Welcome back to the MNOHS Blog! We were quiet most of last year, but have much good news and creative ideas about connected learning to share this year. Please watch this space!
--Elissa Raffa, MNOHS Executive Director
Janet, the mother of a MNOHS summer student told me this story: Her son, Rob, like many varsity athletes wanted to knock off the required health course in the summer. Their family chose the MNOHS Health Issues and Choices course, while most of his teammates and friends chose their district's online option.
One evening, some of Rob's friends we hanging out at Janet's and she invited them to stay for supper. Rob brought a notebook to the supper table and began to take notes.
"What are you doing?" his friends asked.
"My nutrition assignment," he told them. "I'm writing down what I'm eating to analyze it later."
"You're kidding," they said. "You're doing actual work for an online health class?"
"I kind of like it," Rob said. "What do you do?
"We read stuff online and answer the questions. You're doing real work?"
"It's kind of cool," Rob repeated, setting down his pen and picking up his fork.
At MNOHS, 'real work' means active, authentic learning. Whether students are analyzing their nutrient intake in health class, composing melodies in music class, or testing conjectures in geometry, they are engaged in real learning, guided by highly accomplished teachers in the field.
A case in point, MNOHS Health Teacher Bonnie Rosenfield received the 2013 University of MN Women's Physical Education Alumnae Association Helen M. Slocum School of Health Education Honorary Award in recognition of her leadership, dedication and service to school health education. At MNOHS, Ms. Rosenfield's students are engaged in real learning, developing information literacy and critical thinking skills so that they can assess for themselves the validity of health-related claims, make the best possible choices, and develop the best possible habits.
At MNOHS, all learning is real learning. We celebrate students who are pursuing their passions--in academics, athletics, or the arts. All students have their priorities and preferences, and sometimes just want to cross a graduation requirement off their list. Each MNOHS teacher, however, does everything possible to help students engage meaningfully in each course, because every student deserves a high-quality education.
Our first blog posting of the school year is from MNOHS math teacher, board member, and family coordinator Kim Breeden.
This seasonal transition from summer to fall is always hard for me, as it may be in your house. I’ve been thinking about this (and this blog post) for weeks. It began with a family outing to Valley Fair on Labor Day. For those of you in my generation, you may recall ValleyFair’s ads using the song “Summertime Blues.” All day long, I couldn’t get that song out of my head. I was feeling very annoyed as I’ve never understood how there could be such a thing as the summertime blues. As far as I was concerned, the blues are a result of the end of summertime.
I knew that once Labor Day was over—the unofficial end of summer—my boys and I would head back to school. This filled me with disappointment. The odd thing about this is that I love my job. My kids love their school. And, yet, I was deeply sad that summer was over, but not for the reasons you may think. Yes, I love spending time with my kids, the warm weather, and freedom. While I do miss those things, what was bothering me most was the lack of accomplishment during the summer months. On Memorial Day, the summer had laid large before me. I had glorious plans—both professionally and personally: class revisions, new geometry videos, bike rides, camping…And now, here it was Labor Day. In truth, there was much I accomplished this summer and if pressed I could easily make a list. But there was so much more I had meant to do.
"Now what?" I asked myself. I was not going to make Labor Day into another New Year's. There would be no resolutions for me. I knew I was not the first to feel this way. Adults and students alike can get caught up in what we meant to do that it prevents us from doing much of anything. I have had many students tell me, “I am so far behind. I feel overwhelmed. I just don’t know what to do.” My answer to them is usually pretty straight-forward. Start at the beginning and do something. Deal with school—and life—one small task at a time. One accomplishment leads to another and the success breeds success.
Remembering my advice to my students, I plodded forward, like many of us do each September: balancing school, and work, and family. And life happened. In the past few weeks I've accomplished many of those things that were on my summer “to do” list as well as many that weren’t. Fall is amazingly busy at MNOHS, in a wonderful sort of way. I connected with new students while evaluating their transcripts and creating class schedules to help them reach their goal of high school graduation. I collaborated with a co-worker to design a course to give extra support to students struggling with time management, motivation or personal issues that made attending school challenging. New geometry and calculus videos were created, feedback provided on assignments, and parent newsletters written.
They weren’t monumental achievements that sent me to cross anything off of my bucket list. I did, however, realize that fall, like summer, holds much potential. It is a more structured time, where routine and obligations provide us with stability. It is also a time to reconnect with people who are a constant in our lives 9 months of the year. It is a time to be proud of what we do each day, to remember the glories of our summer, the cold days ahead, and the fact that there is always another spring.