Warning: Big rant ahead.
Here's the scoop on how this lame shutdown may impact our 72 fifth graders:
Last school year, I read aloud Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko to my class. They loved it. The book takes place in 1935 on Alcatraz Island when it was still a working prison. Moose Flanagan, the novel's hero, tells the tale of growing up on the island with a cast of characters so well developed that I felt as if I was there with them. Not only did my class of fifth graders love it, but so did I.
I proposed to my incredibly openminded and supportive grade level partners that we all use it next year to kick-off read aloud. Not only that, but also to plan a field trip to Alcatraz Island to bring literature to life! They loved the idea. We put the plan in place. Using one time only special funding (the use it or lose it type), we picked a date, purchased tickets, and started planning.
On the second day of school, I showed my students images of Alcatraz from the 1930's. We discussed what it would be like to live on an island that works as a prison. Then, I read aloud the first chapter of the book. My students were instantly hooked!
We've been reading the novel now for a month. We've grown to collectively cheer for Moose, our hero. We've also formed a common bond in the dislike of the misguided and unkind Piper, the novel's antagonist. Choldenko crafts her characters so well that we all feel like we know them, as if we are there on Alcatraz in 1935 with them.
My fifth graders are (or should I say were) excited to head to Alcatraz themselves... on October 22nd.
Then, the government shutdown. All national parks closed. I have no idea what will happen. Will the government get it together by October 22nd? Even if they do, will it still impact our trip? Will we reschedule? Can we? I have no idea because the website simply looks like this right now:
Really? That's it? No information at all?
I recognize that this post may come across as whiney. Yes, there are countless other effects of this shutdown that more severely impact people's lives. People are going without paychecks, people are losing their childcare (like my grade level partner who had to take today off to be home with her daughter). However, it just plain sucks to disappoint 72 ten year-olds. It's no fun. It's no fun at all to give kids news that disappoints them. Yes, it can potentially build character, resilience, and all the other good traits we aim to instill in our students, but it doesn't excuse the sheer sucki-ness of the situation (like I said earlier, please pardon the lack of intelligent words in this rant).
We had the shutdown talk today in class. The general consensus was, "Why can't they just compromise" and "Why are they being so stubborn?" Kids make these issues sound so simple. Perhaps there's something to their thinking. Perhaps the US government should take a cue from elementary school social skills lessons.
Blame whoever you want to blame. Be mad, angry, disgusted, or any other emotion that rises in your gut. I'm not writing to place blame or to even offer my own idea of a solution. I'm writing to vent. Sometimes, writing is the best and safest outlet to do so. All I want to do is take my kiddos to Alcatraz.
My rant is now over.