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Monday, November 29, 2010

The After Thanksgiving Break Blues

I trust that everyone enjoyed a safe and pleasant Thanksgiving with family and friends, near and far. It's a great time to bring people together and celebrate the endless reasons we have to be thankful. Food naturally plays a prominent role in this event. The central dish, turkey, is often considered the source of after-dinner lethargy. Turkey does contain tryptophan, an amino acid that has been identified as providing a sleep inducing effect. But this isn't a health lesson - or else I'd have to confess about the number of slices of pie I ate. Between the tryptophan, and the general tendency to feel compelled to taste a little of everything on the table, you can find yourself becoming weary after the big feast (except, perhaps, those of you who probably skipped the tryptophan to avoid falling asleep in the shopping line while anxiously waiting for early morning sales on Black Friday). I'm a die-hard Detroit Lions football fan and they play so bad each Thanksgiving that the game usually puts me to sleep anyway.
However, beyond the lethargy produced by the Thanksgiving turkey, educators must be aware of a similar threat that the Thanksgiving break can have on the momentum building since the start of the school year. It's easy to unconsciously lighten up a little and coast into the next holiday break. I'm sure we all experience a growing excitement regarding the spirit of the holiday season, especially since stores have been playing festive music since the day after Halloween. The approaching anticipation, snow, decorations, holiday concerts... can possibly sidetrack us a bit and seem to shrink the number of days between Thanksgiving and the start of the winter vacation to appear far less than the actual 18 school days that separate the holiday breaks (that's 10% of the school year). We must maintain our commitment to extend our progress - and still have time to enjoy the holiday spirit.
Let me share a point from a book that I read in preparation for our mentor program at Heatly, in which all learners K-12 have an assigned mentor. The book is entitled, Who Mentored You? The Person Who Changed My Life - Prominent People Recall Their Mentors. It's edited by Matilda Cuomo. The excerpt I'm referencing is from Bill Bradley, former U.S. Senator (1979-1997), Rhodes Scholar, Princeton graduate, and NBA great for the 1973 world champion New York Knicks. He identified his mentor as Ed Macauley, a former professional basketball player who conducted summer camps in the sport when Bill was fourteen years old. Macauley advised the campers that, "If you're not practicing, remember, someone else somewhere is practicing, and given roughly equal ability, if you two meet, he will win."
I'm certainly not a Grinch, and I plan to enjoy every bit of a merry holiday season, but I haven't forgotten our professional responsibilities either. I believe that the advice that Bill Bradley received also holds for many things besides sports. Let the other schools ease up. If we are to improve we need to make every day count, with the same dedication we displayed on our first day of school - then we can rest and relax during the holiday vacation.

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