Today I was a 2nd grade teacher at Sangamon Elementary in Mahomet. The Mahomet-Seymour district does not have classes on the day before, the day of, or the day after Thanksgiving. So the students have a wonderful five-day vacation. As a result, there wasn’t much classwork going on today, either.
I’m not sure why this is the case, but it is definitely a common one. Teachers tend to treat the day before a vacation as a vacation day as well. There is school work going on, for sure, and the students wrap up any units they may have been working on, but it is a very light day. My students spent the morning preparing and then presenting a series of three short plays that focused on the crossing of the Atlantic by the Mayflower, the befriending of Samoset and Squanto, and the first Thanksgiving feast in 1621. The afternoon was spent in Art, watching a movie, having recess, and going to P.E. Then the students finished the day eating cookies and pumpkin bars as I read a children’s book about Thanksgivings past and present.
There are some substitutes who enjoy having light days like these. I am not one of those subs. I like to have a day that has too much planned, rather than too little. I hate to have down time when the students could just as easily be at home watching “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” as being at school. I understand why the teachers planned the day like this. But it isn’t how I would have chosen to plan it. If it had been up to me to make the plans for the day, I would have had the students research different Thanksgiving festival traditions around the world, and even around the nation. What are the traditional foods? Do their families have any special Thanksgiving traditions? Are traditions important? Why or why not? This would have kept the day light without feeling like it was just a time filler.
But, alas, my job is not to make the plans. It is simply to follow the plans made by the regular classroom teacher. I am not being critical of this teacher, or any of the other teachers in the building. I am merely contemplating what I would have done differently. However, there is one thing I did today that I would not have done differently: Had the students watch “This Is America, Charlie Brown: The Mayflower Voyagers”