AirSafe 2016

By: Shannon Elizabeth Boatwright

Every 3 years the FAA requires every commercial airport to conduct a full scale emergency exercise involving an aircraft accident with “victims.” This event, called AirSafe, provides priceless training for first responders and officials, and serves as a test to make sure all involved know exactly what is expected of them in order to help others and save lives.

AirSafe

My 8th Grade Honors Drama students at Chapin Middle School were invited to participate in this incredible event. Talk about a fabulous, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these kids! When my old friend, Fire Chief Glenn Williams, reached out to me about the event and invited my students and I, once I understood more of what the event was about, all I could think was…Wow! What an amazing experience this could be for my students and at this time of year as we remember 9/11. Glenn put me in touch with Captain Daniel J. Ruggiero, who was in charge of the entire event at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport. As I learned more about the event and the roles my students would get to play, I knew I had to do whatever I could to make this happen and allow my students to partake in this unique experience.

AirSafe

With full support from the school district and my administration, on September 14th, 2016, 38 of my honors students participated in the full scale mock disaster drill. Their role was to portray plane crash victims. When they arrived they were given an actor symptomatology tag which displayed their symptoms, each being given specific injuries to act out – fake blood and all! Which naturally the kids thought was especially cool, as it added an element of reality for them and everyone involved. Once the disaster drill began, first responders came to the scene, rescued all the passengers and begin triage to determine their priority.

AirSafe

For my Honors Drama students to have this opportunity to create and portray very unique roles that provided valuable training for fire rescue and EMS personnel, well, there’s no denying it was a priceless experience for these young actors. Not only was it a super cool acting gig for these students, but it was also an eye-opening experience that allowed them to recognize, understand and appreciate the crucial role of our first responders and all that they do to keep us safe.

AirSafe

As a teacher and director of the arts, I am ever thankful for this opportunity that my students were able to experience. I am also thankful that myself and my chaperones had the opportunity to deepen our appreciation for our awesome first responders. A huge thank you to my friends, Fire Chief Williams and Captain Ruggiero, for the invite!! And here’s to all the first responders – your dedication to keeping us safe are appreciated beyond words!

Back to School

By: Lara Clark

I spent a lot of time this summer at my desk, at work, in front of a computer. Our summer trip was in early June and my feet will not hit the sand any time soon. I enjoyed ALL of your trapper keepervacation pictures streaming through my Facebook feed, really I did. But I had to find my joy in other things as we ease back in to the school year.

I have found a few things that are putting pep in my step and maybe they will yours too.

1. The show Unreal. I may be late to this party, but there is a chance if your television watching time falls after the kids go down and before your eyelids go down then you may be late to this party too. UnReal is a fictional show about the making of a reality show. It feels like a behind the scenes look at the making of The Bachelor. And since I believe reality is stranger than fiction, I gotta think this show might be giving us an inside look into what makes those hot tub, smoochie girls cry buckets of tears when they do not get a rose. There is one season of this on Hulu and the second season is currently on Lifetime. If you have a Roku there is a free Lifetime app so you can catch up on any episodes you miss or fall asleep during.

2. Okay, so this one might be a stretch. These are things that are making my back to school days a bit brighter. This one is a little more literal. Last summer we renovated our kitchen and chose a porcelain white sink. Now, like everything white in my life, it does not have the same sparkle and shine it once had. A wise friend suggested I buy some Soft Scrub….in all my maidless days I have never used this thing called Soft Scrub. Well, let me know tell you- our sink is as white as the teeth of the model in a whitening strip commercial. I would say pearly white. Though this may not be a photograph of my feet propped up and a glass of wine on a porch overlooking the ocean, I might still put it on Instagram. #nofilter #lilywhite #cleansinkhappyheart

3. Saving money is not the easiest thing for me to do. Mostly because it seems like you have to have extra money to save and I am not in the business of extra money but a few months ago I signed up for Digit. Basically, you give Digit your banking information. (It is legit I did my research.) They study your account and develop an algorithm (don’t ask me?) and determine how much of your money they can shift into a savings account without you even really noticing. Sometimes it is 54 cents and sometimes it is 38 dollars all the while you don’t really miss it and the best part is when you want to withdraw your money for a little vacation you text them withdraw and ta-da it is in your account. My plan is to keep using Digit so I can afford more vacations next year and spend more time posting pics than drooling over yours.

So that’s it for me, looks like most of my back-to-school favorites are just my favorites, because let’s be honest, back-to-school hasn’t looked the same since there was a new outfit, a shiny Trapper Keeper and someone else paid the bills!

Carpe Diem!!

By: Shannon Boatwright

Seize the day and make your lives extraordinary!

The great Robin Williams spoke these incredible words in a brilliant film called “Dead Poets Society.” What a gem that piece of art was and still is. See the short movie clip below of our brilliant and gone-way-too-soon Mr. Williams giving this priceless piece of advice to a group of young men.

I actually use this saying in my middle school drama classes. It serves as a great way for me to hopefully inspire these kids and it helps me gain their attention. The students can be engaged in group work or pre-class chatter and I will yell “Carpe Diem!!!” and they will all respond, with passion, “Seize the Day!!!” It’s quite the empowering, cool experience. As soon as they finish saying the word “day”, the room is completely silent – which creates this really cool vibe in the air, especially after we’ve just yelled something so powerful, in unison.

I show my students the clip from the movie and use it as a way to inspire them to make the most of their time with me and throughout their day. Let’s face it, like Robin says, we will all one day be dead, it’s an inevitable part of life. So why not make the best of life while we’re living it? I encourage them to make a real effort, give everything their best shot. Life is too short to waste it away and be unhappy. Let’s make it count while we have the opportunity.

Now many of us, young students included, often see motivational videos about pursuing your dreams, getting out there and making great things happen – seizing the day! And a lot of these videos feature superstars, Olympic athletes…individuals who are exceptional and seem super-human. In my classes we discuss how these kinds of videos can indeed be very motivating and inspirational, yet it’s not always necessarily what the real world looks like for most of us. We can’t really stop everything we’re doing and go rule and rock the world. It’s just not quite that easy. We have responsibilities, requirements of life. In the real world, it’s not always feasible for anyone, much less a kid, to drop what they’re doing and suddenly reach for the stars, climb the tallest mountains, make a hit record overnight, create cures, or become president. It’s a process, succeeding at life. Seizing it takes hard work and effort. And I can guarantee a lot of us don’t look like visions of superhuman perfection while we’re making that effort. So…I make it a point to explain that when we use “Carpe Diem” in my class, we are using it as a means of gathering focus and reminding ourselves to make our best effort in that moment. Together we seize our day, making the best of the small moments that will lead us to do great things, big and small.

Here’s to making our lives extraordinary!

Carpe Diem!

Realize This is the Real World

By: Shannon Boatwright

So there’s this video circulating on Facebook. It’s been out in the web world for over 6 years now. But it’s resurfaced, rightly so, since we’re in total back-to-school mode. I’d seen it before but I recently watched it again, getting a good chuckle. As a good, hardworking teacher, you certainly get the point of the video. Any school employee that deals with craziness from parents will get this video.

Sure, there are unworthy people out there in the education system who should not be granted the privilege of teaching or even be in the presence of students. Sadly, passionless, burnt out, sad sacks exist in the education world. Sometimes you just can’t avoid those types. But the truth is, they are far and few between. There are millions of truly passionate teachers and dedicated folks who do care so very much and try their hardest to do everything they can do to provide the best education for our children.

 

Watching this video again reminded me of the great privilege I have to inspire, educate and hopefully create outstanding, respectable, hardworking individuals that will contribute to society. All that said, as you watch the video and chuckle too, whether you’re a parent, grandparent, guardian or supporter of children and education in any form, please remember that all the weight does not fall on the shoulders of the teachers, administration or support staff. An enormous part of creating, building, and molding a successful student must come from a student’s support system at home AND must be met with an individual student’s own effort and dedication to doing their best.

Like the school voicemail message states, this is the REAL world and “your child must be accountable and responsible for his or her behavior, classwork, and homework.” The answer to why a particular student is failing at anything, may not be due to a teacher’s fault. Always stop to consider this and make sure that your student, your child, is making an honest effort.

My personal mantra for the new school year, as a passionate, Arts-loving Drama teacher, is one of Brendon Burchard’s many fabulous quotes,

“Grant me the strength to focus this week, to be mindful and present,to serve with excellence, to be a force of love.”

Here’s to a successful new school year that will hopefully produce a sea of inspired, educated, standing-ovation-worthy students that will move on to do great things in their lives that will make a positive difference in this crazed world of ours!  🙂

Writing Cursive Off?

By: Chaunte McClure

Like many of you, I spend more time key stroking than I do putting pen to paper, but I do occasionally write – in print and cursive. It just depends on what I’m writing and my mood. Yes, my mood determines my writing style, and even writing quality.

cursiveI came across an article today about legislators in Washington state considering a bill that would make teaching cursive handwriting mandatory in public schools. What?! It’s not already required? I’ve heard similar talk in the media before, but I guess I really didn’t take it seriously or didn’t think schools would actually remove cursive from the curriculum.

While I understand we use computers and other electronic devices in many careers and kids use tablets and laptops in schools, I am concerned about the idea of not teaching cursive.

I loved learning to write in cursive. I think I was in third grade when Mrs. Poston taught our class the art of cursive writing. I remember how she would slide the chalkboard liner across the dusty green chalkboard to make perfect lines and demonstrate how to write the upper and lowercase letters. Then we’d practice handwriting on paper. You remember the grayish-colored paper with the blue solid line, broken line, solid line pattern, right? Learning how to loop and join letters was so much fun. I loved it! All that practice helped improve my penmanship and boosted my writing confidence. I was always scribbling on paper, writing words or my name in cursive. I still find myself doing it, especially if I’m sitting in a boring meeting or as a warm-up exercise before I have to complete some type of document.

Knowing how to write in cursive made me feel like a big girl. I could do something that adults knew how to do. Is it a lost art? Should it become one?

Sure, times have changed, but I don’t think change has been so swift that kids should not learn cursive writing. What about signing their name? Will everything soon require an electronic signature? What if they have to research old, handwritten documents? How will they read them?

I guess I’m officially old school. I do have friends who prefer writing in print, but I wonder if they’re opposed to their kids learning cursive?

Raise your hand, or your voice, if you want to keep cursive in schools. Scroll down and express yourself in the comments.

M.A.C. Join the Movement that is…The Midlands Arts Conservatory

By: Shannon Boatwright 

fine arts

When I hear the words ARTS CONSERVATORY, my interest is peaked, my attention grabbed, and my artistic heart and mind are intrigued. So you can imagine my response when my fellow artist and teacher friend, Amy Hyman Reynolds, mentioned the mission for an Arts Conservatory here in the Midlands – a public charter school with a fine arts focus for 5th graders on up through high school.

What!? What?! Every part of me halted with instant enthusiasm and excitement at the mere thought. As a lover, supporter and teacher of the Fine Arts, my heart swells at the mention of the mission to bring an Arts-focused school to my community. I know I may sound a bit dramatic to some, but if you have even an inkling of the outstanding benefits that the Fine Arts provide to young minds, I believe you would quickly understand my passion.

Other areas in South Carolina, like Greenville and Charleston, have come to realize the benefits of launching Arts-focused schools. These charter schools are creating successful, well-rounded adults that contribute to our communities in so many outstanding ways.

Columbia, South Carolina needs this! We have such a wealth of talent in our local communities.

 

“The arts can help students become tenacious, team oriented, problem solvers who are confident and able to think creatively.” – Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education

 

The young, brilliant minds of our community ache for the opportunity to integrate the Arts into the core subjects and hone their talents. Having an Arts-focused charter school in the Midlands would provide an incredible learning opportunity for students. It really is hard for me to find the words to truly express the magnitude of benefits. The movement that is M.A.C. – The Midlands Arts Conservatory – is a dream come true for an area that is bursting at the seams with talent.

I implore you, I sincerely ask you, I dare you to take the time to learn more about the proposed mission to bring M.A.C. to our lovely community. Allow yourself to soak up all the information about this movement so that you can become a part of it! Please get involved, help spread the word, submit a letter of interest, come to the meetings, acknowledge the great benefits of the Arts, and show your support! The deadline is near to prove that M.A.C. is a most worthy cause that will do nothing but benefit others.

Visit their website to learn more: http://www.midlandsartsconservatory.com/

 

“Amazing things happen and great knowledge is attained when the arts help to bring core school subjects to life. The joy of the arts is that they can be integrated into every subject. In a perfect educational world, every school would have a fine arts program and arts integration would be a part of every school’s curriculum. Students and teachers would only benefit; there are no negative aspects whatsoever, only the deepening of understanding. To those who recognize the benefits of, engage in and truly support the arts, bravo to you! And thank you.” – Shannon Elizabeth Boatwright

 

As most of my readers know, I am no stranger to supporting the Arts. Some of my past blog entries are prime examples:

Enrich your mind and enlighten yourself. Take the time to read my blog posts. Spend time Googling the studies that explain the many ways students benefit from fines arts education and arts integration. And by all means, devour the Midlands Arts Conservatory website.

The next information sessions are on January 24th and January 30th. (You can find more details on their website.) Learn about their mission and think on what it could do to fill a void in our community. The community leaders and professionals that are spearheading this movement are an impressive group of some of the finest teachers and supporters of the Arts. I am proud to join the movement and show my support. I hope that you will too!

 

This blog post reflects the views of its author, Shannon Boatwright, and is not an endorsement for the school by Lexington Medical Center. 

Saying Goodbye

By: Shannon Shull

I experienced a bittersweet week recently in which I had to say goodbye to my students from this past school year and pack up my entire classroom. The middle school that I have the honor of teaching at is splitting into two schools – an intermediate school and a new middle school. I get to move my drama department to the new middle school. In preparation for this big move, I had to pack up literally everything.

my empty classroom

My empty classroom

es, I admit, my Thor poster had to stay up until I was ready to walk out the door that final time! ;-)

Yes, I admit, my Thor poster had to stay up until I was ready to walk out the door that final time! 😉

As I taped up the final box and checked out with administration, I took a moment to reflect. As I gazed upon the small, emptied space, I thought about all the incredible experiences I have witnessed and been a part of over the past two school years. Trials and tribulations galore! If the walls could whisper, I’d hope they’d say there was once a woman here that accomplished great things for and with her students. A woman who made big sacrifices to be an outstanding teacher of Drama.

A student note.

A student note.

Student notes

Student notes

It’s not until the room is quiet that some teachers will realize how much they will actually miss their students. Though we all desperately need a much-deserved break, there’s still a part of us that will miss some of our precious students. Only the day before, on the last day of school, my classroom was packed with energetic students singing and dancing, celebrating the end of a long school year. My honors students filled my room and as the last afternoon announcements of the school year ended, they literally recreated a scene from High School Musical II, in which they chanted “Summer, Summer, Summer…!” and then broke out into the song “Summertime” from the movie. What fun! And what a glorious, super-fun exit! Tearful hugs and best wishes for all things created a sweet final goodbye.

Precious Note from one of my 8th Graders

Precious Note from one of my 8th Graders

My wish is that we all have a productive, restful, and fun summer that reinvigorates us all! And I know this lady here will be happy to see some of those precious, smiling faces next school year who appreciated and adored their teacher so much!