and his Boy Scout troop, time at the cottage in northern Michigan, home improvement tasks, and many other jobs and activities. I too want my summer to matter and my days to count. So, each day and I am going to share my activities for the day. I know this is daunting task – I am going to need to be disciplined and focused – two traits with which I struggle. I am planning to share this with my students next fall and throughout the year. For many years, I have wanted to write a book about growing up Clay Watkins. I have many ideas for chapters or sections but I never seem to take the time to get started. So, with this small step, I begin. I hope this challenges you to make your days count. Please feel free to add your posts and responses. Thanks and enjoy your summer.