(Family Features) Back-to-school season means it’s time to get back to the business of learning. This year you can ace your back-to-school shopping excursion with these time- and money-saving steps that can make getting the whole family ready for a new school year a breeze.
Start with a list.
Walking into the store without a list is an open invitation for impulse buys and forgotten items that end up costing you more time and money with a return trip. Create a thorough list by categorizing all the items you’ll shop for, such as supplies, electronics and clothing. If you want to take an extra-organized approach, try color coding items by the section of the store where you would expect to find them.
Set a budget.
Knowing what you can afford to spend ahead of time can save regret and returns after you shop. Calculate how much you’ll need to cover all the items your students truly need, then tack on some room for wants. One must-have is a high-quality backpack, like the High Sierra Access Backpack, which includes a dedicated storage area for your child’s laptop, among other features. If your total budgeted expenses exceed your available funds, consider browsing weekly circulars to keep your budget in check.
Explore your inventory.
It may be buried under a summer’s worth of knick-knacks, but digging out the supplies your child cast aside at the end of the last school year may be worth the effort. Items like scissors, rulers and protractors may not need to be replaced every year if they’re still in working condition. Assess what items you have that can be reused and those that need to be replaced for the new school year.
Cut extra stops.
Dashing all over town to find all the items on your supply list is not only time-consuming, it’s unnecessary. At stores like Office Depot and OfficeMax, you can find all the academic tools and supplies your student needs to head back to the classroom. What’s more, a store that specializes in school supplies will have a broad selection and ample stock of the essentials.
Try online shopping.
When you know exactly what you need, shopping online is a great time-saving solution. Online shopping makes it incredibly simple to keep tabs on your budget before you make purchases and easily keep track of the items in your shopping cart. If you need to hand-select a few items in person, you can always take advantage of a “buy online, pick-up in store” option. This service lets you do your shopping from home with just a quick stop in-store to pick-up your purchases.
Buy in bulk.
It may seem counter-intuitive when you’re trying to trim your spending, but if you can swing it, go ahead and buy extra items that you’ll likely need to replace mid-year. The sale prices during the back-to-school season aren’t likely to repeat during the school year, so in the long run you’ll save money and avoid a last-minute shopping trip on a busy school night in the future. Items like Stellar fashion notebooks, which give note-taking a fashionable twist, are great to have on hand throughout the school year.
Research specials and promotions.
For many stores, the back-to-school shopping season is second only to the holidays. This means you can expect widespread sales, promotions and special deals, such as “deals as low as a penny.” Some states also offer tax-free holidays near the beginning of the school year, which are honored at multiple retailers and generally restricted to school-related purchases like clothing, supplies and some technology.
Weigh quality vs. quantity.
When you have a lengthy list of items to purchase for each child, it can be tempting to cut corners and skimp on spending. In some cases, being cost-efficient is smart, but do your research beforehand to avoid selecting items based solely on price. Value and quality don’t always go hand-in-hand and if you buy an item that falls apart or breaks down quickly, you may end up spending more to replace the items later. While it may be simpler for students to use printers and other machines at school, an all-in-one Epson Expression EcoTank Wireless Printer at home can be a convenient solution when late-night homework is bearing down.
Make dollars do double duty.
While most families expect to spend a sizable amount on back-to-school purchases (nearly $700, according to a 2016 survey by the National Retail Federation), making that money go a little further can soften the blow. You can help improve education in your community by shopping at stores that give a percentage of proceeds back to local schools. Programs vary; in some cases, you can even designate proceeds to the school district of your choice.
Take more notes on smart back-to-school shopping ideas and deals at officedepot.com.
Photos courtesy of Getty Images
(Family Features) For hundreds of years, women have been a key pillar of the agriculture industry, accounting for one-third of the country’s farmers according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture.
While not always thought of in a traditional “farmer” role, women make an impact in the industry and in helping feed the rapidly growing global population. These “farm moms” play vital and integral roles on the farm, with their families and in their communities.
Susan Brocksmith – named the 2017 America’s Farmers Mom of the Year, sponsored by Monsanto – has been involved in supporting Helping His Hands and both the North Knox and South Knox County FFA chapters for many years, and while she finds the experience incredibly rewarding, she also recognizes juggling these responsibilities on top of work and family can be difficult. She offers these tips to other women who are looking for simple ways to get involved in their communities:
- Start small. It’s easy to want to take on a lot of responsibilities to help nonprofit organizations in your community, but starting small can help prevent you from becoming overwhelmed. Start by looking for small volunteer opportunities, such as volunteering to staff a local event, and then look for opportunities to take on a larger role.
- Involve the whole family. Volunteering should be a family affair. Bringing the kids along not only allows you to spend time with them, but also sets the example that giving back is an important responsibility for all.
- Find an impactful cause. Everyone brings a unique set of skills and perspectives to the table. Find an opportunity that fits you and values your contributions.
“I am humbled and blessed to be named the 2017 America’s Farmers Mom of Year,” Brocksmith said. “I was raised on a family farm and was able to raise my daughters on our family farm. I have strived to instill the core values of faith, family and agriculture into my daughters, as well as my college students. Thanks to the support I received from family, friends and the community, I was able to receive this award. This outpouring of support proves anything is possible. Thank you Monsanto for providing this outreach opportunity.”
Brocksmith’s America’s Farmers Mom of the Year award, which honors the significant contributions women make on their farms and in their families, communities and beyond, gifted $4,000 to be divided among the three organizations she is involved with Helping His Hands is a disaster relief organization and local food pantry. Both North Knox FFA and South Knox FFA are long-standing chapters that make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.
“Farm moms like Susan are not only respected leaders in the agriculture industry, but also a critical part of the ecosystem that supports rural communities across America,” said Jessica Lane Rommel, Monsanto business communications manager. “We’re excited to celebrate Susan and all of the women who play such a vital role in rural communities.”
Since the program began in 2010, America’s Farmers Mom of the Year program has recognized 40 individuals for their roles in American farms, families, rural communities and the agriculture industry. To learn more about the program, visit AmericasFarmers.com.
The Kansas State High School Clay Target League (KSSHSCTL) is proud to announce that 503 student athletes are scheduled to participate in the 2017 State Tournament, June 3rd and 4th at the Ark Valley Gun Club outside of Wichita, KS.
Student athletes representing 38 Kansas high school teams will compete for individual and team achievements at the tournament, which is held each year following the completion of the League’s spring season.
“This League is the fastest-growing activity in Kansas schools.” said Jim Sable, Executive Director of the KSSHSCTL, “Participation for the State Tournament has more than doubled since last year. It’s very exciting to see Kansas embrace the clay target league as it has.”
Generous supporters for the State Tournament include: Cabela’s Outdoor Fund, HybridLight, Sportsman’s Guide, and Walker’s.
This year more than 700 student athletes representing 39 high school teams participated in the 2017 spring season. They were coached and supported by over 300 volunteers.
The Kansas State High School Clay Target League is an affiliate of the USA High School Clay Target League, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The League is an independent provider of shooting sports as an extracurricular co-ed and adaptive activity for high schools and students in grades six through 12. The organization’s priorities are safety, fun, and marksmanship – in that order. Each student is required to pass a comprehensive firearm safety education course prior to participation.
Nationwide, over 20,000 student athletes representing over 600 school-approved teams participated in the League during the 2016-17 school year.
As the nation pauses to remember those who have died in service to America, a 2016 Campus High School and Haysville, Kansas native has special responsibilities on Memorial Day, serving with the U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard in Washington D.C.
Airman Bryce Shipe, is participating as part of the Navy drill team for the Armed Forces Full Honor Wreath Ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. He is a member of the seven-person Navy Ceremonial Guard firing party that renders the 21 Gun Salute, the signature honor of military funerals, during every Navy Funeral at Arlington National Cemetery.
“I look forward to having the opportunity to honor our fallen heroes who have served this great nation,” said Shipe.
Established in 1931, the United States Navy Ceremonial Guard is the official Ceremonial Unit of the U.S. Navy and is based at Naval District Washington Anacostia Annex in Washington, D.C.
According to Navy officials, the Ceremonial Guard’s primary mission is to represent the Navy in Presidential, Joint Armed Forces, Navy and public ceremonies in the Nation’s Capital under the scrutiny of the highest-ranking officials of the United States and foreign nations, including royalty.
Sailors of the Ceremonial Guard are hand selected while they are attending boot camp at Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Illinois. Strict military order and discipline, combined with teamwork, allow the Ceremonial Guard to fulfill their responsibilities with pride and determination. They are experts in the art of close order drill, coordination, and timing.
The Ceremonial Guard is comprised of the drill team, color guard, casket bearers, and firing party.
Casket bearers carry the Navy’s past to their resting ground. Whether it is in Arlington National Cemetery, or another veteran’s cemetery.
The firing party renders the 21 Gun Salute, the signature honor of military funerals, during every Navy Funeral at Arlington National Cemetery.
“The Sailors here are true ambassadors of the U.S. Navy,” said Rear Admiral Charles Rock, Commandant, Naval District Washington. “They are part of a legacy that promote the mission, protect the standards, perfect the image and preserve the heritage. This elite team are “guardians of the colors,” displaying and escorting our nation flag with an impeccable exhibition of skill and determination.”
Shipe and other sailors know they are part of a legacy honoring service and sacrifice of men and women on this historic occasion.
Serving in the Navy, Shipe is learning about being a more responsible leader, sailor and person through handling numerous responsibilities.
“The Navy has helped me become more open and outgoing and I am able to accept more responsibility,” said Shipe.
His father and mother, Raymond and Carla Shipe, both reside in Wichita, Kansas.
(Family Features) Summer is a time for playground fun, camping, boating, swimming, biking and other outdoor activities. Longer days mean more time outside and more physical activity, which translates to increased potential for injuries. Playground falls, lawnmower accidents, campfire and fire pit burns are some common childhood injuries that can happen during summer months.
“Sustaining a serious injury can be a life-altering event for a child,” said Chris Smith, Chairman of the Board of Directors for Shriners Hospitals for Children®. “We see patients every day with injuries caused by accidents and we are committed to raising awareness about how to stay safe.”
These tips from Shriners Hospitals for Children can help your family enjoy a fun, injury-free summer.
Go Outside and Play
Outdoor play provides physical and mental health benefits, including opportunities for exercise, creative expression, stress reduction and access to a free and natural source of vitamin D – sunlight. Before sending kids out to play, make sure they are wearing shoes to protect their feet from cuts, scrapes and splinters, and wearing sunscreen to protect against sunburns and harmful ultraviolet rays.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that emergency departments treat more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger every year for playground-related injuries. Before your kids head to the playground, keep these precautions in mind:
- Choose parks and playgrounds that are appropriate for their age and offer shock-absorbing surfaces.
- Teach children that pushing and shoving on the playground can result in accidents and injuries.
- Remind kids to go down the slide one at a time and to wait until the slide is completely clear before taking their turn. Teach them to always sit facing forward with their legs straight in front of them and to never slide down headfirst.
- Remind children to swing sitting down. Encourage them to wait until the swing stops before getting off and to be careful when walking in front of moving swings.
Make a Safe Splash
While playing poolside may be a blast, Safe Kids Worldwide reports that drowning is the leading cause of injury-related deaths for children ages 1-4 and the third-leading cause of injury-related deaths among those under 19. Additionally, the University of Michigan Health Systems estimate that about 6,000 kids under the age of 14 are hospitalized because of diving injuries each year, with 1 in 5 sustaining a spinal cord injury.
Prevent accidents and injuries with these tips to ensure your family’s safety around water:
- Instruct children to never swim alone or go near water without an adult present.
- Give children your undivided attention when they are swimming or near any body of water.
- Always jump in feet first to check the depth before diving into any body of water.
- Never dive in the shallow end of the pool or into above-ground pools.
Fun on the Water
Boating, tubing and other water sports can be great fun but can also be dangerous. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, nearly 71 percent of all boating fatalities are drownings, 85 percent of which are a result of not wearing a life jacket. Here is what you can do to enjoy the water safely:
- Always have children wear a Coast Guard-approved, properly fitted life jacket while on a boat, around an open body of water or when participating in water sports.
- Educate yourself. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, 86 percent of boating accident deaths involve boaters who have not completed a safety course.
- Always check water conditions and forecasts before going out on the water.
Fire Safety Simplified
According to the CDC, more than 300 children ages 19 and under are treated in emergency rooms for fire- and burn-related injuries each day. Use these tips to help keep children safe around fires, fireworks, grills and other heat sources:
- Teach kids to never play with matches, gasoline, lighter fluid or lighters. Make a habit of placing these items out of the reach of young children.
- Do not leave children unattended near grills, campfires, fire pits or bonfires. Always have a bucket of water or fire extinguisher nearby whenever there is an open flame.
- Take your child to a doctor or hospital immediately if he or she is injured in a fire or by fireworks.
- Leave fireworks to the professionals.
To see more tips, find activity pages and learn how to become a “Superhero of Summer Safety,” visit shrinershospitalsforchildren.org/safesummer.
When the Unexpected Happens
It was a beautiful, sunny day when Jordan Nerski headed to the playground with his mother, like millions of other kids on summer vacation. One minute Jordan was climbing on the jungle gym and the next he was on the ground with a broken elbow.
Accidents like these are why emergency room doctors and staff refer to the summer months as “trauma season.” During these warm, action-packed months, kids spend more hours active and outdoors, often without adult supervision, increasing the chance of injury. When these accidents occur, parents want the best care possible for their children.
Jordan’s mother Jackie received a recommendation from a friend who suggested that she bring her son to the Shriners Hospital for Children — Portland walk-in fracture clinic.
“The experience we had was truly amazing,” Jackie Nerski said. “It was a stressful time since he was in a lot of pain, but everyone from the greeter at check-in to the doctor made it the best experience.”
A simple and streamlined process, Jordan, equipped with an X-ray documenting his break, was checked-in at the fracture clinic, treated and casted in under 2 hours. Jordan returned with his mother for follow-up visits to ensure his elbow was healing properly and they found every visit to be stress-free and informative.
“At each visit, every care was taken for his comfort and to answer all my questions to appease my anxiety,” Jackie Nerski said. “It was an experience that was fantastic; though one I hope we don’t need again, but if we do, we know where to go.”
Including the Portland location, there are 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children in the United States, Canada and Mexico that provide specialized care to children with orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries and cleft lip and palate, regardless of the families’ ability to pay. Of these 22 hospitals, 13 also offer walk-in fracture clinics.
By Will Dutton, special to WFM
In an April 2016 Topeka Capital-Journal article, Kansas was characterized as “the Saudi Arabia of Wind.” That’s nothing new to the science department at Sterling High School, located 73 miles northwest of Wichita. They’ve been looking at renewable energy for several years already.
Many students driving to school have a specific parking spot and route they take every day. Some choose to park in front of the district office while others may park by the band room. Most, however, park by the softball fields and wellness center.
Some of these people are in fact, parking under one of the most notable features of Sterling High School, but most don’t even realize it is spinning above them.
The high school’s wind turbine sits on the northwest corner of campus and is actually on the practice field where the football team prepares for each game.
“There’s a constant ringing in our ears, but we get used to it,” Senior Defensive End Ethan Proffitt said. “You kinda don’t notice it in practice, but during like sprints and stuff when we run around the field you have to kinda like change your route sometimes so you don’t run into it.”
An article to remember
Chemistry teacher Dan Whisler couldn’t let the chance to install a wind turbine slip past him.
“It was actually during the summer time,” Whisler said. “There was an article on the front page of the Hutchinson News about wind energy and the wind for schools program. Energy education was the whole idea. Westar-Energy was sponsoring this program, and they were looking for schools that might be interested in starting a wind energy program.”
Eager about the opportunity in front of him, Whisler made his way to Sterling to seek out district superintendent Fred Dierksen.
“I drove over to visit with Dr. Dierksen that day, and before I got there one of the board members had already been in to see him about it,” Whisler said.
That board member was Dave Wilson, founder of local business Sterling Services.
“Wind energy was very transcendent at the time,” Wilson said. “It seemed clear, still does, that we wanted our students to have exposure to the technology should they choose a career in the field.”
Several City of Sterling workers put many hours into installing the turbine.
“A number of the city employees, Dicko Jones, Tim Hendricks, they were involved in installing our turbine and hooking it up,” Whisler said. “‘Whitey’ he was the one that did the foundation and groundwork. This project would not have happened without the partnership, the involvement of the City of Sterling.”
In the fall of 2007, the high school was selected by “The Wind for Schools Project” to be the very first school involved with the project to install a 2.4 kilowatt Skystream wind turbine.
“One of the reasons we were selected when we wrote up our grant, it was a community effort to make it happen,” Whisler said. “A selling point for the grant.”
Among other people who helped during the process, Dr. Ruth Miller of Kansas State University also played a part.
“She is an electrical engineer at K-State and she is the coordinator for the Kansas Wind for Schools Program,” Whisler said. “She is a leader in the state in terms of energy education.”
Connection to the classroom
One of the requirements for the project stated, “Schools receiving WFS Turbines are expected to incorporate education about wind energy into their science, math, and social studies curricula, including how turbines work and how to collect, process and understand the data the turbines will provide.”
Whisler believes his students have taken away more from this component than data collection of the school’s own turbine.
“This whole project is how we got started with Environmental Science and Economics as the same curriculum,” Whisler said. “We haven’t used it as much in terms of the data collection, because of the problems we’ve gone through as far as getting the data. The hands-on activities in the classroom are something we’ve used more. It’s hands on and the students are actually involved in the data collection and analysis.”
The entire reason why students have been able to compete in KidWind challenges over the years correlates with the arrival of our wind turbine.
“Our big turbine led to the KidWind project, and our involvement in that, and that’s what got us started in all the KidWind challenges and everything we’ve done that way,” Whisler said.
Although the KidWind project is still relatively new, Whisler believes more and more schools are being introduced annually.
“It’s one now that’s growing across the country,” Whisler said. “Thanks to funding, part of it came from the Rice County coalition, and part of it was a grant from Dr. Miller, I received funding as an educator to go to a one-week workshop in Maine. I flew there for a week and had training from the KidWind director and office staff and became what they refer to as a wind senator.”
Whisler has used the experience to train more people in the state.
“From that, I have started doing KidWind workshops to help other teachers around the state learn more about KidWind and how to do the hands-on activities,” Whisler said. “I’ve hosted about eight to ten different workshops and trained 100-125 teachers from around the state on the Kidwind activities.”
Since entering the state competition the school has fielded some very informed teams.
“During the last several years we’ve competed in the wind tunnel — the KidWind challenge, learning year-to-year,” Whisler said. “Three years ago we had a team that won the state KidWind challenge and had the opportunity to compete in a national challenge held in Washington D.C.”
Working towards travel
Since there is no budget for this activity, funding to get the team to D.C. was difficult.
“Thanks to this network of people I’d already been working with, through The Sierra Club, Seamon’s, the bank, and Clelia McCrory (a local grant writer), we were able to come up with $3,500 in ten days.”
Former KidWind and student of Whisler’s Taryn Gillespie thought the experience was very memorable.
“It was an awesome feeling to go compete for something we’d spent countless hours of hard work on and come out successful,” Gillespie said. “Getting the invite then to move on to nationals was a feeling of excitement for a new opportunity and experience, and getting a reward for the hard work. It took a group effort and lots of trial and error, but we never gave up.”
While speaking at the state competition about their experience through the hands on activities, future opportunities were opened up.
“Ryan Freed, director of the Kansas Energy office heard our students give their presentation,” Whisler said. “He was impressed with the presentation they gave and invited them to go to Topeka to give their presentation to the Kansas Corporation Commission, comprised of three commissioners. The regulatory energy board that oversees utility companies in Kansas. They were impressed with the work the students had done and asked us if we would help with the Kansas Energy Expo at the state fair.
“So for two years we were a part of this great, big energy education project. We had the Volt on display, we had the wind tunnel on display, and students helping other students coming through. It was a neat way for us to showcase what we’re doing with energy education in Sterling.”
State fair success
Caleb Hendricks, 2015 graduate of the school was happy to present his work at the state fair.
“Being able to work at the state fair and inform people was great because we got the chance to really get the word out to people about different alternative energy sources that we have,” he said. “The fact that we were able to incorporate a real life issue into what we are learning in the classroom rather than just reading in a textbook.”
An electrifying thought
Aware of the ever-changing developments of the science world, in the Spring of 2011 Whisler posed a question to his students.
“Gas prices were $3.50 and climbing at the time,” Whisler said. “I wanted to give them a math assignment. I asked them to calculate my annual expense just for buying gas to drive back and forth from work. I told them to be my financial advisor, look at the cost of electricity, and research this new vehicle, the Volt. I asked them if I’d be further ahead to buy a vehicle like this and commute on electricity instead of gas?”
A group discussion soon followed in which one student suggested getting the Volt tested.
“It was Brett Smith’s idea in 2011, Whisler said. “I kinda paused at that point and said, ‘If we had a Volt, what data would we collect? How would we analyze it? What would our project look like?’
“We started as a class putting together a proposal, I visited with Mrs. McCrory and threw the idea out to her, and we, over a period of two to four weeks, kind of put together a proposal.”
In April 2011 McCrory asked Whisler how far he thought a check for $500 could go if she gave that to Conklin’s as a deposit to hold the school’s name on for a Volt.
“The vehicle was available on a very limited basis,” Whisler said. “There weren’t even any in Kansas at this point. None. She is the one who took that initial leap of faith.”
Sponsorship, again, seemed like a problem.
“Our original idea was to lease a Volt for three years, and to have a major sponsor each year at a $5,000 level,” Whisler said. “They’d get three years of advertising for the project in return. I knew there would be some work involved in finding three businesses willing to do that. Jacam blew me out of the water. They gave us $15,000 towards this project.”
Miles built up
The Volt has also been recognized around the country.
“It’s succeeded far beyond my dreams in terms of the opportunities it’s presented to us,” Whisler said. “The Kansas Energy Expo, we’ve had it on display in New Orleans at a National Science Teacher’s Association convention, an NSTA convention in Kansas City, and an NSTA convention with Taryn in Chicago.”
Proud of all the achievements and knowledge students had gained, the school district decided to buy the Volt.
“It was a community partnership,” Whisler said. “Jeff Laudermilk at First Bank jumped on board and said, ‘What if the bank bought it and leased it to the school?’
“Well there was a $7,500 tax rebate available, and while schools are tax-exempt, we don’t qualify for tax rebates. Conklin’s claimed the rebate. The bank bought The Volt at a discounted price and leased it to the school district.”
Aside from being showcased at conventions, the Volt brought in one more seemingly incredible honor during the early process.
A prestigious honor
“The first year we had the Volt, a Volt advisor from Detroit called me as I was leaving the classroom,” Whisler said. “She’d heard about the Volt through the dealership. She asked if we could visit. We ended up talking for an hour. She wanted to know if I’d give my permission to her so the Huffington Post could write an article about the Volt project.”
Pete Turness, Communications director of General Motors had seen photos highlighting the Volt students’ work on Whisler’s Twitter page and invited Whisler to be a special guest at one of five global events celebrating GM’s accomplishment of making 500,000,000 vehicles. He invited a few special guests who had a unique story to tell.
“Taryn, Brett, and I were able to attend the celebration conference where we met the CEO of General Motors,” Whisler said. “It was a neat experience for Brett to be able talk about his idea in class, and for Taryn to show everyone what we’d worked on. Afterwards, two members of their magazine team asked if I’d seen their new magazine. They told me on the back cover they were featuring a customer with a unique story. They featured the work our students had done in the classroom with the Volt. It went to over 8,000,000 people in dealerships across the United States.”
Jeffrey Hartman, a member of the 2016 KidWind team that received the state award for energy education is deeply grateful for his experience in Whisler’s classroom.
“I would start by just saying thank you, and then I would mostly thank Mr. Whisler for his encouragement because he kept pushing me to do my best and work hard. I really enjoy my Advanced Environmental Science class,” Hartman said.
Whisler never imagined this outcome when he suggested installing a wind turbine.
“When we started this project, I knew it was unique,” Whisler said. “But to think of ever gaining the attention it’s gained. I never would have thought or expected. It’s also been fun because there weren’t lesson plans. We were designing these things as we went along.”
Will Dutton is a student journalist. His work is being feature in the month of February 2017 in order to support the work of student journalists learning the craft. If you have a student journalism you would like to see featured by Wichita Family Magazine, please email the publisher.
By Kendall Vogts
What to do? As a teacher, enjoying his or her summer break, that seems to be a question that comes up often and is usually followed by a smile or smirk and glazed over eyes as they wander off into the world of beautiful, student-free possibilities.
From the months of August through May, teachers are busy with everything school, but in June and July, things are different!
Now, as an auntie of young and school-aged children, I understand perfectly, have seen and have experienced summer activities for children. The goal is to keep the kids busy with fun, adventurous, silly, outdoorsy, educational and time-consuming activities. This list might include trips to the pool, the zoo, children’s museums or the park.
Parents or caretakers plan crafts like painting, sidewalk chalk and making your own silly putty. There might even be that carpooling parent, like my oldest sister, who spends time shuttling kids to library time, swimming lessons, dance lessons and gymnastics.
Needless to say, painting a picture of what students do during summer break could be pretty easy.
But what about the educators? What do we do? For some non-educators, I think they picture us sleeping in, shopping, eating out and watching TV. While those things might happen a smidge of the time, there are many other things we enjoy doing or must do in order to prepare for the next school year.
To start out, on our time off, we travel! We plan vacations with our loved ones, and we let loose a bit. My husband and I will be heading to Kansas City to Schlitterbahn with friends and will take an anniversary vacation. We also hop in the car and visit our family members. By the time summer is over, I will have visited my oldest sister and her family in Minnesota. I will have driven south to Oklahoma to visit my middle sister’s family. And I will have made it to my hometown to see all of the family that live there.
Also, we work on our homes. During the school year, there is a lot of time spent away from our houses. I don’t think people realize this, but most days, I spend more time at school than I do my own home! Sometimes, educators are lucky just to make supper for our families and spend a couple hours with them before we head to bed, only to start the routine over again.
So during the summer, we garden, paint walls, re-arrange furniture, finally complete that Pinterest craft we’ve had our eyes on, de-clutter and enjoy being able to live in our own space and not our classrooms.
Next, we prepare for the next school year. While at the beginning of our summer vacation, we want to be as far away from anything school related as possible; however, we eventually have to bite the bullet in order to be fully ready for our next round of kids. We meet with our partner teachers to plan lessons, we set up our classrooms, we copy notes and forms that each student will need, number our books, set up our progress monitoring tools and so much more.
Finally, this year especially and in the state of Kansas, teachers on their summer vacations have worried about their jobs and the future of education. Teaching is my and my husband’s job. We need our jobs to pay off student debt (which will increase because to make gains in this profession, you must continue your education), to pay for our cars, insurance, our new home and the other means by which we live.
I can see how, looking from an outsider’s perspective could be considered selfish. “They are only teaching for the money.” At that I might give a chuckle because of the amount on the paystub I get each month.
But the questions remain: Didn’t I get into education for the kids? To teach them English, as well as how to be contributing, awesome members of society? And the answer to all those question is yes! And that is why as teachers during this summer vacation we are concerned about the future of education in the State of Kansas. We are required to do so much, with students who may or may not even what to be there, with so, so little in the way of support and supplies. Public education is important. School is the safest, most consistent place for a majority of students out there.
Parents and guardians, think about those things while our kids and teachers are on summer vacation.
Regardless of the role — parent, student, or educator — summer vacation is a special time. It gives everyone the opportunity to relax, decompress, make memories and prepare for the upcoming school year.
As you are helping your student get ready for 2016-17 school session, remember their teachers. Their summers are spent doing much more than wondering, “What to do?”.
Kendall Vogts lives and teaches in Central Kansas. She is married to WFM publisher Todd Vogts.