Sunday, November 28, 2010

Gearing up for the Stretch Run...

I hope everyone associated with OHS had an enjoyable and restful Thanksgiving.  Our family was busy with dinner, traditions that include decorating for Christmas, watching the first Christmas movie of the season, and lighting the Christmas lights we hung outside the house back when the weather was still warm.  [In case you hadn't noticed, we are kind of into Christmas at our house.  :-)]  A trip to the Winter Wonderland at Falls Park and watching the Festival of Light Parade, both in Sioux Falls, were highlights for us as well.  If you have never been I highly recommend it! 

The break was enjoyable and restful. Transitioning back from a break is always a challenge for students and staff alike.  I like to call this time between Thanksgiving and Christmas "The Stretch Run."  It is easy to overlook this next 3 1/2 weeks.  They go very fast.  A wide variety of winter athletics and activities, coupled with Christmas concerts at all levels make these 18 days of school go by in a blink.  Many students would say that is just fine with them.  They got a little taste of break and it has whetted their appetite for the granddaddy of breaks - the coveted Christmas vacation. 

There is just one problem with trying to close your eyes, shut off your brain, and wish away the time between now and December 23rd - a lot of teaching, learning, and assessing happens in this short time.  We are in the heart of 2nd quarter.  In fact our midterm is coming up in just a few days.  Courses that have been building sequentially from the first unit are well into their curriculum and the work has become more and more rigorous.  Due to the small number of days in 1st semester after Christmas break, a lot of courses focus heavily on these next few weeks.  Most teachers are only able to complete one small unit and then begin preparing and administering semester exams in January. 

All of this means that the next 3 1/2 weeks are very important.  Students; do not attempt to disengage your brains between now and December 23rd!  Your grades and more importantly, your education, will suffer for it.  I promise Christmas Break will come...that is for certain.  What is up to you is how well you apply yourselves between now and then.  Parents, encourage your sons and daughters through this busy time.  Help keep them focused on the goal and try to keep healthy routines established. 

This is a great time of year with lots of school events and family traditions to keep us all busy.  Thank you for all you do to keep a focus on priorities so all of these wonderful events don't become a stumbling block on the road to academic success for all students.  

Sunday, November 14, 2010

We Can

Last night my oldest daughter and I attended "The Music Man" as performed by the Okoboji High School Drama Department.  It was a wonderful show and both of us enjoyed it very much.  From the great songs (sung by some amazing singers I might add), to the wacky antics of the mayor, his wife, and of course Professor Harold Hill, it was fun from beginning to end.  Any show that can hold the attention of a 6 year old for two hours has to be good! 

As we watched I was once again reminded why I love small schools.  My daughter only saw actors and actresses on the stage but I saw them as something more.  I watched the wrestler share the stage with the debate champion, the student council representative sing a duet with a fifth grade student, and some students who I have yet to hear say more than 10 words this year, make the audience roll with laughter.  At several points during the show there were over 30 students sharing the stage for some of the larger choral arrangements.  This number isn't even including all of the backstage and behind the scenes help needed to put on a show.  This is what is great about a small school.  At Okoboji High School anybody can be involved in anything they chose.  There are no cuts, no one needs to specialize in just one activity all year in order to make the team, and kids from all different backgrounds and interests can come together to make something great.  In fact, to take it a step farther, in a small school kids from all different backgrounds MUST come together in order to make something great.  We are not a 4A school, where students are split into different factions depending on their activity of interest and rarely get involved outside of their circle - nor do we want to be.  Students at Okoboji are encouraged to play sports, sing, participate in the band, debate, and get involved in clubs like FFA, DECA, and many more, all at the same time. 

Hopefully you are all aware of the community meeting being held on Thursday at 7:00pm in the OHS Auditorium to discuss the status and future of our football program.  In recent years our numbers have dwindled leaving us with a dangerously low number of players. We are meeting on Thursday night as a community to discuss the problem, the possible outcomes if the situation does not change, and then we will be breaking into smaller groups to brainstorm what we can do within our groups (parents, staff members, community members, students, etc) to turn this situation around. 

Some have asked why we are focusing on the football program.  To be honest we have seen numbers in many of our sports programs decline and we are concerned.  The reason we are meeting regarding football is that in football, unlike other sports, you cannot make up for a lack of upperclassmen by regularly playing freshmen at the varsity level.  In basketball if you start freshmen against seniors you will probably get beat.  In football if you repeatedly start freshmen against larger, more developed seniors, they are probably going to get hurt.  Also, it takes a large number of players to field a football team.  Frankly our participation rates have reached a level where we need to increase our numbers or our program won't survive. 

I haven't been here long but I can tell you this is a community that will not back down from a challenge.  We are proud to be Pioneers and together we can do things none of us can do alone.  I believe we can reverse this trend in football and all of our athletic programs.  I believe we can rebuild a team in which our biggest concern will be ordering enough uniforms for all of our players, rather than if we will have enough to field a team.  This meeting is about so much more than football.  It is about the pride of a school and our continued commitment to excellence in all areas.  Please join us on Thursday night as we meet together to listen, discuss, and tackle this issue head on as a school district and community.  With all of us working together, I know we can. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Moving Beyond Textbooks...

Recently a challenge was issued to interested Iowa educators on the 1 to 1 Schools Blog sponsored by the CASTLE group we discussed last week.  The original challenge was issued by Scott McLeod and can be found HERE.  The basic idea was to spend at least one week teaching without a textbook as the source of information for students.  Two Okoboji teachers took the challenge and wrote blog posts on their experiences.  The teachers were Justin Bouse, 5th grade teacher, and Sue Hillsabeck who is in her first year of teaching 8th grade social studies.  Their reflections were published on the 1 to 1 Schools Blog and can be found HERE. (They are the first two posts at the top of the page) 

Please take a minute to read through their reflections and learn about the great things going on in their classrooms!

Have a great week!