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End of the 2020-2021 School Year and My other kids…

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Some of you have heard me say or seen me write that not everyone I consider family shares my blood. I have special people in my life that I considered my adopted daughters…Rachel and Diana. I have formers students that I look at as Maury considered Mitch…Emily, Jenna, Maddie, and so many more. There are former students that have shared my favorite book and included me in their lives long after they were my students…Tiernan, Julia, Natalie, Erica, Meghan, Megan, Annie, Tory, Halley Rose, Angie, Jessica, and so many more.

In a special part of my heart’s family are my Weoples. Every year as our journey comes to a close my heart begins to fill with the dread of the end and the joy of what my babies have become. I have seen it every year…the growth, the light of understanding, and the maturity of thought and knowledge. They become forces of nature. I have seen so many of my former Weoples become leaders at the high school and now college. I watch them embed themselves into social issues. They make tangible my hopes and dreams when I started this class seven years ago. Winning trophies has never been very important to me; other than the acknowledgement that someone else appreciates what my kids have learned through hard work and introspection. Just for clarification, I am competitive and like the feeling associated with winning; however, that is a short-term feeling. What lasts are the long-term civic involvement that these kids have shown. This year has been a tough year in teaching for me. I am never in the same room with all of my class at the same time. This year’s Weoples have shown such grace and growth.

I was going to focus on their work leading up to Nationals, but instead I want to focus on this team. They are the deepest team that I have ever taken to Nationals. They have lost to much from their junior high years as they missed Camp Tecumseh; a normal ending to 7th grade, and competed at Regionals, State, and Nationals via Zoom…never knowing the experience of face-to-face competition in front of a real audience. They persevered despite missing the full experience of previous years. However, I don’t want to dwell on that. I want to dwell on them…my hoodlums, my angels, my babies, my Champions, my “chosen family”.

Unit 1 – My Philosopher Kings. My girls. There was a risk when I put this unit together. Unit 1 requires the ability to understand deep subject matter. They study Aristotle, Plato, Locke, Hobbes, Cicero, and Rousseau. All of them could handle the material; the danger was that three of them tended to fall on the quieter, contemplative side…sorry Bella…that is not you…you were always my “first responder”. I bet on Addie, Ashley and Olivia to find and believe in their voices…and boy they did. I have always had what has been called a “vendetta” against quiet, talented kids. I believe that still-waters run deep and, even more strongly, believe that they must raise their voices and lead…hence my Philosopher-Kings. At Nationals the judges missed a chance to really see their depth when the judges did not dig into the concept of “higher law”—Unit 1 understands CLEARLY that there are two types of higher law, but judges missed their chance. Addie, Ashley, and Olivia took on the role of the thoughtful philosopher with a certain glee; my favorite moments were when one of the three would show some snark when answering a judge’s questions; like when the judge asked if a short or long constitution was better. This unit was fortunate to be led by my little tour-deforce Bella. Sometimes you get lucky. She came back to public school in 8th grade and my team was better for it.

Unit 2 – My Historians. Our team has a history of very good Unit 2’s. The key is to put kids into the unit that can handle the history and have the ability to draw equivalencies to today. These kids specialize on the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and Colonial State Constitutions. This unit fit in perfectly with the demands of the unit. Gurvir, Grant, Melia and Sydney all have great memories; Melia and Sydney brought a fair amount of sass. Gurvir was the unit’s captain and was one of two first responders…Melia often filled the same role. Gurvir’s preparation was unmatched; I am sure that if you asked him he could list all 27 grievances in the Declaration and follow it up with links to the Constitution. Grant has this reflective cool that plays well in questions that require a thoughtful answer. Sydney was my hammer. Sydney would not tolerate false comparisons and refused to be led by judges into opinions. She always made the clever connections in competition. Melia normally made me smile at least once a round when she would pontificate an answer…she would have also been great in Unit 1 with her philosopher leanings. These kids loved to lean into questions; it was not hard for me to figure out who was going to talk next as they tended to lean into a question and give a little smirk before speaking…great for units…bad if playing professional Texas Hold-um.

Unit 3 – The Constitution Experts (with a touch of sass). This group was probably one of my two best Unit 3’s of all-time. They LOVED to compete and REALLY loved when judges asked them questions. What a group. Led by Maggie Mae, this group leaned into everything. Unit 3 seems at first glance to have an easier time of the subject matter than the other units because its focus is really on the Constitutional Convention; however, looks can be deceiving. There is a sub-question that drives the judge’s questions….it is about the separation of powers and checks-and-balances. So on one hand you need a unit that can handle all the background information; i.e., a very long cheat sheet. However, it needs to also have strong opinions and a touch of sass. Navi, Lincoln and Maggie Mae were great with the depth of information. Their ability to tackle all the compromises and Constitutional pieces and parts was great. The sass was brought primarily by Ella…she of varying hair colors and STRONG opinions on current events. She is a force of will on any perceived injustice; it is just a matter of time before she is pictured leading the forces of justice against the forces of evil. Lord have mercy if she ever gets super-powers. Lincoln was one of my favorite people to watch compete. He would smile from the first question until the final goodbyes; he brings his athletic competitiveness to the unit. He likes the last word so that he can wrap up the answer. Navi brings such a calm into competition; his easy style and quality answers are like a house’s foundation…he sets the supports that allow answers to build. Maggie Mae will someday be on top of a business, political, or society pyramid…she is meant to lead. I will miss her coming into my room between classes just to be sassed about something.

Unit 4 – The Storm. May be the finest unit in my history of We the People. My munchkins may not stretch very far on the family growth chart, but their growth as Weoples was stunning to witness. Tanvi captained this unit. She is added to her considerable talent by finding her voice, feuding with Riebe, and developing a fair-amount of sass…sometimes directed at me which should be a violation of international law…when I am elected dictator of the world this will be outlawed. Sloan provided a sense of calm to the feisty three; even though her competitiveness was on display in competition. She would wait to bring in the factoid or proof to the argument. Sloan and, her twin, Lincoln joined their older sibling, Tiernan, as the first siblings to win three National championships for my team. Jenna was an unknown to me before tryouts last year; she had a moment in tryouts that showed me a conversation backbone…I picked her at that moment. She wears her passions on her sleeve and has zero poker face. She talks to judges as an equal…I love that about her. Jenna does not suffer foolish questions very well; I also love that about her. My journey with Riebe started before 7th grade when she walked into my room on Preview Day and would not talk to me, let alone make eye contact. We may have struggled in our 7th grade journey for her to become what I believed she could be. I will let her give her side of the story someday, but there MIGHT have been some wild accusations until she fought back. Well that fighter came out and she became a We the People rock star. Watching her on the last day as she went toe-to-toe with a professor from Clemson University was one for the ages. I gave each of the girls a bracelet with the following engraved on the inside, “Fate whispers to the warrior–You cannot withstand the storm”–and the warrior whispered back…”I am the storm

Unit 5 – The Lawyers. This unit was so much fun for me. I built this around two of the most competitive humans on the planet…Parker and Claire…both of them would cut off a leg in competition if they thought it would help. Every criticism drove them to learn more. Parker was an immoveable object when it came to case law…judges would try to push him to move off the law into speculation and he would not budge. Parker looks at the law with a engineer’s mind. Claire is the captain and works harder to get further. Every new case is another obstacle to winning. Her inventory of case law is amazing. She learns each case and the impact. She quizzes her team to ensure everyone can speak to any case. She is a competitive swimmer and brings that same drive into We the People. She is a force of nature and will make a mark on this world before she is done. Sarah and Ollie balance the unit with opinions and nuance. Sarah is the person who can see the other side and notices the grey areas of settled law. In competition she listens carefully to the arguments made and rounds out the opinions. She also has a vicious eye-roll which never fails to make me smile; even when she directs it at me. Ollie….Ollie…Ollie. She is the third Weople from her family. She is passion and obstinance rolled into one human form. I can count on her to question everything; in competition she has NO PROBLEM finding the other side of the argument. She picks on me nearly as much as I pick on her. I will miss her terribly, but don’t tell her…shhhh.

Unit 6 – Everything Controversial is Their Focus. They get all the fun subjects…voting, immigration, international agreements, citizenship…. This unit requires a certain type of student…opinionated and aware is great…radical tendencies help. Bronwyn filled the role of the fire-touched activist really well, BECAUSE she truly is a fire-touched activist. She has protested against gun-violence and is strongly motivated to make this world a better and safer place. When Bronwyn talked there was an earnestness to her words. Jak…the parkour master…much like his predilection for leaping over 4-foot walls; Jak is the counter to popular opinion…he brings up the loyal opposition viewpoint. Jumping Jak could always be counted on to build on the answers of his teammates. Perla….mistress of the answer, “No”. Perla is a passionate debater who likes to start every answer to judges with the word, “no”. She is the perfect Unit 6 person…passionate, articulate, and willing to get into the debate. This unit was led by Delaney who is easily one of the most talented people on the team. Delaney is something to watch compete; she simply knows everything…not through some inner-Google mechanism, but from hard-work and the ability to synthesize and connect information. Delaney also made the transition from student to learner. She wants to understand and know; not just memorize and regurgitate.

Next year’s team reciting “Invictus” to this year’s National Champions…the baton is passed

There is little left to say about these kids; they are special and are destined for greatness in this world. I am their biggest fan. I will miss them to no end.

We the People Middle School 2021 National Champions!

My first National champions are graduating this year. Four years few by so fast. One of their many legacies is my face on various objects; first t-shirts, then socks, ties, stickers…this years kids wanted face-masks….quashed it.

Back in May 2017 I wrote the following about these kids.

I am on the long bus ride back to Fishers and the sounds of snoring, math questions, laughing, the odd of yelling of “Yahtzee”, and every now and then my phone beeps with another pic of one of babies sleeping.  With my earbuds in and songs from a random playlist filtering out the road; my mind is still trying to place their accomplishment in my mind palace.  Euphoria, satisfaction, and a profound sense of sadness take turns dominating my inner voice.

My mind replays my team powerfully reciting from memory Henley’s Invictus to an enthusiastic crowd of family, supporters, Civic Education staff.  When I see all the photos of that moment that dominate my social media feeds I can see the joy on their faces; not just the joy that comes from a moment of happiness, but the joy that comes from the achievement of dreams; dreams that require work unseen, dreams that require a unwavering commitment, dreams that are shadowed by the fear of the disappointment of coming up short.  Their faces so alive that it lifts the hope and spirits of all who witnessed the moment.

This blog is hard to write.  My mind drifts and for awhile the path is unclear. 

I don’t know to start this part of my blog.  How do I write about my 31 “Angels”, “Hoodlums”, “Future Presidents”, and “Babies”.  Their journey has been so long; preparing for competition for 9 months.  We have had a countdown calendar for competition for 160 school days.  They never wavered.  They are so resolute.

From the very beginning we recited Invictus; of course, like most things in my class there was a dual purpose.  One it allowed me to work on their presentation skills.  I also hoped they would begin to understand the importance.  Describing We the People competition to students in the beginning of the year is impossible; my default is to say, “You don’t know until you know”.  There was a moment at State when I forgot my copy of the poem; they recited it from memory.  The moment froze in my mind; a few cited the words from memory, but for most they meant the words they recited.  The knew “the fell clutch of circumstance” was competition; they knew better than to “wince or cry aloud” about what they could not control; they never “bow” their head in submission; they were found “unafraid”; truly they were the masters of their fates and the captains of their souls.

I have shed many tears over my kids.  They are tears of joy; there is a touch of loss; they are tears of love.  Watching them at State started the waterworks; there were moments when their responses echoed the big ideas from class.  All the work was justified; they had learned; they understood; they had become a “great and powerful thing”.

Watching them grow second semester into what they were at Nationals is the most satisfying moment of my working life.  They rained knowledge down on to the judges; it was the culmination of months of hard work.  The judges were stunned and more than a few times the judges would catch my eye and smile which would cause my eyes to moisten.

In between rounds at State I read to them a chapter from Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet about work.  Most teared, some cried, some parents cried; of course, I had to fight the good fight to get through.  It was not just the power of the words; it was the power of the application of the words through my band of thirty one.  They transcended education for grades; they desired knowledge, they desired to understand, they desired to work with love; they truly are love made visible….for me.

My kids are not perfect.  They are still 13 and 14 years of age.  But there is a moment when they WERE perfect.  There is a moment of pure joy; of pure bliss; when everything was right in their world; when everything was laid bare; when they could drink deep from the life’s marrow.  Some one captured the moment.  Take a second and look at their faces.  They are, for a moment, immortal.

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This is the picture that gives me the greatest satisfaction.  Their joy fills my heart.  These kids fill my heart.

In a couple days we say goodbye.  My chest tightens when I think about it.  It is not unusual for me to struggle at the end of the year.  Saying goodbye is like that for me; it is never the same after my students leave…daily contact dwindles to visits and unexpected moments.  It is why I teach right up to the last day; normalcy is my coping mechanism.

I know the greatness that lies with these kids; it will be fun to watch them grow and contribute to the world’s narrative.  To everyone that helped my kids on their journey; thank you.  To my kids; not everyone that I consider family shares my blood…you are family.

Watching these kids during high school has been eye-opening to the power of these citizen-scholars. These kids became class officers; club presidents; leaders on the stage, field, and classroom. Fourteen were recognized at Fishers High School’s Summa Cum Laude banquet with a GPA of 4.3 or higher. One was named an Indiana Academic All-Star from Hamilton Southeastern High School. I am so proud of them.

What About Retirement? Well I am not retiring for at least two more years. I thought that this year was it for me. Luckily, or not…time will tell, a few things changed my mind. First and foremost was the “Covid-year” was not the way I wanted my last year to be with no Nationals in DC, no Camp Tecumseh, no normal classroom environment, no Charger Challenge, no “House-Points” and no classroom projects to speak of. Second, this year’s Weoples saved me from the fall doldrums that nearly had me retiring at semester. Also taking control of my health and fitness has given me a new lease on life…I have lost over 60 pounds and walk-run 5 miles every day with a goal of a 5k on June 23rd. Lastly, I want Jenna Pyle to have a chance to replace me.

Jenna just finished her sophomore year at Ball State in Social Studies education. My plan is for her to student teach for me and then interview to take my job. Jenna was my student, three years a Camp Tecumseh counselor, my cadet teacher, a high school We the People alum, and, most importantly, she has a teacher’s heart. Tony Sturgeon would be a great team mentor and, of course, I will help her as much as possible with her We the People team. Now the only snag would be if she pulls a Rachel Stady and disrupts my “master plan” by falling in love and moving away from Fishers…still bitter…still love her, but still bitter…I could already be retired and sitting on a beach with my Diet Mt Dew Slushie Machine…but nooo…love conquers all.

Final Thoughts

I promise to write more this summer…

If you need something to read. I would recommend Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King. A tough read. Thanks Patrick Bradshaw….may have jaundiced me forever against Florida.

Thank you Joe Reitz for reaching out to me to give me an update on you and your ever-growing family…six kids…hard to believe you were my student 23 years ago.

Thank you Tony Sturgeon for being my teaching partner for the last 24 years…I am forever grateful for your friendship and being my safe place during the last year. Thank you to Kevin Stumpf and Dave Broviak for their friendship in our modified “B” Lunch at the picnic table when warm and socially-distanced in Tony’s room the rest of the time.

Congratulations to my friend Deb Kletch for being name our building’s Teacher of the Year…you are a science teacher’s science teacher.

Good luck to Julie Strawhacker, Sarah Evans, John Schwoeppe, Robin Passwater, Karen Bowen, Angela Compton as they leave our building for new adventures.

Thank you to Jim Ziino for helping to teach me how to run and survive the build up. Your patience and kindness mean a great deal to me.

Thank for to Mark and Angie Fassold for hosting us in April; it was a treat to meet Anthony and Mia. Also thank you to Belinda and Oscar Fuentes for coming up for Easter. It warmed my heart to spend time with family.

Thank you Laurel for almost 29 years of marriage.

Thank you to my kids and their husbands for becoming my friends and partners-in-crime.

The Family on Spring Break in San Antonio, Texas – April 2021

Camp Tecumseh – “Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze”

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My experience with Camp Tecumseh started 26 years ago during my student teaching experience at Hamilton Southeastern Junior High.  In the fall of that year we took the entire seventh grade to Tecumseh under the management of Brad Jackson, Charlotte Gwin, and Mike Plautz.  The field trip was an education within education.  I embraced every moment; walking the 200 acres, helping with calculating the board-feet in a tree using a Biltmore stick, calculating what size of city that could be nourished by the little stream from the lake, canoeing with the kids, climbing beside reluctant kids encouraging them as we went, performing in the teacher skits watching all the smiling faces, square dancing the Virginia Reel jumping from one laughing child to the next…it was “sublime”.  It was there when I decided what kind of teacher I wanted to become.  As a 36-year-old student teacher the experience was foundational in my development; it grounded me.  It brought out the importance of the education experience, it illustrated how much connecting with kids mattered, more importantly, it was a reminder to me that at their core kids just wanted to feel the joy of being kids…maybe for the last time. My 25 years as a Camp director has been a labor of love.  I have spent over 26 weeks away from my family through the years supporting this program.  My girls would come up most years to square dance and would attend as students in my school; they would become counselors and help keep and expand the legacy.

Lessons

Over the last 6 years we have updated our lessons to take advantage of technological advances and our 240-acre classroom.  Our core lessons can be divided into land, water, animals, and sky.

We have worked hard to use the 240 acres of Camp with purpose.  To satisfy the science and social studies standards for orienteering and understanding the navigational tools that allowed people to circumnavigate the globe we teach our students how to calculate and use pacing and compass to navigate.  We put those skills to a test by having kids geocache that uses these skills along with GPS handhelds to find hidden treasures throughout the pine and oak forests of Camp. 

We have written lessons for kids to calculate the value of the trees of Camp and use that information to determine which trees are worth the time to cut.  We use a Biltmore forestry stick, tree identification guides, and lots of walking to find potential trees to harvest.   The process takes lots of practical math and team discussion.  The process is REAL, the tools are REAL…we even update the tree prices each year before we attend. 

Camp Tecumseh has taken our lessons and moved them into their education programs. Just this year they asked for our new Protist Lesson featuring water from the lake and streams and digital microscope labs for the kids to really explore the microscopic world.

Extra-Curricular

We want all our kids to experience something new.  Most of our kids have not been to an outdoor camp. We have them canoe on the Camp lake.  This is one of my favorite activities to watch as they try to propel their canoe along the lake.  Watching them trying to turn is a study of teamwork in action and no experience is complete until you watch kids trying to figure out how to stop the canoe from running into the shore/dock/side of the hill.  There are a lot of life-lessons to be learned while canoeing; like, do not lean over the canoe side at the same time, do not splash the person in the front of the canoe, do not paddle in opposite directions if you actually want to move forward, and, my favorite, canoes do not respond to verbal commands.

Our kids have the chance to rock climb on an outdoor climbing wall called Mt. Wood.  Most have never tried this before.  We teach the counselors, staff and teachers to encourage our kids to try…once we get them on the wall we encourage them to take one more step up, we get them to concentrate on 3 points of contact and making a plan on what course to take.  Seeing the smile on their faces when they get to the top is worth the work it takes to get the kids to Camp.  Most of the time they want to try again immediately; a far cry from the timid kid of 10 minutes prior.  Of course, one of my teacher partner has convinced some of the kids that the owl at the top of the structure is made of chocolate, but only those who take to hardest path are close enough to actually lick the chocolate owl.  Every year some pixie gymnast get to the top and finds out that maybe we lied.  😊

We get kids to WANT to square dance.  It starts with having enthusiastic counselors, followed by enthusiastic teachers, and simple dances to warm them up.  We Bunny-Hop with counselors at the head of all the dance lines, then we into a traditional German Octoberfest-style Chicken Dance, which then leads us into Heel-Toe square dance and finishing a traditional Virginia Reel.  When we have time we launch into the Electric Cotton-Eye Joe, our own version of the YMCA, and the Cuban Shuffle.  We get parent chaperones and even Camp staff dancing with us.  Some Camp staff even come on their nights off to have fun with us.  Watching the kids laugh and smile without the normal worries cannot be replicated outside of Camp.   

Brad Jackson is our institutional storyteller.  All his stories are themed and filled with life lessons of kindness, responsibility, and self-awareness.  When Brad bares his soul on his story about Dawny the kids lean in.  As he tells how he had a chance to be a real friend and failed in real time touches kids.  They feel his regret even 50 years later.  He is what Social-Emotional Learning strives to achieve. 

Positive Externalities

One of the casualties of the modern plugged-in world is the joy of being outdoors.  Our kids only go outside when there is an organized activity with scripted activities.  We tell our counselor to walk around the Camp.  We play a form of  Bingo where the kids take group pictures at The Big Chair, Ghost Cabin, Colgate Cabin, Trader Joes, the Suspension Bridge, the Great Oak, Eagles Nest and other Camp landmarks.  I normally get in 25 to 30 thousand steps each day. 

Long Term Impacts. I wanted to address the question, “Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze” by asking the question to a group that had “no skin in the game”….my former counselors. I reached out to a counselors through social media.

What my former counselors said

In the end, the question “Is the juice worth the squeeze” is the wrong question.  What should have been asked “Are the health benefits worth the squeeze?”  I will let my former counselors answer that question.  I posted this on social media

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Is the juice worth the squeeze? A question that I think applies to a lot of things in life. For a lot of basic life things? No. For a lot of the things in public schools? No. For Camp Tecumseh? Yes.

I grew up going to the junior high Camp Tecumseh program as my father has run the program my whole life. I still remember sliding down the black hole for the first time with seventh graders and counselors that I looked up to. I remember square dancing with all the “big kids” who had pure joy written across their faces. I remember them chanting and clapping in perfect unison “I love Camp T” during the Chicken Dance. I remember dinner was WAY cooler at Camp Tecumseh than dinner had ever been before (even as a five-year-old who had been to Chuck E Cheese and CiCi’s Pizza). Everyone was happy and all I could think about was when it would be my turn.

Fast forward to me as a seventh grader. On the first day of seventh grade, I was so excited to be at the junior high for one reason: Camp Tecumseh. I knew I would be going that year and the only bummer was that I had to wait until spring. In a time of your life when you feel nothing but awkward, Camp Tecumseh was a pause to all of that. Everyone was on the same playing field. We all got to take the bus, sleep in the cabins, build the kites, learn the lessons, hear the stories, and square dance our hearts out. For many of my peers and me, it was a turning point for us. While yes, our awkward side stood out more than we would’ve liked, we didn’t care. We got to have FUN. Fun like the classroom simply can’t be. Fun with our teachers, friends, and these awesome counselors who seemed like they walked on water. This was another big thing for a seventh grader. We could tell they were cool. They didn’t care about all of the “fixxy” hairstyles at camp or what outfit they were wearing because they were there to have fun. This gave us seventh graders something to strive to be. On top of that, we were also told they were good students with bright futures. Suddenly, it wasn’t “cool” to be the kid flunking out who just “didn’t care”. It was cool to be the successful student that got to spend three days of the school week at camp with friends. It was cool to not be the type of “cool” that seventh graders knew.

Being a counselor is something I will never forget and never take lightly. It was the best part of high school. It was an honor to get to go because you had to have certain grades and nail an interview (that many did not get past). It was also an honor to be looked at as a leader by peers and former teachers. It was also a heck of a lot of fun. There aren’t many field trips in high school. You don’t get to get away for educational purposes or resume builders that aren’t boring. For three days, you get to be the people that walk on water to the seventh graders. You get to rat your friends out for the silly things they do around camp and watch them be nominated in front of everyone. You get to teach those, that really aren’t that much younger than you, and realize how far you’ve come as a human. You get to build relationships with your peers that you otherwise wouldn’t have interacted with. You get to square dance with a whole room of people and bring out your inner “dancing queen”. You get to build a balloon that only goes five feet and still feel like you finally mastered it. You get to do skits in front of one of the biggest crowds you’ll perform in front of and happily embarrass yourself to no end. You get to leave after three days with stomach pain from laughing so hard. You get to leave after three days with a heart bursting with joy. You get to leave feeling whole.

Camp Tecumseh taught me valuable lessons that I still use to this day in my job as a nurse. Teamwork is one of the biggest in balloon-making, skits, lessons, and square dancing. Time management in getting places on time, completing the lessons, and actually teaching the seventh graders in the process. Compassion for the kids who struggle and need the extra boost of confidence or guidance. Leadership is obvious. As a counselor you’re in charge of those awkward seventh graders and making sure they get their work done, have fun, and don’t do anything that will get them nominated.

Junior high and high school are the times that adults look back on and shudder with terrible memories. Most adults will say, “I would never go back to junior high/high school”. I can’t say that because I would give anything to go back and experience Camp Tecumseh again as a student or a counselor. Even just for a day.

Caitlin (Fassold) Grecco

NICU Nurse Riley Children’s Hospital

Is the juice worth the squeeze?” When it comes to this program, this is the wrong question. Rather we should ask ourselves who do we want to shape our children and teenagers to become, what legacy do we want to leave behind? As a former Tecumseh student and counselor, I cannot tell you  why  it is worth the work to make the program happen, because ultimately, that is your decision. However, I can tell you that the person I am today is a better human because of this trip not only as a student, but as a counselor. Today’s world is filled with doubt. It is scary. I am sure it has been like this in the past, and I’m sure it will be like this again in the future. What do we lean on in times of challenge? We lean on our resiliency, we lean on our confidence, we lean on our connections, we lean on our real-world experience, and we trust that the good memories ultimately outweigh the bad. These are the things Tecumseh teaches EVERYONE- the teachers, the parents, the counselors, the children. I can tell you from those memories, about how I used math to calculate floating boats down the stream as a child. I remember canoeing in the pond. I remember laughing. I remember my counselors waking up in the morning to curl their hair and the smiles on their faces. I remember the goal to become a camp counselor. It gives me a since of warmth, security, companionship, knowledge, happiness. At that age, I did not know what it would take to become a future counselor, but I did know that I desperately wanted to. I do know that being surrounded by nature for a few days, riding a bus and singing songs, and being reminded to just be a kid while getting to learn was more valuable than any classroom lesson plan. In fact, those are the ONLY lesson plans I remember from that age.

A member of Cara’s study group responded her response on social media!

I recognize that the request for this email was more about the experience of a counselor. As a successful physician scientist, this program ignited my spark for teaching and exploring. It reminded me of the love I have for children. It reminded me of the beauty of the world through their eyes. It removed the stress of being an emotional, hormonal teenager, and being surrounded by nature, kids who don’t care about who the most popular person is and renewed lifelong friendships. It built my confidence with the trust they put in me to teach these children, to be responsible for someone else’s world. It forced me to think outside the box. It gave me hope for the future, it gave me passion, and it gave me gratitude. On my team, I had a child who was struggling with mental health. A child who couldn’t find the value in living anymore. What world have we created when our children have no desire and cannot see the beauty around them. The big feelings that surrounded her from a world full of difficult things to process were so much for her little mind. I made my entire weeks goal to remind the kids on my team of the beauty that surrounded them. Did we learn math, yes. Did we learn science, yes. Did we practice art, yes. Were those all things they could get from a classroom? Sure. I promise you though, the laughter, the happiness, and the smiles are things those children will never forget. I have no idea what happened to the girl. I hope I had the ability to make a small impact in her life. I hope for 48 hours she was able to forget about all the bigger problems that surrounded her at home and just be a child. These moments reminded me of perseverance. They reminded me of the beauty in the world. They built my confidence. They shaped me. They are a core memory, and they are more valuable in my mind than anything else. They shaped me not only as a future worker, but as a mother of two small children. I use those same lessons to teach them. And when I go to choose a school for my children, these are the types of programs I will look for. This is what I want my child to experience. Both as a student and as a counselor. When I look at them, what do I want for them? Of course, I want a good education, but most of all I want them to be happy and resilient. I want them to have good role models, I want them to be surrounded with people that they can share things with and will encourage them. Children and teens learn the best in stress free environmentsFor this reason, it is a major focus of the American Academy of Pediatrics. It improves health, learning, memory. This program is a positive legacy. I am one person; I am not going to convince you “the juice is worth the squeeze.” However, 20 years later, I deeply value these memories and it brings sad tears to my eyes as I write this, that anyone would ever doubt this program. I hope for the sake of our children and our teenagers that this program never ends, and that we never lose the light inside of us to see its value. Mr. Fassold and Mr. Sturgeon will always hold a special place in my heart and know that I would move the earth and the moon for them should they ever need it for the opportunity they gave me to be a counselor.  

Sincerely,

Cara Slagle

Cara Slagle, MD

Assistant Professor, Division of Neonatology

Co-Director, Center for Acute Care Nephrology

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center

Hi Mr. Fassold,

I saw your Facebook post about Camp T and immediately knew I needed to share with you the importance of my experience as a counselor. 

There are the big takeaways for many counselors during Camp T: leadership, critical thinking, developing friendships, and reconnecting with old classmates (at the time, the program also brought back both high schools). High school is an awkward and uncomfortable time, putting kids in this environment to grow and become leaders was such a unique educational experience.

Personally, you helped me discover my passion: event management. My senior year, you chose Sean Delaney and me to own the production of Skit Night (everyone’s favorite!). This was the first time outside of volleyball I felt confident, comfortable, and in control of a situation.

Realizing how much I loved the planning and execution of live events, and up against the impossible task of choosing a college major, I explored marketing and events. Four years later, I graduated from IU Bloomington with a degree in Event Management. Today, I work for a tech company, owning all event and field marketing programs for our top industries. 

Without Camp Tecumseh and your leadership, I may not be where I am today. This is long overdue but.. THANK YOU!!!

Pictures attached! 🙂 

Lauren Smith

Camp Tecumseh was something we all looked forward to year after year from the time we attended as students to the last trip back as a counselor. It was a time to get outside of the classroom and bond with our friends and classmates and make memories that have lasted forever. It brought us counselors closer, removing the groups, stereotypes and preconceived ideas of our peers. We were all there for the same purpose- to give the students the best experience, just like the one we had. A to have a lot of fun amongst ourselves. It was an incredibly moving and special part of our senior year selfishly but also knowing that we were able to give back. Something to this day that is brought up in conversation with family, friends and today’s students. I have only the fondest memories and can’t imagine not having this opportunity. – Emily Bailey

Hello and happy Friday! I saw your post and wanted to send my thoughts. Fortunately, you caught me on the last day of my maternity leave 😄 Hope you are doing well, and please let me know if I can help in any way to keep Camp T alive and well!

As a graduate of HSE and former employee of the district, I can wholeheartedly say that Camp Tecumseh is an amazing experience for students and counselors. I have fond memories of my experience as a 7th grader attending Camp T, that went beyond just the activities. I was able to interact with classmates that I wouldn’t have spent time within school and could see them for who they truly were. We had to work as a team, while many of us tried things for the first time such as canoeing or balloon building. I still remember my counselor and how much I admired her. I knew I wanted to be a Camp T counselor when I was in high school. Looking back, being a counselor was one of the highlights of my high school experience. It brought me confidence that I didn’t know I had and confirmed my love for working with children and youth. Flash forward 8 years later, and I began my career as a school counselor at Fishers High School. I was fortunate to work with hundreds of students during my time at FHS and got to hear many of their experiences at Camp Tecumseh as students and counselors. At the beginning of the school year, my students would already be asking about how to become a Camp T counselor. It warmed my heart to see them experience the same excitement for the program that I had. I can truly say that this program can have a long-term impact on all of those involved and is such a treasure for HSE Schools. – Natalie Calvert Riding

Hey Mr. Fassold! 

It’s Megan Huffman (formally Megan Graves) It has been a while I hope you are doing well!  I saw your Facebook post and thought I’d help out and share my experience being a Camp T counselor. 

As soon as I left Camp T as a student, I KNEW I wanted to be a counselor once I hit high school. I looked up to my counselor so much and wanted to do the same for my future campers. Being a Camp T counselor seemed to be right up my alley, but I also knew it would push me out of my comfort zone. At that point in my life, as an average high school student, I never really had the big responsibility of overseeing a 7th grader, let alone a whole group of them. It really challenged me. I had to really tap into my creativity, leadership skills, and “mom mode.” I wanted to make sure my campers learned what they needed to, had a blast, and stayed safe in the process. I really enjoyed the challenge. 

The biggest thing that impacted me from being a counselor was the relationships I built in the process. There is nothing like spending a few days at camp with your good friends, favorite teachers, and a good group of kids. I was able to build new relationships and continue to grow deeper in the ones I already had. I also loved being able to pour into the young kids. I wanted to be a role model and a counselor that they looked up to. I did all of this while having an absolute BLAST. The memories made at camp are ones I will keep for the rest of my life. I look back at pictures of square dancing, blind-folded hikes, rock climbing, etc. and all I can do is smile and wish I was back there now. 

I would 10000% recommend being a Camp T counselor. I promise you the work and missing school is so worth it 🙂

Megan Huffman, SPT 

Indiana University 

Doctorate of Physical Therapy Program 

Class of 2023 

Camp T is 100% worth it. Being a counselor taught me patience and made me problem solve to a different level. You can be a leader among your peers, but when there is an age gap, and you’re trying to force kids to do school outside of school that takes a different level of leader. It doesn’t only help me either. My camp kids still reach out to me for advice and to talk about problems they’re having etc. For example, I was given a “problem child”. During camp T I saw this kid not only start out as a problem child but evolve into someone who actually did their work and participate in the activities. This kid just needed an advocate and someone to listen to them about why they hated school so much and to this day I’m still that person for them. Without Camp T I don’t think this would have ever happen and this is only my story. Think of all the other kids who have been impacted and helped during this wonderful opportunity!  – Tati Lockridge

I was a Camp Tecumseh counselor for all three years I was eligible at HSE. It was this leadership opportunity that solidified my choice to pursue teaching. I have no doubt that my life would look incredibly different without my time at Camp T.

Kurt Henderson

To Whom It May Concern,

            First, I will introduce myself. My name is Rachel Stady (Smith). I lived in Fishers, IN for 26 years until my husband’s job took us out of state. I attended Camp Tecumseh as a 7th grader at Fishers Junior High and as a 3 year counselor at Fishers High School (2011-2014). I knew going into Indiana University that I wanted to teach junior high, specifically 7th grade. I was awarded Outstanding Future Educator by IU after completing my student teaching at Fishers Junior High. I then substituted for Fishers Junior High helping with many different facets of the school. I went on to teach 7th grade in Noblesville Schools where I was awarded Teacher of the Year by NJHS and was graded as an “exemplary teacher” every year.  I had the long-term dream of returning to Fishers Junior High and continuing the legacy of the teachers who impacted me there. While it was gut-wrenching to leave the community, I say all this so you understand my validity in the field of education and how strong my allegiance still is to the community. An allegiance that was no doubt created by my experiences and the teachers/adults involved with Camp Tecumseh.

I will restrain myself to just a couple of the more important aspects the Camp Tecumseh program provides (I could write a short novel if needed). The experiences offered at Camp Tecumseh are not simply replicated in a classroom. Sure, you can have group projects and pair students up yourself but it is not the same. In my 3 years as a counselor each of my groups had students who were vastly different and ran in different circles. These students did not have the option or convenience of having just one class where they had to work together and they could go about their day like normal. Or the popular option to just do their part and let the other students do theirs and never actually work together (we’ve all been there). Students were with their group all day for multiple days, and they had one-on-one attention from a high school role model who fostered their cooperation despite their differences. It brings tears to my eyes to this day thinking of my students proactively wanting to be together and spend time with another student who they at first thought they had nothing in common. I witnessed my students learn how to be leaders and how to navigate students who take on a more vocal leadership role and those who need more direction but are just as crucial to the overall task. 

Furthermore, the hands-on activities Camp Tecumseh provides ensures students work together in real time. Again, not sitting at their desk huddled around a computer or going home and finishing their part etc. The activities and the leadership of a high schooler working with a small group is 100% required to see these results. They cannot be replicated in a classroom where a teacher is working with 30+ students. If you are thinking, yes, it is a fun program but we need to focus on academics. That is the beauty of this program. You have professionals in the field of teaching curating these activities. They are so well crafted that the kids remember how fun it is but they are indeed learning. Isn’t that what we strive for in any lesson? Isn’t that a trademark of an exemplary teacher? Isn’t that how we engage our students? Isn’t that the type of learning our brain remembers? We see less and less of these experiences offered for kids starting as early as elementary. It would be a disservice and shame to take this away from our junior high kids. 

I hope my next point speaks to your hearts because I truly believe in order to have a successful community you must pour into the people living there. The seeds of community are planted into our students from an early age. For myself and many others, our Camp Tecumseh experience in 7th grade was the first time we felt those seeds being nourished and watered. My 7th grade year and 3 years as a Camp T counselor are the main reasons I knew I wanted to teach 7th grade. Furthermore, the Camp Tecumseh program and the teachers who run it poured into my life not just in 7th grade. Their reach and impact extends beyond a classroom. They continued to water and nourish those seeds well into my high school years and my adulthood. This program allows our community teachers to pour into the students for six years (I’d argue much longer but I digress). 

Here is the kicker, because of Camp T many of those students leave our school system wanting to pour back into the Fishers/HSE community. Many alumni want to come back as teachers and pay it forward. It’s one of the building blocks of a strong school system. The benefits of this program are long-lasting. It is not a group project you are done with in a week or so. It is not a field trip to the museum of science that was cool but you forget about. This program blooms flowers in its students who later go on to nourish the next generation. I have more allegiance to the Fishers/HSE community, specifically FJH and FHS, than I do Indiana University. That is a direct result of this program and the many adults who poured into me and molded me into the person I am today – not just one academic year, but over the course of my life. Our community needs people to take pride in it, people who want to give back, people who want to see it continue to pour into its young minds. Camp Tecumseh does just that. I guarantee there would be a swarm of gut-wrenched community members, of all ages, if this program ceased to exist. That in itself should be enough testimony to the validity of this program.

Respectfully,

Rachel Stady 

Hi Mr. Fassold!

It’s Emily Grasso, and I am a former Camp Tecumseh counselor.  I saw your post on Facebook, and I thought I would message you about my experience.  I loved it when I was a kid, because I was learning outside of school.  I got to travel somewhere with my friends, and it was both fun and educational!  It covered all subjects, but the science/math aspect is what I remember most.  I learned  so much about science-related topics that I would not have seen in action in a school building.  I loved it…and science is NOT my thing.  I loved my high school counselor, and it was so cool to have a mentor to follow around all week.  I will never forget the skits at night, square dancing, or Mr. Jackson’s stories.  I smile now just thinking about it.  Kids don’t often get to “have fun” like that at school these days, and they need something to look forward to.  Some of my fondest memories from junior high school are from Camp Tecumseh.

As a counselor, it was so much more.  By leading a small group of teenagers, I slowly began to realize that I was made for this.  I loved mentoring them and teaching them.  I discovered that teenagers can actually be fun!  My leadership skills improved as well as the foundation of my teaching skills.  This is one factor that led me to want to become a teacher.  I currently work with 9th and 10th graders with learning disabilities.  I feel like I am with a bunch of middle schoolers every day, and I see their eyes light up when we do an interactive activity.  I know that if they had the chance and the funding, they would have done something like this in a heartbeat.  As for me personally, I loved being able to reunite with my friends for an extended period of time.  I had to split and go to HSE high school, and it was a real bummer for me.  Being able to interact with my old friends was something that I needed more than I realized.

The last and most important thing for me was the amount of trust the FJH teachers put into us counselors.  It can be hard to trust big teenagers to look after little teenagers.  The fact that I was chosen to do this felt like an honor.  I felt a sense of respect and responsibility.  I felt valued by the adults, and I knew that I served a purpose in this experience.  Being entrusted with this responsibility gave me confidence.  I could keep a small group of kids alive by myself…success!

I have also attached some pictures- not sure if you can use any of them.  They are a little grainy and old, but the fact that I still have them shows how much I truly valued my time at Camp T.

If you need anything from me, I am more than happy to help out.  Camp T is something that they should keep around!

Emily Grasso

Good afternoon,

For three years, I always looked forward to those three days where I got to be a Camp Tecumseh counselor for Fishers Junior High. It meant reuniting with former teachers who guided me expertly through seventh grade and reuniting with former junior high classmates. More importantly though, it gave me the experience and privilege to lead a passionate group of seventh graders through an experience that the classroom just cannot offer. Disconnecting from technology and getting to experience the outdoors is something you just don’t get at school. Going kayaking, building a weather balloon, hiking through the woods, line dancing, looking for local wildlife, and of course the baked oatmeal, are all experiences that have stuck with me as a 2013 graduate of HSE. During my last year as a Tecumseh counselor, we experienced a dreaded rainstorm and flooding that had us locked in the dining hall together. Instead of ruining the experience, it brought us even closer, with fabulous karaoke renditions that brought the teachers, counselors, and students together. It is one of the most unique experiences we offer seventh graders in our district.

To put it bluntly, discontinuing Tecumseh would be an incredible disservice to students in the HSE school district. The juice is 100% worth the squeeze. The teachers who make Tecumseh happen wouldn’t put their effortless hours into making the program happen if they didn’t believe with full conviction that it wasn’t worth it for their students that they care deeply about. As an FJHS and HSE HS alumna, I would be deeply disappointed to see this program discontinued.

Sincerely,

Emma Ng, Esq.

Emma Ng
Associate

Pronouns: She, Her, Hers

Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP

Hello Mr. Fassold!!

I saw your Facebook post and immediately had to send an email! Being a Camp T counselor was my all time favorite high school experience. It was also the most memorable part of 7th grade. I remember it so clearly. I had the best time and learned SO much!! I sadly lost all of my pictures of Camp T besides this one. Camp Tecumseh is absolutely worth all of the work. It gave me first hand experience of running my own group of kids without any other help. It taught me how to be independent and make flexible decisions without the help of others. It helped me prepare for my dream career – being a teacher. It taught me how to be a leader. I was exposed to a lot of new experiences that helped me grow as an individual as well as a future teacher. I loved every second of it, all 3 years that I was a counselor. The relationships I made will always have a special place in my heart. I knew I made a positive impact on those kids’ lives and that’s all I could ever want. I thank YOU for giving me those opportunities, for believing in me, for giving me a chance to grow. I appreciate you and everyone else involved with this program. PLEASE keep it going!!

Tyne Mather

Hey Mr. Fassold, this is Mitchell Shafer, and I’d like to share my Tecumseh experience with you.

For me, Camp Tecumseh was likely the single most important experience I’ve had in determining my career path. Going into it, I thought that I likely wanted to teach, but I was extremely nervous about it. I was terrified of going to college, taking all of these education classes and then finding out I hated it, or that I just didn’t have the skills. Being a counselor at Camp Tecumseh and interacting with kids as well as leading those mini-lessons made me realize that not only did I enjoy teaching, but I was also pretty good at it. I’m now finishing up my student teaching this semester, and I will graduate from the University of Dayton with a double major in Adolescent to Young Adult Education (7-12) and English in May. Without Tecumseh, I often wonder if I would have had the confidence to stay with something I believed to be a passion of mine, but was so anxious about without that experience. Tecumseh for me confirmed that passion, and it helped lead me to where I am today.

I am so grateful for the experience of being a Camp counselor.  In reflecting on one’s life, there are some opportunities and god willing a few people one can point to as being pivotal to one’s development.  I am lucky to be able to count my camp experience as one such moment, filled with many such amazing individuals.  I know a generation of doctors (including myself), lawyers, scientists, community leaders, even a professional athlete, who benefited from the mentorship of amazing teachers in the course of counselor training and who owe the Camp program for enriching their public school education.  I am grateful that my school system had the vision to support opportunities like Camp Tecumseh in the midst of tighter budgets, ever-evolving academic priorities. The presence of programs like Camp Tecumseh in HSE’s curriculum demonstrates an understanding that students learn best from using all their senses and that education is more than just books, tests, and grades.  These relationships and memories I formed during the course of Camp were foundational to my development, and I feel so blessed to have shared a small part in the program as a counselor.  

Morgan Smith, DO

I wanted to reach out about how I believe Camp Tecumseh is worth all of the hard work that gets put into it. Some of my greatest memories were made at Camp T as a student and as a counselor. At the time as a student it was difficult to give up my phone but it allowed me to enjoy what was around me, which wouldn’t have happened without Camp Tecumseh. With the world continuing to change and kids gaining access to technology younger and younger, Camp Tecumseh allows the students to finally experience what they have been seeing on their phones. Creating a bond as a student to a high schooler was another cool experience and allowed a safe space for the student to open up about themselves. I still am connected with almost all of the students I had as a counselor from both of my years and love that they still feel comfortable enough to reach out whenever they need. I don’t know how camp would work now that the students haven’t gotten to experience it because of covid. You guys as teachers are amazing and create a wonderful atmosphere, however the counselors are the ones the students are looking up to and want to be. The counselors I had when I was a student are the reason I wanted to become a counselor. The counseling position helped shape me into who I am today. It helped me grow and mature and I was able to take what I had learned from my experience and continue to use it in my life today.

Thank you, Carlie Westrum

Mr. Fassold,

Ever since I left Camp Tecumseh as a 7th grader, I knew I wanted to be a Camp Counselor as soon as I could. Camp Tecumseh was an incredible experience for me to grow as a leader and for me to reminisce on the glory days of being a Globetrotter at FJH. The connections I made between Camp Counselors and the students I mentored were amazing. I absolutely loved going back to Camp and creating a fun experience for the kids in my group. I just wanted them to love it as much as I did! I also think it is a great opportunity for the 7th graders to get some hands on experience in the outdoors. This is something you can’t teach in science class! Words simply cannot express how much I loved Camp Tecumseh and just thinking about it now has me feeling very nostalgic. I loved it in 7th grade and I loved it in high school. Additionally, I hope you’re doing well and I miss you and Mr. Sturgeon so much!

Best,

Jordan Vohs

From a counselor’s perspective, Camp T was well worth all the time and effort that I put in.

For me, being a counselor was one of the first steps that helped shape me into the leader I am today.  There is no way that I could be doing what I do now, organizing and leading events on campus with 100s of attendees, volunteers, and vendors as a part of the student union board on campus, without the experience of Camp T.

Also, it would be wrong to not mention my senior year.  As a senior from the class of 2020, I had to mourn the loss of a lot of things.  But, one of the things that I mourned the most was not going back to Camp T for my third year.  I think it speaks volumes of the program that I cared more about missing Camp than my senior lacrosse season (or even my graduation at some points).

However, it is much more than just leadership and my experiences as a counselor.  The experiences of the students are the most important.  There is no greater experience than getting to see these kids learn in an environment like Camp T.  Many of these kids have spent most of their time in suburbs like Fishers.  So, it is amazing to watch them interact with and learn from nature.  I still remember seeing some of their faces as they saw the petting zoo area for the first time.

I still follow some of my former “kiddos” on social media, and not going to lie, I feel like a proud parent watching them grow and become leaders in their own right.  Seeing them take on the world.

Plus, it is so much more than a learning experience.  So much happens in those three days that stays with kids forever.  All of the silliness and tradition creates something that they remember forever.

No matter what perspective you look at it from, it is worth it.  I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Rebecca Chrisman (Class of 2020)

Dear Mr. Fassold,

I saw your Facebook post asking for how Camp Tecumseh made an impact on our life. It’s hard for me to pinpoint just where it started, but I am going to give it a try.

I am the youngest of my 3 sisters. I watched both of my older sisters go off and be a counselor at Camp T before it was my chance to go. They would come back with stories and joy, and a little extra dirt every year. Hearing these tales made me so excited for it to be my turn, and soon enough, 7th grade was upon me, and my turn was up! Lucky for me, my older sister was a senior in high school and also a counselor at Camp Tecumseh at the same time. On the outside I was “so embarrassed” that my sister was in the skits, but on the inside I was beaming with pride to be related to her. Things were tough at home, and being able to bond in a safe environment helped us grow together. While I can’t tell you how I calculated the rate of flow of the river that week, I can tell you that this trip opened my eyes to having the classroom be everywhere, not just inside the school.

Let’s fast forward to high school, when I eagerly applied to be a counselor at Camp T. I was an excellent student and kept my grades up to ensure I would know enough to teach these 7th graders for a few days. My mom took me to the store where I bought matching bandanas I would give to my group to help them feel bonded, as well as more candy than 5 kids could eat (or so I thought). Teaching kids through an activity book enabled me to develop leadership skills and self confidence that I was greatly lacking. It allowed me to be a role model for others, when I was consistently being overlooked. As a selfish teenager, it also taught me about empathy and looking outside of myself as I was caring for others. Serving as a camp counselor empowered me in ways that I hadn’t thought about until writing this email. Not only that, but it also allowed me to unplug and spend time with my friends during a critical time of turmoil.

If that was all Camp Tecumseh did for me, it would be enough. However, with my experience, I would go on to be a camp counselor at a sleep away camp for 2 summers when I was in college. This opened up my world and influenced me to pursue my education in counseling. I got my master’s degree and I have worked as a high school counselor for the past 5 years because I am determined to help students find their worth. I never asked for mental health help from my counselor in high school, even though I needed it, but rather sought out leadership opportunities. Camp Tecumseh gave me confidence and filled a gap that spending time with nature alone can fill. I’m not sure what career I would be in right now if it weren’t for Camp T, so you can say the pudding to the face was well worth it.

I have continued to believe that the best learning takes place outside of the classroom when you can apply it to real world scenarios. I believe that fresh air is good for the soul, and with the mental health issues facing our students today, turning off their cell phones and learning important social skills while being outdoors is just the healing balm we need after the past two years.

For me- the juice is definitely worth the squeeze.

Michaella Beatty

Hi Mr. Fassold!!

I hope you are doing well. I wanted to send along a narrative about the positive impact that Camp T has had on my life:

My time at Camp T was one of the most memorable experiences of my high school career. At camp, I was able to connect with and teach middle school students, learn more about the outdoors, and engage with a community of peers and teachers who inspired us to ask questions and learn from one another.

When I was younger, I never saw myself as a teacher, however, my experience as a counselor helped me to see not only the importance of teaching, but also the impact of mentorship and peer learning. The middle school students learned about the outdoors, but they also learned about high school and other general life experiences. They would ask me about what it was like in high school and the importance of what we were learning at camp. Camp provides an opportunity for these connections and organic learning experiences that are just not possible in the traditional classroom. Also, camp helped more kinesthetic learners, like myself, see, smell, and hear what they were learning.

On a more personal level, my experience at camp helped me to identify my passions. Early in my college career, I was very lost about what to do with my life. But, through experiences like Camp T, I was able to reflect on my love of the outdoors and my gift of leadership. The Camp T model of outdoor education made me aware of efforts to connect young students with nature. It helps them to appreciate nature and learn more about the world around them. I ended up going into the field of public health where I work to lead collective efforts to make sure everyone has access to environments like parks, trails, and community gardens. I whole-heartedly believe that connecting people with experiential learning opportunities (i.e. visiting farms, seeing different neighborhood parks, growing food in a garden) promotes deeper understanding and a sense of empathy towards others. I connect this passion back to my time at Camp T.

Being a Camp Tecumseh counselor was a one-of-a kind experience that had a part in shaping me into an adult who values service, learning, and engagement with the community and environment around me. I sincerely hope that students continue to have the opportunity to attend camp. Our teachers and mentors work so hard to make it happen and I am truly grateful for their efforts to help students learn in such an impactful way.

I hope this is helpful! Your work with Camp T is seen and valued by so many. Thank you for all of your work to impact future generations!

Best wishes,

Julia Brunnemer

Hello! I hope all is well,

My name is Emily Monson, a former camper and counselor for Tecumseh. To be honest, it’s difficult to put into words how much this program has impacted me. when I was in the 7th grade I remember struggling a lot. I have never been the perfect student, learning in the classroom with homework and traditional practice has always been hard for me and with all of the students my teachers were in charge of, there seemed to never be enough 1 on 1 time. When we were told about the camp Tecumseh trip that we would go on at the end of the year I was so excited. I love being outside and I used to go to summer camps all the time, this was perfect. what I didn’t realize is how much that 3 days would teach me.

During my first time at camp I watched my friends become excited to learn about the plants, animals, and life that is so separate from our own and it was contagious. we spent time getting to know each-other, overcoming challenges with teamwork, and being immersed in what felt like a virtual reality science textbook. By day 3 my classmates and teachers felt more like family, we had jokes and experiences to share when we got back that I still think about regularly. I remember feeling like I finally found a way to be successful in learning and that was a huge breakthrough for me. Even my teachers commented on how well I was doing with the school-work while being there, this reassured me even more and made me feel seen. 

Fast forward to high school, my sophomore year. I started hearing my friends talk about applying to be a counselor for this same trip I loved so much and thought I would too. My first year of high school was not the best academically (like I said I have never been the perfect student) so I was unable to apply because my gpa was not high enough. this hurt me a lot because I realized that the same lessons I learned on that trip had been lost. I didn’t have that spark for learning anymore and that’s why I couldn’t help other kids receive it through counseling.

I decided that I would find a way to learn that works for me again. I was disciplined, worked hard, by the end of my junior year my gpa was high enough and I was eligible to apply. I was nervous but I remembered how supportive my teachers had been and explained them how I worked to be there again. They accepted me and we started counselor training.

My second experience there was even more impactful than the first. I met the most genuine kids that year who bonded with me and trusted me to help them learn too. We all did something new through a once in a lifetime experience together and we knew how important it was. I watched them interact with nature and work through challenges as a team and in turn, watched their brains have huge realizations about the world around them just like I had. this touched me, and the other counselors. I was able to have conversations about true connection and the joys of watching these kids grow, really making everything feel full circle for me.

With all of this being said I know I would not be the person I am today without the human connection, room for new experience, and eye-opening realizations of life I had while being a part of camp Tecumseh. I always look forward to seeing the photos of kids from the years behind me. I hope this tradition continues as it would be disheartening to know some young minds wouldn’t have the same opportunities I did.

Mr. Fassold,

I came across your Facebook post and wanted to share my thoughts/experiences about Camp Tecumseh. Being a counselor was arguably the most enjoyable and rewarding extracurricular that I experienced in high school. From developing interview experience to mentoring younger students to breaking out of my comfort zone and square dancing with strangers, I can’t think of an opportunity I’ve had that helped me become a more well-rounded individual. My grandparents actually live off Springboro Road up in Monticello so every time I visit, I drive by the dining hall and first couple sets of cabins that we used to stay in.

I have no doubt that the preparation for Camp Tecumseh is a huge commitment for you and the other incredible teachers at FJH, but to answer the question, the juice is absolutely worth the squeeze and I hope this tradition continues. I’ve attached a few pictures that capture some of the great memories I made as a counselor.

Best,

Jake Brattain

I was a 7th grade camper, as well as a 3-time high school counselor at Camp T. My experience as a camper gave me confidence in myself and getting to know the high school counselors gave me role models of what type of person/student I wanted to be going into high school. As a parent of a now 7th grade myself, I am seeing in a whole new way how critical this life stage is. Unfortunately, we are not in the HSE district now, but I would have loved for him to have the opportunity to be poured into and built up by high school students and to experience the Camp T experience. Even more so than when I was a student, with the constant flow of virtual influences and social media today, it is crucial that junior high students have the opportunity to have interactions with real life people a stage ahead of them to pave the way and paint a real picture of what life is like and what is important going into high school. AND the opportunity to spend a few days completely unplugged and in nature. This is something I value greatly as a parent, yet even still I wish my kids has more opportunities like that of Camp T to experience nature and the world outside of screens and media.

As a counselor, I grew so much in self-confidence, responsibility, and teamwork. I grew in friendship with other counselors in a way that I rarely did elsewhere during my teen years. We worked together as we trained and planned. We helped one another out the week of camp when we needed materials or had a question or a difficult situation that we needed a little help with. I got to know many peers from different friend groups that I wouldn’t have gotten to know otherwise, and these bonds sustained throughout high school and beyond. The trust and love that the teachers had in and for us was also a huge point of growth for me and the other counselors. For the first time I began to see myself as someone who could take on real responsibility, who was capable of making a difference in the world, as someone who was on the brink of adulthood. I am so thankful that I had these opportunities that prepared me for the life that was ahead of me.

The Camp T experience is so beneficial for the campers and counselors alike. Please continue to invest in the lives of these students by allowing this invaluable program to continue.

Sincerely,

Dorothy (Ruell) Singleton

Hello Mr. Fassold!

This is Cam Grace and I hope this email finds you well! I miss you all and our time at Camp T together, which is why I am writing this email today.

It’s hard to put into words all of the amazing experiences and memories I had being a counselor. To put it simply, being a Camp Tecumseh counselor was one of the best parts of my high school experience and it is absolutely worth the hard work it takes to put on the program.

Throughout my three years as a counselor I made some lifelong friends and mentors who have been pivotal people in my life such as Maddie Clapp. I have also stayed in touch with many of my campers to this day and have watched them grow into young adults just like I have. The connections we make at Camp T leave a lasting impression on all of us!

Camp Tecumseh is one of those unique times in our high school years that everyone who is involved looks forward to. It is a place where we all come together to not only teach/ mentor younger students but also to have some fun. The traditions and fun activities that we partake in ranging from baked oatmeal to skits are something that I will cherish forever and what made me want to be a counselor in the first place.

Camp T teaches us the values of leadership and community while making learning fun and it would be a great disservice to stop providing these experiences to future campers and counselors. I think on our time at camp with great fondness and hope that I will still see your posts each year to remind me of the amazing times we had!

Best Wishes,

Cam Grace

Ps. Here is a picture of Sloane and I recreating “The Creation of Adam” our senior year with our campers. Best. Time. Ever!

In 7th grade Camp T was one of the most pivotal experiences I had! Especially as a young, impressionable kid I knew from the moment we left camp that I wanted to do anything I could to be a counselor. I still vividly remember the games we played, skits we got to watch, and even examining the different wildlife in the nature center with my original camp t group. It’s not that one big moment sticks out to me now, it’s that during my experience I just remember being so incredibly happy (and then sad to leave camp).

Flash forward to then becoming a sophomore in high school and finally getting to be a counselor myself. My time as a counselor was everything I hoped it would be. One of the best parts about it is that I was able to form relationships with some of my campers that I still keep in touch with today! This happened every year and it was so exciting to see some of the more timid campers come out of their shell and embrace the camp experience. I’ve even had some of my past campers reach out to me about my college experience as they were choosing what to do next with their future. The coolest thing of all though is when you hear about your old campers becoming a counselor as well. It’s a rewarding feeling because you know that in some way their camp experience was profound enough to motivate them to put in the work to be a counselor.

The camp experience is worth all of the effort and hard work that it takes to put on. I believe this with my whole heart because not only was it so important to me as a 12/13 year old at the time but especially as a counselor. I can wholeheartedly say that looking back it was one of my fondest memories of my time in the HSE School District. It’s an experience unlike any other and even now when I’m with my friends and thinking back to our time within junior high and high school it’s one of the things we talk about most! So thank you for all the work you do and have done to make it happen for us! It really makes a difference 🙂

Wishing you well,

Ty Grace

I am so grateful to have gotten to be a Tecumseh counselor for two years! One year, I had the privilege of working with the special education class as a counselor at Tecumseh. I love that Tecumseh makes space for all students to engage in experiential learning. Both years as a counselor, I had the opportunity to work with precious kids who were getting a hands-on learning opportunity that is second to none. In addition to hands-on learning, the seventh graders have the opportunity to connect with positive role models. As someone who also attended Tecumseh as a student, I can attest to the educational benefit of the program. I still remember talking about the different types of soil while looking at the soil samples themselves! Learning that happens alongside the experience sticks so much longer. I am so grateful that this program exists – it is unusual and special. It is an asset, something unique to the HSE experience. I’m hopeful it will continue for years to come!

Meghan (Cross) Krueger, counselor in 2006 & 2007, student attendee in 2002

I was a Camp T counselor my sophomore, junior, and senior year as a high schooler at FHS. As someone who was considering becoming a teacher, “getting my feet wet” (both figuratively AND literally!) as a counselor was an immeasurably valuable experience in real-world education, classroom management, and familiarizing myself with different learning styles and motivating a wide range of students. For me, Camp T solidified my love for educating and I did go on to graduate with an early childhood education degree.

But counseling at Camp T is by no means limited to high schoolers considering becoming teachers! The pre-camp leadership retreat taught me lessons I still revere and use today: knowing when to ask for help, finding my “big girl” voice (which even gave me an edge when I enlisted in the Indiana Army National Guard!), and gaining a deep appreciation for Indiana’s native flora and fauna.

And Camp T itself? The experience was fun as a junior high student attending…but was absolutely brilliant as a high school counselor. It’s an amazing way to bond with classmates across cliques; to build self-confidence and get comfortable in your own skin through being overly outgoing, silly, and ridiculous (as demonstrated by the photo, attached- senior skits are still one of my absolute favorite memories from my senior year!); to be reminded that learning, at its core, should be playful in order to be effective; and most importantly a beautiful, selfless way to pay it forward to younger students and show much-needed gratitude to the 7th grade teachers who go above and beyond in putting on Camp T year after year.

In short- yes. The juice is without a doubt “worth the squeeze” for students, counselors, teachers current and future. Now that I have a little one starting kindergarten in HSE school district, Camp T has even become important to me as a parent- I’d be incredibly proud to watch my son continue a tradition unique to HSE that I’m so grateful to be a part of.

-Zoe Grout

Hello!

I had always wanted to be a camp counselor, but could never dedicate an entire summer to the endeavor.  Camp Tecumseh came along and offered the best opportunity for me!

Though I had not participated as a 7th grader (since I moved to the HSE district only in 8th grade), I heard countless good things from my classmates who had.

More than anything, I would say that I gained an understanding of how you can influence people who are only a “half-step” away from you (i.e. though both junior highers and high schoolers are adolescents, a few years of experience is worth sharing).  Our employer often stresses the importance of “leading from where you are” and even “leading up” when you can bring something valuable to the topic.  I feel that I have an advantage over some of my coworkers because opportunities like counseling at Camp Tecumseh already instilled the confidence in me to be a leader, even when I might feel too similar (or even inferior) to those that I am “leading”.

I never regretted my time as a Tecumseh counselor, even when it meant make-up work for the classes I couldn’t attend while at camp.  When I look back all these years later, I cannot describe a single classroom lesson from the weeks surrounding Camp Tecumseh.  However, I can tell you almost every detail of camp itself.

I’ve attached a group picture I found from 2010, though you might already have this.  I do have several photos of the junior highers, but don’t necessarily feel comfortable sharing them, especially as I do not appear in any.

All the best/Atentamente/Mit freundlichen Grüßen/Atenciosamente

Hannah Hilbert

Corporate Audit

Daimler Truck North America

4555 N. Channel Ave.

Portland, OR, USA 97217

Hello Mr. Fassold,

I saw your Facebook post about Camp Tecumseh and previous counselors sending a testimony about our experience. I am happy to share mine, as I look back on my time as a counselor and a camper very fondly!

As a previous Camp Tecumseh counselor, I can say with certainty that being involved with this experience in junior high school is not only fun, but formative. It is a practical way to learn so many life skills, some being learned without even realizing it at the time. Being a counselor requires organization and structure, in a way that is different from school work organization and structure. As a counselor, you are in charge of other students’ schedules and equipment. It takes months of attending meetings on time to prepare and gather information. It requires responsibility and accountability, given that younger students rely on you each day for guidance and instruction. At a time in your life when you have had limited exposure and understanding to inclusion and acceptance, being a counselor forces you to be exposed to students of all backgrounds and circles, and being a camper forces you to interact outside of your friend group. In addition to providing insight into all of these life skills, camp T attendance is a fun way to learn school principles applied in nature and in real life. I have always looked back on my time as a camp T camper and counselor, both, very fondly, and still speak of how wonderful an experience it was often.

Thank you for working hard to keep the Camp T experience alive. Attached are some photos from when we were counselors (quality is questionable).

Brittany (Allen) Beasley – Counselor, 2008

Hi Mr. Fassold,

I saw your post on Facebook about Tecumseh and how that counseling experience impacted me….apparently the value and/or impact of the program is in question so here are my personal two cents!

Shocker: I was an extremely shy 7th grader. I didn’t “come out of my shell” until a few years later and those who know me now laugh at the thought of me ever being shy. I include that because as a 7th grader attending camp, it allowed me the opportunity to spend time with role models I would not otherwise have. As the oldest child in my family, I didn’t have siblings to look up to and learn from. So having an extended time with these folks helped to show me who I could become as both a person, as well as a leader and mentor. They were cool, smart and silly…not afraid of getting up and dancing (even if they weren’t any good) and helped to encourage all of us to do the same. I wanted to be able to be like that one day!

I was lucky enough to be a three-year counselor, and those are some of my fondest memories from school. Having the opportunity to encourage the kids to try new things and step out of their comfort zone had a huge impact on me and I ended up learning just as much about myself as those kids were learning at camp. School is obviously very important for learning and setting us up for college and careers. However, Camp T taught us (students and counselors) how to be present in a world that is lost in technology. How to build and form connections with people who may need that more than anything else, but aren’t aware or don’t know how to ask. To help remind everyone that while grades are important, treating people with kindness and enjoying your surroundings and adventures is a lesson everyone should learn and re-learn throughout life. Being silly and dancing around in your socks is just as important to kids growing up as learning topics on a syllabus.

It’s been 20 years since my first year as a counselor and I can honestly say that time helped me to flourish into the leader, teammate, coworker and friend that I am today. I hope the importance of this experience and opportunity for both students, counselors and teachers shines through on my and many other testimonials. It is a highlight of my schooling and one I am forever grateful for.

Cheers!

Lindsey

LINDSEY KLUEMPERS, CIC

Good evening Mr. Fassold,

Hope you’re doing well.

Without my Tecumseh counseling experience, I truly wouldn’t be where I am today. Being trusted with the responsibility to keep a group of children safe in the middle of the woods increased my self-awareness, developed my leadership skills, increased my self-confidence, and improved my communication skills. Having teachers who saw my potential long before I could recognize it in myself has been a life changing experience and the memories are what keep me going when I need a reminder to be kind to myself.

Sincerely,

Danielle Bellamy

College of Pharmacy

Purdue University

Mr. Fassold,

In response to your request on Facebook to provide examples of how the counseling experience has impacted me:

-Small team leadership development

  • Being a counselor was a great early experience in translating a commander’s intent (learning booklets) into actual training in a way that keeps the team engaged.
  • I used my experience as a Tecumseh counselor when I was a cadet at West Point and during US Army Ranger School when leading and motivating small teams that don’t necessarily want to listen to you. 
  • Learning the value of servant leadership and leading through listening started as a camp Tecumseh counselor.  The only way to get through to a group of adolescents (or any group) is with empathy and listening.  This is a life skill learned at camp Tecumseh that I have carried with me through the Army and in my profession in medical device engineering.

– Collaboration

  • Successful camp Tecumseh counselors collaborate effectively with other counselors in order to efficiently complete all assigned tasks for their individual groups.  This involves effective planning, communication, and a humble approach to allow other leaders to train/teach your team. 
  • Collaboration strategies learned as a camp Tecumseh counselor helped me personally at West Point, as an officer in the US Army, as an engineer in corporate America, and now as a leader at a startup company.  This is a foundational skill. 

I hope this helps!  I wanted to keep it concise.  Let me know if anything is not clear. 

It would be great to catch up someday!

John Wagner – counselor from 2003-2005.  

Hi Mr. Fassold!

I hope you are doing well! 🙂

     I’m really sad to hear that the impact of Camp Tecumseh is being questioned. Being a Camp T counselor is still one of my best memories of high school, and I feel the impact of my experiences as a counselor every day.

     Camp T was a formative experience for me, not only as a student attending for the first time, but as a counselor. I was fortunate to be a counselor for three years. Over those three years, I lead a masked mafia, a swaggy group of OGs, and a Maroon 5 parody band. I look back on those three years fondly as some of the best moments of my childhood. Leading three incredible groups of students taught me a lot about the intricacies of building friendships and finding joy in simple moments. I loved having a hand in making learning more interactive and enjoyable. Being a Camp counselor truly fostered my love for mentoring and working with students, which precipitated itself as being a Resident Assistant and Peer Mentor in undergrad. I continue to be a peer mentor in my PhD program. During my interviews for all of these positions, I drew on Camp T as a formative leadership experience. Being a counselor taught me how to be an effective and compassionate leader, and how to tailor my approach to each individual student.

     Not only did being a counselor at Camp T prepare me to be a leader, but also helped me come into my own as a person. It really taught me how to create fun in the most random things, whether it was acting over the top in a camp skit about visiting the doctor, convincing my students that the dirt in certain parts of the forest actually tasted like cinnamon (and then being nominated for it) as we perused the woods for wildflowers, or even having lip sync performances to popular Maroon 5 songs and jamming on inflatable guitars on the river while we surveyed the water. There was always some way to make what we were doing fun. It helped me learn to not take things so seriously, but instead to balance fun with work.  This is a skill that I’ve had to use time and time again not only in school but in my everyday experience. There have been many ups and downs over the years, but I learned that even though life isn’t always easy, there’s always small joys to be found. Being a Camp counselor showed me how to find these joys.

     Aside from what I learned, I also built many lasting friendships with my fellow counselors and the teachers that made the experience possible. Camp T has a special place in our hearts and my friends and I think back to our counselor experiences to reminisce often. We’ve spent many hours laughing about our nighttime treks across Camp grounds and over whose tissue paper hot air balloons came apart seconds into launch. Many of the people I worked with are still my close friends, and one of the teachers who led the experience even wrote me a letter of recommendation for college. Even after all of these years, the people I’ve created bonds with through camp are still some of the most important people in my life. 

     Any time I talk about Camp or come across old pictures, I feel my face light up. I can’t help but feel overjoyed thinking about how much fun being with the students, staff, and fellow counselors was. I have taken the lessons I’ve learned as a counselor along with me every day, and I cherish the memories greatly. I wouldn’t trade my Camp T counselor experience for anything. I’ve told every student I know that’s passed through the junior high and high schools to absolutely be a Camp T counselor if they can. I always tell them that it was one of the best things that I’ve ever done.

   Camp Tecumseh is an experience that I believe every student should get to have, not only for the educational value, but for the incredible opportunities to build friendships. And if they were chosen to be a Camp counselor, I could only say that the time moves fast, and to enjoy every moment, because these memories would be some of their best. Camp Tecumseh, without a doubt, should continue to be a tradition for Fishers Junior High. The students only benefit from its experience.

I hope that this helps! Honestly, it’s hard to describe how much Camp T means to me. Being a counselor is genuinely one of my favorite memories of all time, and I have endless positive things to say about it. I definitely miss it 🙂

Please let me know if there is anything else I can do! 🙂 I’ve attached a few pictures below!

Thank you!!  Hershey Kondeti

To whom it may concern, 

It has come to my attention that there is a question as to whether Camp Tecumseh is worth the cost. I hope the sheer volume of responses you receive to this question is enough to indicate to you that the answer is an overwhelming “YES”. However, I do hope that you read each response in detail so that you truly grasp what Camp Tecumseh has meant to so many through the years. May that provide reassurance to you, now and in future years, that the funds are certainly well-spent, and may it even compel you to find additional ways to support this amazing experience. 

As a 7th grader at Fishers Junior High School, I was already a lover of learning, particularly of math and science. I was content with learning in a classroom out of a textbook, or at least I thought I was. Just a half week at Camp Tecumseh was enough to light a whole other kind of fire in me. The lessons I learned while immersed in nature were far more impactful and resonated more deeply than any textbook or chalkboard lesson ever could. 

As a high schooler at HSE, I was fortunate enough to be chosen as a counselor for two years. Even in high school, the middle school lessons and activities at Camp were enough to reignite my love for hands-on learning. But what really made an impression was the opportunity for me to be a leader. The teachers treat the counselors not as their students except older, but as their partners in teaching. I still can’t believe that I was fortunate enough to have mentors like them show me how to connect with students, then turn to me, as their equal, and help me do the same. 

Camp Tecumseh fostered my love of science by taking me out of textbooks and into real world observations, and laid a foundation of leadership & teaching. Those experiences have since propelled me through the mangroves of the Florida Keys, studying plankton across the South Atlantic Ocean, even to the classroom as a teacher, and now at Stanford University, where I lead a team supporting the global biomedical effort to characterize every cell in the human body. 

Future students deserve to have their flame stoked just like I did. Please do not take this opportunity away from them. 

Sincerely, 

Jason Hilton, Ph.D.

­­­­­­­­­­­I don’t know that you’ll remember me as you didn’t have me in class, I had the pleasure of knowing you through National Junior Honor Society, Camp Tecumseh, and We The People. I was Kate Sirk at the time (now Kate Bland). I graduated from Fishers High School in 2009 and was a student at Fisher Junior High in the early 2000s.

Camp Tecumseh was one of the greatest (and fondest) memories of my Junior High and High School experience. Flash back to my time as a counselor in 2009, I was a shy and timid young person. At the same time, I had a great desire to learn, grow, and lead. Being I was as shy as I was, few opportunities came along where I could learn and lead others.

Camp Tecumseh presented the opportunity for me to lead my own group of campers through their camp experience. I enjoyed leading my campers through the STEM related activities at Camp Tecumseh. I’m proud to say I know I learned more than they did over the couple of days of camp. Camp is one of the few opportunities students have to get out and apply skills learned in the classroom to the real world. It’s an example of application of learning in Math, Science, and other classes.

I’ve attached a few photos of me at Camp Tecumseh as a counselor with my very best friends. You may remember Jessie and Emily. Emily is still one of my very best friends (she was a bridesmaid in my wedding) and we’re still close. I’ll actually be seeing her a week from today. You’d be so proud to know she’s a physical therapist now (a really excellent one at that). I know she enjoyed having you as a teacher and we had such a fun time together at camp. Camp is fun, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a course in leadership, responsibility, and conceptualizing. 

Flashforward to 2022, I’m over eight years into my business career and I’ve proudly managed a multi level Team at Project Lead The Way since 2018. Access to hands-on learning and STEM activities for students is still a great passion of mine, one Project Lead The Way shares. 

I don’t know how much my email will help, but my thanks to you and those who make Camp Tecumseh a possibility for students is long overdue. Thank YOU, I greatly benefited from the experience as a camper and a counselor

– Kate (Sirk) Bland

Hello from the corporate side! 

I know I am late, but if nothing else I’d love to share my appreciation for the Camp Tecumseh program. Kids are the most impressionable and often times working through some of their greatest life traumas at this age (at least I was). Camp T fills that gap.   

You know in the Mr. Rogers documentary when it prompts you to reach out to those that influenced you the most? I’ve been sitting on these feelings for years, but now feels like the most appropriate time.

Camp Tecumseh and the FJHS teachers that lead its efforts are the reason I am who I am today. This camp and these beautiful souls met me at a time when I was lost to say the least. I was navigating what divorce looked like at home, while working through puberty and trying to find my voice. This was my refuge. Camp Tecumseh taught me you can have fun even when things don’t turn out perfectly (hello compass navigation / balloon making gone awry), camp levels any playground dramas and learning doesn’t always have to be confined to a classroom.

Now roaming the woods and losing Biltmore sticks was amazing…but the teachers, were the real heroes here. Mr. Fassold, Mr. Broviak, Mr. Sturgeon, Mr. Jansen. Whether you realized the role you were playing in my life or not, you took on the role of father-figure with grace and you didn’t let go through junior high or even when I was a HS counselor. You taught me the world was bigger than my circumstances and empowered me to live out my dreams. You pushed me to be my best version of myself and hit me with the tough love that I needed.

I always got the “tough kids” as a counselor, but I think the reason we got along so well is because I could see myself in each of them. I chose to see them for their potential instead of focusing on their faults. I had the ability to come in with zero perceptions of who each of my campers were and leave with an appreciation for each of their little souls / our fun little group bonded.

I’m crying, so I hope that means you are ugly crying too. Grateful for each of you and know that you impacted my life in one of the best extremes. That extra hour at NJHS, starburst candy and stopping by my open house for a proper goodbye meant the world. 

Happy Tecumseh Week!

Liz

Elizabeth Dowen (she/her)

Letters from Cabin Parents this Year

Good morning Dr. Stokes – 

I wanted to take a moment to share my feedback, as a parent, from my recent experience with Camp Tecumseh with the 7th grade students at Fishers Junior High School.  I am thrilled that the students were able to experience this unique learning adventure after a 2 year hiatus due to Covid.  While our daughter’s (now freshman) class was not able to go, it was so refreshing and encouraging to see these young people experience the classroom setting in a non-traditional way through camp.  I first experienced Camp Tecumseh myself as a 7th grader 39 years ago so I was very excited to have the opportunity to accompany my son and see how the program has evolved over the years.  

The kids and teachers worked incredibly hard to create an experience that will never be forgotten – literally!  I only know a fraction of the hard work and logistics that goes into making all of this happen and the rewards are evident in the smiles, sweat and memories that these kids experience at camp.  It was not until attending camp as a parent, did I realize how much this camp also means to the high school counselors.  They work tirelessly to foster an environment of learning, fun and inclusion for all of the kids.  These young people showed incredible leadership and there is no doubt that their time at camp will help them become future leaders.  

If ever there is a question, “Is Camp Tecumseh worth it”, then I would say absolutely YES!  I hope that our school system continues to support this endeavor for years to come.  For some, it is their first and possibly only encounter in a nature setting.  Camp Tecumseh can truly be a life changing event for these young people.

My best – 

Jeff Lawson

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Mike,

I’ve been to Camp T three times as an adult cabin parent. Twice with my son, as a student and as a counselor, then with my daughter as a student. It was a unique to spend time with my kids and their friends. My daughter has remained friends with two of the girls in her cabin. Last summer they were over and at age 25 they were telling me how fun it was and retelling stories of Camp T. To have that kind of impact with the kids is priceless. 

Our youngest went as a councilor this Spring and came back considering going into teaching as she enjoyed leading her group so much. Each of the kids drew something different out of Camp T and all of them shifted their focus towards teaching after being councilors at camp- David is teaching high school government, Amanda is a GA at IU working on her masters and Erica is looking at student teaching her senior year. Camp T has been a pivotal point for all of them and a meaningful experience for me.

David Duba

Team Tecumseh, 

I wanted to take a few moments to say thanks for all you do. Secondly, if you ever need anyone to go to bat for you to defend the program, don’t hesitate to reach out. Those 2.5 days certainly made a believer and advocate out of me. I figure you know the kid’s experience from what you’ve heard and seen, so maybe I’ll just take a few moments to relay my experience as a Cabin Dad. To be honest, it was unexpectedly a little emotional for me (in a good way, I assure you). I grew up in Detroit and never got to experience anything like this as a kid. Aside from maybe a sports coach or running into a teacher at the grocery store, I never really had much interaction with teachers outside of the classroom. Throughout camp, I couldn’t help but think how great it would have been to be a part of something like this. 

I think there was a ton of value for the kids to see you let your hair down a little and be silly, have fun. It humanizes you for them and, I believe, helps them along in their own maturation and social development. My Son Lucas, for example, was afraid of teachers in elementary school. Afraid to speak up when he had questions and whatnot. It’s been a journey but he’s mostly past that now. Anyhow, I saw this experience as another important step in the right direction for him.

The High Schoolers were phenomenally well prepared and executed flawlessly from my perspective. I was impressed with the maturity and professionalism I saw from them. My Son who usually resists signing up for ANY after school events is now excited to possibly join the ranks of Camp Tecumseh Counselor someday. They inspired him and there’s a ton of value in that. My wife and I probably sound like a broken record talking about the value of college to our boys, but seeing someone closer to their own age who they’ve gotten to know in Camp take the stage and talk about their college and career plans probably resonates more than anything we can ever tell them. That was a very nice “cherry on top” during our final breakfast together.  

As for being a Cabin Dad, I loved it. It was certainly a bit of a challenge managing eleven 13 year old boys every night and morning. They were all good kids though, and it didn’t take much. Funny story, I told them on the first morning: “Your teachers BEGGED and PLEADED with me to make you wear deodorant each day.” I hope for your sake that left an impression beyond just the 2.5 days of camp. Good luck with that.

Not much else to say except great job everyone. I couldn’t have been more pleased with the efforts and execution. Learning doesn’t only happen in the classroom, of course.It takes a village and each of you are certainly helping to raise the next generation. From what I saw at camp, you’re more than doing your part to set them up for success!

Regards,

Chris Sandlin

Dear Ms. Donsbach, I hope this letter finds you well. I’m sure things are busy with the school year wrapping up. I was hoping to take a moment of your time to share a success. My son attends school at Fishers junior high. He is in seventh grade, and he has spent his entire life within the HSE district. Over these many years, he has received exceptional education from the teachers in our district. During the beginning of Covid, while quarantined, his teachers did everything right. They worked hard to ensure that the children were learning everything they needed, and did their best to keep them interested and engaged. Because of some personal health issues, we chose to keep him home for the entirety of his sixth grade year. He completed the year virtually without any concern for setbacks. He even learned how to play the saxophone, from the safety of our living room. Having him home during this time allowed me to get a better understanding of the curriculum and expectations that he had in the intermediate school. All of these experiences were positive, and gave me additional insight, but that is not the purpose of this letter. I’m writing to you because I want to applaud the staff at FJH and the high school students who acted as counselors over the last three days at Camp Tecumseh. I attended as well, as an adult chaperone, and cabin parent. It was incredible to witness these kids thriving in an environment that was devoid of electronics, social media, and other worldly distractions. I was able to witness them putting all of the knowledge that they had gained over the course of the year into use. They started their day at 7 AM, and didn’t end until 11 PM, and they were learning, experiencing, laughing, growing, and creating friendships with people they may have never spoken to before. I witnessed them taking water samples and examining them under the microscope, calculating the velocity at which they exited the black hole, measuring trees and determining how much lumber each tree could provide, and the total cost of that lumber, crafting balloons out of tissue paper and watching them take flight after being filled with hot air, conquering fears of heights by climbing Mt. Hood and exploring across the suspension bridge, working together with a partner to navigate a canoe across the lake, Square dancing, listening to stories, engaging in skits, and learning in an environment that was so rich with the love for teaching. There were many other things that I did not observe directly, as the kids separated off into their study groups with their high school counselors. I did, however, hear from my son about many of the lessons, experiments, and projects that they completed. Each child had a packet to work on throughout the three days. It was 49 pages in length! My son is a great student, and when I asked him about His experience at camp, this is what he said, “ I had such a great time! I am so tired, but I learned more at camp, than I ever would have in three days at school! I just wish that I had an opportunity to go back again!” He is now contemplating the possibility of becoming a high school counselor for other students at FJH when he is old enough. I would be incredibly honored for him to have that chance. Watching those high school kids teach, engage, organize, and lead their study groups made me so proud! I was in awe of their maturity and their ability to maintain a positive learning environment for those kids I spent much of my time sitting back, and watching those students teach, and it was incredible! I know it is a sacrifice for those high school students to be out of the school, but I do believe that it was an incredibly powerful, rewarding, and positive experience for them as well. Leading groups of 12/13 year old students is difficult in itself, but they were able to guide them, and teach them as well. They maintained their safety, addressed minor disciplinary issues, encouraged those who were struggling, supported those with additional needs, and provided preliminary grades to their students. These high school kids worked so very hard, and watching them gives me hope for our future! The teaching staff who organize, attend and prepare for this trip have put on an incredible opportunity for our Jr High and HS students. It truly feels like a “right of passage” and I am so very glad that they were able to experience it this year. I am looking forward to chaperoning again in a couple of years when my daughter goes through. If there was ever any question regarding the value of this trip, I hope my letter can alleviate some of those concerns. I sincerely hope that Camp Tecumseh will be something that the students at FJH will continue to experience for a very long time. I pray that you can see it’s benefit and worth and will continue to include it in the curriculum planning for years to come. Thanks for your time!

Sincerely, Cheryl”

Final Thoughts

I understand the logistics are hard sometimes for administration. I don’t really mind the questioning of established programs to see if the merits are still there.

If you have experienced the program…at Camp…then you understand its impact.

  1. My seventh graders get to be in a pure outdoor learning classroom with “real world” relevant learning.
  2. My seventh graders get to unplug and be kids again; they dance, they have recess, they laugh, they chase tissue paper balloons waving folders keep them aloft, they push past fears to climb and canoe.
  3. My counselors learn to really lead…they impact my seventh graders by being role models and mentors to a generation desperately lacking these models.

Thanks for reading.

Learning Loss, A Way Forward and My Fears of Over-Reaction

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Learning Loss

Tony my long-time teaching partner, 24 years…our silver anniversary is next year so I am expecting a block of silver, and I were talking about next year and both identified that we are faced with three challenges right from jump street.  First, these kids are going to lack some of the skills that they normally arrive with as a result of virtual environment.  Instead of identifying and trying to recover 50 skills we have decided that it is prudent for us to concentrate on a few critical skills and make those points of emphasis for the school year.  Second, our kids have not experienced Fishers Junior High’s culture…the traditions, the competitions, the interplay between teams, school “dances”, all the normal things that get kids to buy into our culture…they missed it all; we need to rebuild the culture of our building. Third, we need to re-energize our staff away from the virtual mindset back to an in-person mindset. This means we, as a staff, need to get back into being close to kids, organizing activities, and generally integrating students and teachers back into the relationship part of school again.

Learning Loss – A Way Forward

These are the skills that I think I will be addressing first…disclaimer this list could change 142 times before the start of the school year.

  1. The ability to talk to and listen to there peers. Think, Pair, Share activities normally dominate the teaching of this skill, but I think we need to be even more intentional with Chavruta or Havruta-style of working in pairs.  Havruta (which translates to friendship) is a traditional approach to the study of the Talmud in which a small group of students analyze, discuss and debate a piece of text. I like to add an element of listening to the study. The Chavruta style of learning is meant to be argumentative; the graduation piece of this is for the pairs to read controversial pieces with one person always playing the other side.  Our country DEFINATELY needs practice on seeing the other side of the issues.  I use this PowerPoint as a guide to using the Havruta in the classroom: Havuta Steps.
  2. The skill to read non-fiction text and identify key points and supporting information. This has been an emphasis for a decade in our school; last year’s environment hurt teaching this skill. Normally I “race-track” around and make adjustments by dropping a Pink Pearl eraser, Amazon sells them 72 for $22, and tell the kids what to fix. Lots of visits, lots of feedback, lots of erasing, lots of steps. This skill translate to all classes and nearly every profession.
  3. Concise writing. I want to discipline my students to be concise when they write for me. I read a great article (https://www.writerswrite.co.za/10-ways-to-be-more-concise-when-you-write/) that inspired me to be more intentional in my writing expectations. My Weoples, aka We the People kids, are the catalyst for this skill as they get big writing prompts and very few words to answer the questions; however, this skill is invaluable overall and transferable.
  4. Revisiting the Amish Way of Life. First off don’t think me a Luddite…I’m not at all. However, every teacher will spin a tale of woe when it comes to technology and thinking questions. Teacher: “What do you think the impact of this event would have on the people?” Student: “Siri?” Siri could tell them that the vaccine magnetizes your body and they would believe because the uneducated are always gullible. Sometimes there is no substitute for just having to ponder and theorize and be wrong and having to re-ponder, re-theorize (sorry Kletch…I am sure this is not a word) and re-think. The process matters as much or more than the question’s correct answer.
  5. Adhering to time. During the Covid year and a quarter most teachers were beyond lenient on due dates; especially when it came to in-class work. There was a cost to this leniency…the sense of responsibility to deliver ON-TIME. All of us that have been in the “real world” know that on-time is the expectation. Boss’s demand it; customers demand it; employees demand it; the wife demands it…me I just suggest and hope. You know, if you are familiar with my class, that homework is not my thing. I am too much of a control freak and do not want parents trying to figure out my class at night. I want to answer, or not answer questions directly, all the questions in my class. As such class work tends to build on the essential questions in my units; as a result, class work needs to be complete before the next step in the lesson.

Fear of Over-Reaction

Okay, so I am one of those people that does not blindly trust people to make decisions for my class. I have been doing this long enough and work too hard on improvement to value the professional opinions of strangers; there are those that make me listen and ponder…ponder is a great description…listen, think, connect, think, decide. My fear is that the district will hamstring teachers with lists of things to cover (e.g., this civilization, this date, this river) instead of finding consensus from teachers at each grade level what SKILLS need to be taught (e.g., reading like an historian, analyzing primary and secondary sources, writing argumentative essays, understanding connections and cause-and-effect chains in history, why unicorns are only found in Australia, etc.) When curriculum maps appear with spend x number of days on Ancient Egypt with this test during this time frame all is lost. This leads to shallow short-term learning of the least common denominator at the expense of skills and passion. This leads to my other fear that shallow short-term learning objectives will kill the love of subject in kids.

The Camaro Saga

Sooo…when I started my journey of losing weight and getting in shape I wanted to reward myself when I hit my goal of losing 70 pounds…I have lost 73 pounds and run a 5k…which I will do on June 23rd at the Spark5k. I decided that I wanted to give myself on a Camaro or Mustang. I designed a Camaro on-line and sent it to four local dealers. My hopes were quickly dashed when two different dealers told me the same thing…the Camaro line has not run in months because of a computer chip shortage. The latest word is that maybe late July the factory line opens again. So no Camaro and the Mustang is just $10,000 more…so no muscle car for me at the moment.

Moments of randomness

Amanda Biles is the greatest athlete of all-time.  Yep, I mean it.  Watch this super slo-mo video of her “Biles” move and disagree with me.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CmRHT4LdyMk

Eric Clapton was once asked how does it feel to be the greatest guitarist in the world; he said, “I don’t know, you should ask Prince.” Skip to 3:30 if you just want to see Prince; of course, the late, great Tom Petty is an added bonus and a reminder to his greatness.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CdfMh8QgJjA 

2020 – Roasting Hot Dogs over a Dumpster Fire

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It has been over a year since I have been able to open my blog to write. That has been hard for me. Writing has always been my outlet; since I struggle sometimes to get my mind to order my thoughts. My “stream of consciousness” has been dammed up for over a year. Early one morning I decided to write. There is a lot to unpack and I need to shed my blockage. I apologize for any grammar errors, rambling, or any other mistakes.

2020 entered with high hopes. My We the People team just won State in December with a NARROW 3-point over our friends at Fall Creek Junior High…their teacher, Patrick, is a dear friend and a knowledgeable sounding board for teaching We the People in the chaos of the Trump administration. As it was an election year Tony, Kevin, I anticipated that the Trump administration, the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, and the election would drive a lot of our National’s questions. Also, my second Weople National champions would be interviewing for Camp Tecumseh in the spring which would fulfill a promise I made to them in the delirium of the school year ending that I would not retire until they had a chance to be counselors…not to mention that this group of Weoples would make for great counselors. Most importantly, my oldest daughter, Caitlin, would marry her fiancée, Lucas, in October. Laurel and I could not be happier with our second great son-in-law in the last 2 years. Our family was growing and we loved it. Also, Caitlin’s dear friend, Diana, and her fiancé Jordy asked me to be their officiant for the wedding in April. Then Covid-19…

Immediately after we shut it on nearly no notice in March, the Center for Civic Education made the call that the high school and middle school Nationals would both be cancelled and replaced with an on-line competition. Telling my kids this was so hard. They and their teachers were devastated. I so wanted to share the DC experience with my kids and they were so excited for this as well. The experience of Nationals competition and the Washington DC experience was a fitting tribute to a group of hard working kids who poured their souls into the program all year. My heart ached and still aches for these kids.

One of my favorite Camp pictures sent to us by (I think) Jason Slain. Tony and I waiting for the buses at lunch time on Day 3.

Nearly immediately after the Civic Education Center’s announcement, we found out that Camp Tecumseh would be cancelled for us in the spring. This new devastated to me on a personal level. I have ran the Camp Tecumseh with my friends for 24 years…it is the highlight of my school year…a respite from traditional school…a perfect mixture of education, leadership and fun. We have reached so many 7th grade and high school counselors. I cannot explain the bond the Tecumseh creates between the directors and my beloved counselors. The cancellation would deprive me the chance to say goodbye to a wonderful group of seniors…many of which were on my second We the People team. Every open house reinforced the loss as Tony and I would run into seniors that lost their senior year at Camp. This ripped my heart open. This senior class was so special to me. In addition, we had a number of teacher kids in the 7th grade; to include the kids of two of the Camp Tecumseh co-directors that would not experience the program that demanded so much time from their fathers. To compound the sense of loss was the simple fact that I really liked my 7th grade students. They were a fun group. Knowing that they would not experience the purest educational experience of hands-on education in cooperative small groups with ample amounts of fun mixed in caused me to lose sleep which some of you know I have problems sleeping as it is.

Congratulations Dr. Thorpe!!

Then the world shut down; on the fly we were virtual and trying to teach on-line. This robbed me of the thing that I enjoy most about teaching…interactions with kids. This year my wonderful principal (and current Indiana Middle School Principal of the Year) purchased for me white board desks that would fit into a U-shape (perfect for We the People units). I had to get rid of some furniture in my room since the desks were bigger than a normal desks. So I game up my teacher desk and decided to sit in any open seat in the classroom. I should have done this long ago. I enjoyed the chance to bounce around between students and engage them one-on-one or in small groups during class. It brought joy to my heart. Suddenly, I was trying to reach through comments on Canvas. It was a struggle.

I had some hope that maybe things would ease in August when we went back to school…I was so wrong. We started virtually, came back partially and then were virtually once again. On-line competition for the my new We the People team was once again via Zoom. It is so hard to teach and reach kids in this environment. I watch kids that I know I could reach if they were with me everyday. Teaching in this environment robs me of the hallway talks; the banter of teaching that fills my room, the facial expressions of confusion or understanding, the ability to pull a kid aside, all the things that I felt connected me with students was hindered or impossible.

I have struggled this year with depression. There were days that I felt like I was acting in the role of myself. My internal wiring needs to be able to compartmentalize and make sense of my world. This year has been a struggle to do these two processes that have been my worldview for so many years. I am thankful for dear friends that listened to me trying to simplify and understand my world without trying to fix me. My internal wiring does not accept very well people trying to fix me…I need input, but without telling me what to do disguised as advice. What I needed the most was to arrive to acceptance in my own way…in my own time. Special acknowledgement to my friends; Tony for taking on so much of the burden in We the People…I never asked, he just knew that was what I needed; and Kevin…who was just Kevin…patient, kind, and helpful…without any feeling of obligation or being put out in any way. I can say without a doubt that where I am now would not have been possible without them. Slowly…really slowly…my head and heart started to work in conjunction with each other. While still mourning all the losses my focus changed more to what I have gained instead of only what I have lost.

The sun rises!!

I found after some time that despite the gut-punch that 2020 provided there was so much to celebrate.

However, what anchored me to the goodness of the world was the goodness that surrounded me. That leads me to the joys of the year.

2020 We the People National Champions

These kids….while I shed tears for their loss of a trip to DC; that did not change how I feel about their accomplishments. This group of Weoples overcame the challenges; they had grown at every stage. I laughed so much with these kids; Unit 5’s “Addi wall of quotes”…that I have not had the heart to take down, Unit 2’s refusal to make the same mistake twice, the running commentary of Unit 6, the constant singing of my choir girls, the evil genius brilliance of Unit 1, Unit 4’s constant belief that they were terrible…even though I knew they were brilliant, the absolute growth of Unit 3’s “girl power”, the twin-power intelligence of Strawhacker boys, and the rise of leaders like Casey, McKinley, Maddie, Owen, and Madelyn. This group was the epitome of hard work…they approached the challenge of getting ready for a Zoom Nationals with determination and work ethic. I could not be prouder of them for the work and perseverance getting ready for Nationals. When they were announced as the winners of the competition…my heart filled with joy. My biggest regret is that the virus has robbed us to celebrate in person…the kids did a drive-by of my house which touched my soul. I made their end of year video and shared it with them on Zoom, but could not share the end-of-year experience with them.

I think someone who has been a Weople can understand the bond the develops between the team and its lucky teachers. Some of the these kids have been my student for two years. More impactful is the shared experience of We the People…the struggle, the learning, the willingness to rise from ashes, the competition and the daily challenges of preparing to compete. It is what makes the goodbyes the hardest as it is the finality of the experience. My hope is that the experience is a building block for future leadership and civic involvement. My goodness; we need an infusion of civic mindedness in our country. These kids are family to me and I love them like family. I take pride when I saw three of them be elected as freshmen class officers and one elected as a co-captain as freshman to the Girls Soccer team.

I am sorry it has taken me so long to acknowledge these kids on my blog…writer’s block is a real thing.

I want to leave with this video that my kids made (Casey put it all together and produced it) for me at the end of the year.

Diana and Jordy’s Wedding

2020 did feature a another first for me. One of Caitlin’s best friends, Diana, and Diana’s fiancé, Jordy, asked me to be the officiate for their wedding. Of course, I was honored but scared to death. The easiest thing for me was the 5 seconds of “seminary” to become an officiant “ordained” by the Universal Life Church. When I asked Diana and Jordy what they wanted for a ceremony; their instructions were some religion, some wisdom, no “obeying” and a whole lot of “we trust you to make it special”. For someone like me that means a lot of writing and research. Over the Christmas break, I wrote their wedding vow script (17 pages) and for those of you that know me well realize that I would obsess with making sure the vow taught all the things I wanted a young couple to know before embarking on their life-journey together; I incorporated The Prophet, Tuesdays with Morrie, The Alchemist, Bob Marley, the Talmud, and Rabbi Michael Josephson into the vows. I had met and had a run through with the family on both sides in February and felt good after seeing many tears and smiles. Of course, I tinkered on the script more after the meeting—me just being me. Originally the wedding was to be in April, but because of Covid they moved it to July 4th weekend. It was one of my favorite experiences in my life…the chance to marry a young couple that were like my children to me made the experience even sweeter.

The Wedding of Caitlin Fassold and Lucas Grecco

There are few moments in your life that are truly perfect. In my life I have experienced a few of them. Two of those moments are the weddings of my lovely daughters. My daughters got married out of order…this may seem weird, but it impacted me. Caitlin’s birth changed me at my core. For the first time in my life I understand what unconditional love meant. When she held my pinky in the hospital my life became secondary; I understood that I would sacrifice every one of my remaining breaths for her to breathe one more time. There was nothing that I would not do for her and her sister. Giving away Ally had been a traumatic “dad experience”; my heart ached at one level, but my heart was filled on another.

Adding to the perfect moment in both cases was the fact I loved their choices in men. Ally’s Matt is like a son to me. He has been around my house for many years. His sense of humor and undying love for my daughter is a father-in-law’s dream. Lucas is perfect for Caitlin. They balance each other. They laugh together and enjoy all their idiosyncrasies. In short, they love each other. Making our family even more complete is the fact the Matt and Lucas are friends and now the girls live about five houses away from each other in Whitestown.

Standing in the building waiting to walk Caitlin down the aisle there was moment of great peace. The day was perfect for an outdoor ceremony. It was warm, but not hot. The day was clear and the scene was scripted perfectly. Caitlin looked like an angel. As we waited you could feel a lifetime of love passing between us; she is her father’s daughter…she got many of my good traits and some of my not so good traits; luckily, she got enough of her mother to balance her out. When the door opened and we walked into the late afternoon sun it was as if the world was in its greased grooves…it was perfect. When we walked down the aisle I had tears, of course–I am still tender-hearted; but the tears were of joy. Joy that Laurel and I had completed our jobs…our kids made it through high school, graduated college, became gainfully employed, and married wonderful men that will be great mates, fathers, and life-long companions.

At the reception, we had too much fun. The food was great and the spirits flowed. Ally’s maid-of -honor speech was spot on. I love the people that Caitlin and Lucas surrounded themselves with…their friends are fun and lift them as a couple. Laurel and my friends were in full force. “Dancing” Kevin and “Reception” Matt never missed a dance. The BFM seemed to know every song from Caitlin and Lucas’ youth, because as you know we teach junior high and never missed a junior high dance. At the end of the night, there were sing-alongs that formed into circles of friends, family from all sides.

When Caitlin and I danced our “father-daughter” dance; my emotions were at skin-level. I could feel every hug from every age in my arms at that moment. Of course, Caitlin is so mean in her song choice that I felt every emotion from our 25 years together. Everything comes back; from buttoning up her pink “Daddy’s Little Girl” outfit to take her home for the first time, to her first words, her first steps, that curly hair, waiting for her to board the bus for kindergarten, coaching her for 10 years in softball, watching her graduate from high school and college, the joys and sorrows that a family has to go through together…everything punched into my heart at the same time. I could feel a sob percolate once in awhile, but the moment was perfect. She is my baby girl before, then, and forever.

I would recommend that all fathers and daughters be careful listening to this song. I would rate it a 10 on the Fassold Killing Dad Scale for dads with daughters.

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge Lucas’ mom and dad. Bob and Claudette Grecco raised a wonderful son. In addition, we have become friends outside of our children.

Watching the limo take away the kids for a honeymoon altered somewhat because of Covid-19, but they would treasure the time together.

My heart is full. I will leave this section with the kids’ wedding video.

2020 We the People Regional and State Champions

My kids trying to kill me with kindness!

This year’s Weoples helped heal me. These kids have endured the harshest of environments to learn and compete. This is my seventh We the People team and this is the most challenging experience preparing a team that I have dealt with as a teacher. For one thing, we have never been in the same room together at the same time. My units have never met in person. Until Regionals and State there were students on my team that I never met in the flesh.

Despite all the challenges these kids dug into material and challenge. I was pretty confident going into Regionals and after State felt we had done really well. The kids were amazing and grew so much from Regionals to State. Tony and I were so proud of what they accomplished. This school year has been a challenge for Government teachers everywhere. Hardly a day goes by without one of my kids asking me, “Can Trump do that?” They have seen the evaporation of norms and see the power of the judiciary in protecting our fragile republic. Sadly, Federalist Papers 10 and 51 have come to life in front of their eyes, but not in a good way. It is if America forget the lessons from their founding fathers. The best thing about this past year has been Heather Cox Richardson (her blog Letter from an American is a must read) and Sarah Kendizor.

In many ways they are the deepest team I have ever coached. They are talented and balanced. They are also the funniest team that I have had. I never know what they will do from one day to the other. We laugh every day.

Of course, the hardest part was telling them that Nationals was also going to be held virtually. They like last year’s team deserved better.

Laurel and I

We have gone through so many things this year. Covid-19 has put us closer together. We walked through the spring and started playing cribbage nearly every day. We have been each other’s company all year. We have been together for over 30 years and face each phase together. I am happy on what we have accomplished. As of now, it looks like that I am the December Cribbage Champion. Some earlier months are in dispute and we should not live in the past….especially August and September…

Retirement

Well all good things must come to an end. My plan was to retire at the end of this school year….I turned 62 this month and I wanted to go out a little too early rather than a little too late. However, I cannot stand the idea of not having a normal year. So I am definitely teaching another year.

Ending on a laugh

I will leave you with one of the funniest moments of the year in our family. When Caitlin and Lucas tried the Paqui Carolina Reaper Madness One-Chip Challenge.

I wish all of you the very best for 2021. Stay healthy. Focus on the positive. Check in with people. Feel free to reach out.

End of Year Goodbyes, We the People Nationals, and What Comes Next

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The end of the year is always a struggle for me.  Some of you know that I am tender hearted.  I am terrible with goodbyes and April starts the goodbye season.  Saying farewell to the senior Camp Tecumseh counselors starts the season.Tecumseh - Chasing Balloons - 2019 - Session 1  The dreaded senior goodbyes happen before breakfast on the last day of each Tecumseh session.  We try to tell these kids how much they mean to us and thank them for all they have done to maintain all the Camp Tecumseh traditions. Most of these seniors have been connected with us for six years.  We have watched them grow.  This year was really rough (I know that I have said this more than once, but this class is on par with the class of 2007 for me) as the senior class was largely consolidatedSession 2 Senior Picture in Fireplace Room into Session 2 and contained a lot of kids that mean so much to me; including a lot of my very first class of Weoples.  The first session included both my students of the year and even one who was my student of the year in both 7th and 8th grade.  Spending six school years with kids strengthens bonds and embeds these kids into your life.  There is a sense of pride of watching these kids grow into young adults with the whole world of possibilities open to them.

This class also included my and Sturgeon’s cadet teachers that enriched our year so much.  Jenna is destined to be a teacher; when she asked to be my cadet I asked her if she would be willing to join the FHS We the People team so that she could work with my Weoples during BEST.   She persevered in the performance arts until she got a chance to shine on stage in her senior year and shine she did…I could not be prouder of her.  Go to the bottom of the page for a special treat.

Now my Weoples. 

Center - Hi Res Image - FJH Runner Up - 1

We the People Invitational 2019

Describing my year with them is hard; they work, they care, they dance on a moment’s notice, their love of life and learning is hard to equal.  The season ended too soon for me and, maybe for some, short of the goal.  First, winning Nationals is hard; it is hard to get past Mike Potts’ Brown County team, it is hard to raise the money to go to Nationals, and it is hard to get past the teams at Nationals.  Second, my goal is never only been about the competition.  My goal is bigger.  After 5 years my Weoples number is 157.  One hundred and fifty seven civic-minded students that are ready to lead.  I see the evidence every week.  On last Friday’s Day of Service the end of day speakers were from Fisher High School’s20190510_134119 Students in Action group made up of three of my former Weoples from the first National Championship team.  At the recent school board meetings about the school district’s anti-discrimination language four of the 40 community speakers were former Weoples; two of mine and two that I worked with on Janet Chandler’s team.  It did not go unnoticed at last week’s National Junior Honor Society Induction that all six retiring officers were members of this year’s team.  The satisfaction of knowing that there is a program out there preparing students to lead a world so desperate for true leadership; NJHS Officers - Weoplesso desperate for civic virtue gives me such hope.

Now considering that my previous two teams were National Champions, this was the best team I have ever taken to Nationals.  They were deep and their teachers were better because of another year of experience.   At Nationals they were, in short, stunning.  Each day they seemed to perform better than the last.  At the Awards Ceremony they fell short and were crowned Runners-Up.  The kids were disappointed to finish second, but Sturgeon, Stumpf, and I were not; for they had done everything that we asked and so much more.  We fell short, but not because of some failing; we fell short because someone did better.

Their story was not written in the loss, but was written in what they did with the defeat.  William Ellery Channing once wrote, “May your life preach more loudly than your lips.”  On all our teams we have always preached to the kids to guard our team and school’s reputation; as a result, we don’t leave messes behind, we straighten out rooms, pick up trash, we stack plates at restaurants, and so on.  During competition, we thank all who serve, we are polite with other teams, and show manners even when others are not.  Our biggest traditions revolve around showing grace in victory and defeat.  In victory, we never do anything that could be construed by another team of taunting; there is no jumping up and down, dabbing, screaming or anything remotely that demonstrative.  At the awards ceremony, when the 2nd place team is announced it is obvious who the 1st place team is due to the final Top 3 round.  In victory we give the second-place team their time on stage, we clap for them and do not celebrate early.  Most importantly before every awards ceremony we talk about showing sportsmanship and grace in victory and defeat.

When we finished second we went to stage with heads held high, with some teary eyes, and received our trophy; trying hard to not show our disappointment.

Forever etched in my mind is what happened when the other team was announced as the first place team.  My Weoples rose immediately and gave the winning team a standing ovation and they clapped for their entire time on stage.  We quickly left to go to the lobby so that they could have the stage for themselves and their families, but our bus was delayed so we were in the lobby when Miami Lakes came out.  On their own the kids went over and congratulated their counterparts, soon they broke into units and started Two teams togethertalking “shop”; suddenly selfies were being taken and social media addresses exchanged.  Amazingly, the kids came over and asked if they could take a team picture with them.  Stunning sportsmanship.  Stunning grace.  They could teach the world about what sportsmanship should look like in the moment.  I have never been more proud of any team that I have coached. I received emails from the leadership of the Center for Civic Education and WorldStrides director about our kids sportsmanship and class.

20190505_084812My only regret on the trip was a bit of shenanigans involving once again my face.  I wonder what it would take to copyright my face to keep “the boys” from further exploits. Speaking of “the boys” our success over the past years has been a reflection of the work of Kevin Stumpf and Tony Sturgeon.  Kevin has become the logistics engineer of our trip.  He coordinates out entire trip and is really Einstein Statue with the Boys - May 2018good at it.  Tony has stepped up to become the Weople English teacher and works We the People into his curriculum.  I cannot thank them enough for all their support.

When the Nationals scores arrived my impressions about the team held true.  Each unit can receive up to 180 points per round and with six units there is the possibility of 1080 points per day.   Each unit finished first on, at least, one of the three rounds.  Two units finished first each day.  We won the first day by 23 points, lost the second day by 30 points, and lost the last day by 20 points (the last day counts double).  So in the end we they scored 3907 points and we scored 3860 out of a possible 4320 points; 47 points.  We saw 54 judges over 3 days; less than a half-a-point difference per judge.

Lastly just to prove my Weoples love of dance:

What comes next.

We have picked the team for next year; which is difficult to do on many levels.  I am not ready to replace this team that means so much to me; it is a harsh reminder of how fleeting a school year can seem.  The other part of picking a new team is that you end up disappointing the kids that apply that don’t get selected.  I hurt for the kids that do not get picked.  It impacts relationships and there is not a way to avoid the feeling.  Next year’s team has 26 brand-new Weoples.  Sturgeon, Stumpf and I are working on how to improve.

On a personal note.

20190504_115314The next couple years will be one of change and transition.  Ally and Matt (future son-in-law #1) graduated from Ball State on May 4th.  They get married in a couple of weeks on June 1st and then Ally will start her management program with Kohl’s on June 10th.  Matt is in limbo until Ally gets her store assignment (hopefully in the Indianapolis area), but hopefully in will be able to get into a finance position with the Defense Finance and Accounting Service in the system he worked with while in the Marines.

Caitlin and Lucas are now engaged!!  10-10-2020!  Lucas (now referred to as future son-IMG1563274377024104658in-law #2) likes numbers.  They are building a house in Whitestown which is a much easier drive for Caitlin to get to Riley Children’s Hospital.  The house will provide me with lots of chances to putter around their house.  I already have a Daddy Do list.  We cannot be happier for the both of them.

The fact that Lucas is a giant Green Bay Packers fan and Matt is a huge Chicago Bears fan should make for great Sundays in the years to come.  We have already watched a couple games together and the games can be a BIT intense, but it is not my team soooo it makes for great viewing.

Laurel and I are feeling the transitions.  Our kids are now grown and in two weeks they will be completely on their own.  We are two for two on college graduations.  We are two for two on our girls finding someone that loves them and that we love.  We are ready for next phase.  My plan is to retire in May 2021.   That year we turn 63 years old and that seems like a good age to start our next phase.  Hopefully that phase will include grandchildren where my goal is to be a “pixie sticks and puppies” grandpa!!!  Hey, it is not my job to put them to bed.

My Cadet Teacher Performs in Bring It On in the FHS Spring Musical:

 

 

2019-2020 We the People Tryouts!!

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It is inconceivable that it is time to form a new team at the same time we are busily preparing to compete at Nationals in May.  However, the circle of life applies to the We the People world, also. Please open the Word file and save the We the People application to your device: We the People Application – 2018 – 2019

 

When you finished with your application please walk up to Mr. Fassold and hand the application with a smile on your face.  Make sure you introduce yourself no matter what our relationship.  The deadline for the application is March 21st (Thursday).

The application progress has multiple phases.  The application is just the first phase.  The others phases will involve reading comprehension, ad hoc writing, a Socratic Seminar and a personal interview.

Ancestors or Ghosts?

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2018 is gone and 2019 is a day old.  Last year featured so many wonderful moments.  In no particular order:

  1. The Red Sox won the World Series!!!  For the fourth time since 2004 my beloved BoSox have won the World Series; each time (2004, 2007,

    2013, and 2018) is so sweet.  This team of young kids are so fun to watch and are actually really likeable.  Unlike the Yankees; no one likes them.  They are the worst.

  2. National Championship PhotoMy 2017 – 2018 We the People team won the 6th We the People National Invitational!!  These kids faced the expectations head on.  They worked, they grew, they competed against the best and came out on top.  I wrote about them in an earlier post.
  3. My 2018-2019 We the People team won the Indiana We the People Middle School State competition!  IMG_20181211_191725_705These kids are so much fun to teach!  They care, they work, they want to change the world.  One of my kids wore a t-shirt at tryouts that read, “A Woman’s Place is in the House and the Senate“; I knew right then how speciala womans place is these kids could be if I could get them to believe.   I cannot wait to see what these kids will be at Nationals.  They are a force and will represent our school with honor.  I cannot be prouder of these kids.   If you want to help these kids get to Nationals please donate to our GoFundMe at gf.me/u/pb4wif.  If you are interested in what my kids do in competition, below is my Unit 2 in State competition in December 2018:

    Unit 2’s focus is on the Colonial period with an emphasis on the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and Colonial governments.

  4. Caitlin experienced her first lobster at one of the oldest Lobster shacks in Maine; the Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound.  Caitlin and I took a vacation to Maine last summer.  It was an adventure and an caitlin and i at trenton bridgeexperience of a lifetime.  We had fun.  I took her to the places of my youth and walked her to all my old steps; something I have never done with my family.  We ate lobster (she loved), steamed clams (she hated), Houlton Dairy Bar (we loved), Winnie’s Dairy Bar (okay for her–gluten intolerance was a hinder), and spent A LOT of time in the car driving.
  5. The family was able to see Lion King and Rent together.  I love musicals.  Ally and I normally go together, but this year we expanded to the whole and extended family.  Lion King was simply amazing.  Rent

    harkened back to the early 80s and terror that was the AIDS epidemic.  The girls were not ready for the death part of Rent, but it moved them; so the point of art was achieved.

  6. Laurel and I turned 60 this year.  We have lived in two different centuries and millenniums.  We have seen a lot and hope to experience a lot more before we go.
  7. I completed my inactive reserve commitment on December 12, 2018img127 that began on October 24, 1977.  When I retired early from the Air Force in 1995 there was a caveat to the early departure.  I had to be part of the inactive reserve until I turned 60.  I thought it was ridiculous, but there was always that thing in the back of my mind.  So finally, I am done after 41 years.
  8. Rachel, my adopted daughter, got married to a wonderful man.  Rachel was part of my National Junior Honor Society officer, my student, my cadet teacher, a Camp Tecumseh counselor and my student teacher.

    She was the best teaching candidate in my career, because she wanted to be great and was willing to put in the hard work that was necessary.  My only compliant is that Rachel falling in love ruined my master plan of her replacing me when I retire; however, love rules the day.  She will take her talents to another school district in another state.  She starts second semester and, as I wrote on her recommendation, she will endear herself to students and staff alike.  She will make a difference in young lives.  I am already proud of her.

  9. Another Indy Freedom wedding!!  Teaghan, “8”, or “Blondie” got married.  Teaghan’s dad and I coached the Indy Freedom together for ateaghan million wedding couple years and look back at those years fondly.  I love the Million family and was excited to go to the wedding.  My family had a blast.  The wedding was beautiful and the reception was so much fun.  The best moments were watching my second baseman come down the aisle and marry someone who adores her.  It warmed my heart to watch her the grown-up version of the earlier version.
  10. The fourth BFM trip to Wisconsin.  They boys and I continue to enjoy our trips.  We watch baseball at any level, eat in the best local places, see everything interesting in the area.  It is one of my favorite parts of my summer.

Looking forward to 2019!  So many things to look forward to happening, but not in rush.

  1. Ally and Matt graduate from Ball State on May 4th!
  2. Ally and Matt are getting married on June 1st!
  3. Caitlin and Lucas move into their house in early June!
  4. My We the People team competes at Nationals in early May.
  5. The family will go to the musical Waitress in April.

Ancestors or Ghosts

My friend Sammy sent me a text out of the blue and told me that I needed to watch Bruce Springsteen’s Broadway show that was on Netflix.  To be honest the show was cut deep.  There was a parSpringsteen on Broadwayt of the show when Bruce talked about the challenging relationship he had with his disassociated father.  He spoke a line where he talked about parents are either ancestors that walk alongside their children as supportive guides or ghosts that haunt their memories and actions.  That part of the production destroyed me for a bit; flooding my mind with regrets and memories as my own father was a ghost.  My biggest adult fear has been a fear of coming up short with my own children.  I have always tried to be a good dad even though admittedly an ancestor would have been nice to have at the hard moments.

America is Losing Its Teachers at a Record Rate! 

shock face - joeyI read the article from Fortune Magazine called America Is Losing Its Teachers at a Record Rate and my reaction one of no surprise.  This is a result of 21 year assault on public education that started with the Houston Lie (George W Bush hired the Houston superintendent of schools who raised score through testing — the only problem is that the data was a lie and falsified, but the standardized testing movement began) that started the use of standardized tests to determine if students were learning and schools were successful.   No teacher goes into teaching to raise test scores; teacher candidates enter the profession to effect a small part of the world either through the love of subject of the love of children.  For 20 years there has been a two-prong assault on teachers.  Money has been pulled from the classroom to fund standardized testing that has sucked the life out of the classroom; forcing teachers to chose between test preparation and educating their kids.  The second assault has been through the transfer of money from public schools to private, charter, and virtual schools.

Alchemis

First Week of School and Big News on the Homefront

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Ally in front of KohlsMy baby girl has a big girl job!!

Ally interned this summer for Kohl’s and loved her experience.  She had worked part-time during high school and college at Kohl’s.  When her former store manager in Noblesville recommended her for the internship Ally embraced the chance.  It is rewarding to watch your children find their place in the world.  Ally and Matt Engagement Picture

Ally is a business major, but was unsure of her path.  Kohl’s fed into her two strengths: (1) working with people and (2) completing projects.  Kohl’s allowed her to feed those passions.  So 2019A and M - Sleeping - 1998 will the year of transitions for my baby girl.  She graduates May 4th, marries Matt on June 1st, and starts her career on June 10th.  I am so proud of her, but most importantly I love that she has finished what she start, found someone to share her life, and her place in the workplace. .

School has started!

I could not wait.  Having first period prep meant having to wait an hour and a half for my first students.  I am sure that my poor period 2 students could feel my energy release.  I have never been a huge fan of the beginning of the year, because I miss my students from the previous year.  There is also that transition of my students into historical thinking that can be painful to teach.  The payoff starts in October when they start to understanding, buying in, and show their growth.   My introduction to the year finished on Friday and the teaching begins on Monday.

Make it so!!

Star Trek Twitter Announcement of Jean Luc Picard

This was so unexpected, but it makes me so happy.  I love Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Captain Jean-Luc Picard.  He is my favorite captain.  The Star Trek Discovery series was great despite the fandom’s criticisms (I don’t listen, because group-think is not my thing).  My love of Star Trek started with its original series in prime time and continued through all of its generations.

New Weoples are in the house!

The corner has found lots of my new crew…punishment for raising their hand during discussion.  We have worked on writing unit constitutions to establish the social contract between the individuals.  On Friday we started with fictional scenarios to establish ideas about the role of government.  Monday we start the hard work with introductions to Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, and Rousseau.    Transitioning for me from one year to the next is hardest with my 8th graders; I get close with these kids because we go through so much together over the course of the year and in the case of a third of them, two years.

Matt Deitsch Twitter Feed about 2A exchangeOne of the many reasons that I teach We the People is to try and create a body of students that know how to enter into discourse without succumbing to the rancor in politics today.  I came across this Twitter thread about an exchange between one of the Parkland students and 2A supporters.

Speaking of the Parkland students who reacted “civicly” after a tragedy struck their school.  They have set an example for a generation of the power of civic education and involvement.  That is one of the biggest reasons that I started teaching a We the People class.  I wanted to change the discourse into thoughtful discussion based in fact and knowledge.  I also want my Weoples to become involved in civics by running for office, giving back to the community, acting when confronted with challenges, and becoming members of the community.  I would also like one of them to become governor and president some day.

Reading Links:

Watch “John Hattie on the Educator Mindframe and Why It Matters” on YouTube   John Hattie’s work helps weave through the clutter of Educational initiatives.  The 52 minute video pinpoints what actually works in education.

  1. An EXTREMELY Detailed Map of 2016 Presidential Election  Wow this map is so cool.  You see the results in every voting precinct in the country.  This really appeals to my love of maps and numbers.  Spent too much time going over this map.
  2. How the 14th Amendment’s Promise of Birthright Citizenship Redefined America
  3. 10 Supreme Court cases about the 14th Amendment.  This is a Unit 4, 5 and 6 link.  Of course it features The Slaughter-House Cases that are so hard to explain to students.  I love the National Constitution Center’s Constitution Daily.

National History Day’s 100 Leaders in World History This is a great site to research influential leaders from around the world.  Cannot wait to use this site!

The obscure religion that shaped the West  A great article from BBC Culture about Zoroastrianism and its influence on the Abrahamic religions and, even, Star Wars.

The Guardian’s The Story of Cities The Guardian completed a 50 part series on the history of cities.  It is a terrific resource with a lot of possibilities for the classroom.

The Pulitzer Center’s Education Resource Site  This site is filled with resources for building global awareness.

Ken Burns’ Unum from PBS History is the accumulation of stories and few are better at telling stories than Ken Burns.  This is a site of primary sources from American history collected by theme and time.

Civics Renewal Network’s Resource Clearinghouse  This is a pretty good resource of 200 Civics lesson plans and resources.

Ranked Choice Voting – As Australia and the Oscar go, So Goes Maine  Maine has gone to ranked choice voting for candidates where they rank the choices on the ballots with multiple rounds until a candidate wins a majority.

Zinn Education Project – McCarthyism There is a slant, but that does not make the history invisible.  There are some little known stories to be found.

 

 

The Week Before School – August 2018

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ivotedRegister to vote, check your voting status or find your voting location at Indiana Voter Portal.

The week before my 22nd year of teaching brings a lot of emotions.  I feel so blessed to teach in a building that I love, working for a great principal, and team with my teaching partner of the last 22 years.   Summer being over is fine with me; I am ready to go back to work.

The summer did offer me a lot of time for reflection.  My 7th grade classes kept most of my attention as my end of year reflection demanded.  Here are the results:

  • First and foremost my teaching is going to focus on six domains:
    1. Analytical skills.  Specifically the ability to deconstruct, identify components, connect the pieces, and see the piece’s part of a larger community.
    2. Separating and connecting facts, opinion and inference.  This is closely tied to my Rule #19, “Saying a thing does not make a thing”, and my Rule #18, “I don’t care about your opinion, I only care about the opinion you can support.”.
    3. Non-fiction reading.  The importance of being able to read non-fiction, separate main points from supporting information; assign importance and be able to CONNECT the main points to an existing sub-schema is critical.
    4. Writing with clarity.  The natural outcome of non-fiction reading.  Students need to be able express supported arguments with clarity.
    5. Sharpening 21st Century Soft-Skills.  Showing up on-time, organization, working hard, meeting deadlines, giving your best, reflection, and improvement.
    6. Empathy for the past. History/HerStory are collections of stories.  Stories of courage, suffering, triumph, cruelty, loss, and legacy. It is through these stories that we can be cautioned, encouraged, and inspired.
  • These six domains need and will drive my formative assessments.

My We the People class is in its 5th year.  Meeting with the kids last Thursday brought hope that if I can inspire and push that them they will reach the heights that they deserve.

krista-hartung.jpgThis is Krista’s 7th grade picture.  Krista was Tony and my student in our very first year of teaching back in August 1997.  We were over at Hamilton Southeastern Junior High with classes across the hall from each other.   This year we are teaching her daughter.  This is a first for us.  And it makes me feel old.  I am not sure where all the time went.

 

Articles I read in past week:

A right to literacy as the “Pathway from Slavery to Freedom”?  A terrific bathroom read from the National Constitution Center’s Constitution Daily written by Jeffrey Shulman.

Democrats Are Wrong About Republicans. Republicans Are Wrong About Democrats.  A good read from FiveThirtyEight about the difference between impressions and reality.  A good short read.

Opinion: Calling the Press The Enemy of The People Is a Menacing Move Short listen from NPR’s Simon Scott.  A little history, a little reflection, a little current events.

How History Classes Helped Create a ‘Post-Truth’ America James W. Loewen who wrote the influential book “Lies My Teacher Told Me” was interviewed in the Atlantic Magazine.  I was deeply influenced by his books and led me to adopted Stanford’s Reading Like an Historian.

What if there were no states?   A 9-minute video from America from Scratch that is gives the history.  I like this video from an introduction to Federalism.

How Norway Avoided Becoming a Fascist State An interesting read from yes! magazine.  I like history so the headline caused me to read it.  The best part for me was to explore the word “Quisling” which I have used, but did not have all the background.

A Census Question That Could Change How Power Is Divided in America The article has lots of maps; and I like maps.  Good analysis for my Units 3 and 6.  I like to analyze positive and negative externalities of governmental actions.

The Maps That Show That City vs. Country Is Not Our Political Fault Line The key difference is among regional cultures tracing back to the nation’s colonization.  First the author wrote from Freeport, Maine and I know where that is in my beloved home state.  I have never looked at the US as “rival regional cultures”.  Very interesting article.  Did I mention it has a lot of maps.

Merriam-Webster – Federal Judge: ‘Emoluments’ Case May Proceed A little history to word emoluments; I loved the 1675 reference.

The Supreme Court Doesn’t Need 9 Justices. It Needs 27 An opinion article from Time Magazine that raises the questions about the size of the Supreme Court.  Raises some interesting questions for Units 3, 4 and 5.

Hidden Herstory: The Leesburg Stockade Girls A great reading from National Museum of African-American History and Culture.  I love the civil rights ear and I love it when I find more stories of courage.

How the 14th Amendment’s Promise of Birthright Citizenship Redefined America A Unit 1 and 6 article for my class.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Year 21 – Musings, Mutterings and “Mentionings”

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I am not retiring.  I get asked quite often when I am retiring (including last Saturday at a friend’s 60th birthday party).  Maybe the problem is that my friends are having 60th birthday parties (…pondering).  The oddest place this year was on the night rising 7th grade students come over in February to walk around the school.  A parent that I did not know asked me when I was retiring; not sure how to take the question.

I love how my relationships with my children are changing.  Caitlin is on her own andFassold Family at Scher Wedding - June 2018 thriving as a nurse in the NICU at Riley Children’s Hospital.  She has settled into the adult world with her normal humor and sass.  She cares deeply about her work and empathizes with nervous parents and works hard to be a comfort during the family’s stay at Riley.  Ally enters her senior year at Ball State engaged to be married next June–you need to keep an eye on the boys that move across the street.  Ally was selected for a PAID (thank you) internship this summer at Kohl’s (her high school and college job).  It says a lot about her that her former store manager recommended her to apply.  As a family we laugh with, and at, each other, hang out, play games, go to movies; gone is the day-to-day parenting responsibilities, replaced by the results of all the hard work that Laurel and I put into our children.  Laurel and I still worry and wonder what their futures hold, but we love this stage.

Mike BeresfordMy friend and colleague Mike Beresford is moving to become the Superintendent at Carmel Schools.  Mike and I have been friends for 20 years.  We did life together through church, kids, and school.  One of the real genuine humans in my life.   Carmel is getting a great person that will build relationships and center each decision on what is best for kids, community and teachers; never what is best for him.  Devoid of self-aggrandizement.  This is the last nice thing that I will say about Carmel; I still do not like Carmel…rivalries live!

I wish we handled iPads like Noblesville schools.  Noblesville controls the apps andFortnite permission on every student device.  If the student has their own device, Noblesville will have them store their settings to the cloud and will wipe the personal device and put it under district control.  VPNs and Fortnite would disappear.  I like technology in the classroom, but the temptation is too great for my students…those pesky Snapface (Bill Belichick would be proud of my social media prowess) notifications.  Unfortunately, no matter the lesson my 12 and 13 year old kids cannot resist the temptation that social media and games represent.  Until the device can be focused and monitored it detracts more than it adds.  Now this may enrage the “put the kids in charge of their own education” crowd need to sit in a junior high cafeteria and watch them on their devices; the last thing that they are doing is furthering education; unless drawing in a sandbox, slaying rivals, and jumping objects is education.

MLK - Anybody Can ServeOur school-wide Day of Service was a wonderful experience for the entire school.  I feel blessed to teach at a school that embraces service and the whole school as learning platform.  The amount of work put in by the Day of Service committee and our very own “Father” Mike Jansen paid off.  I hope this becomes a yearly tradition and spreads to other schools.  Students talked about the day for days after the Day of Service.  Many asked if we were going to do it again next year.

I have been pondering HSE21.  As with most ponderings of mine there is a bias bestpracticesmodel_hse21_standalonegraphic_2017_05_24.jpgtowards my own beliefs.  It appears to me that there are a couple of programs that should be the shining examples of HSE21 that never really get mentioned nor recognized as such.  Liz Paternoster and Janet Chandler’s high school, Patrick Bradshaw’s junior high program at Fall Creek and my We the People class seem to check off every single part of the HSE21 and even addresses the idea of authentic audiences, performance pressure, RIGOR and the concept of grit.  The program is a lot work, but the rewards are untouched in the growth seen in students.  Of course, I recognize my bias.  I would offer there are other examples in the district (e.g, Mock Trial, Model UN, Speech Team’s Congress and Debate, Robotics club, etc.) that should be touted as paragons of 21st Century learning.

Einstein Statue with the Boys - May 2018

Tony Sturgeon and I have finished our 21st year of teaching together.  I have never known education without my educational partner in crime.  We push each other to be better every year.  This past year he took on a third prep as the English teacher for my We the People team.  He spent an entire summer resurrecting his History degree (English is his minor).  It was fun to watch him go from interested in government and politics to listening to the Supreme Court arguments like a fan-boy.  It is fun to watch him grow into an even better teacher after all these years.  He, Kevin Stumpf and Dave Broviak have been a backbone in the school.  I treasure our friendship.  Of course, in the Spring we found out a young teacher in our building refers to us as the “old men on the corner”.  I love reminding them of the label.

A interesting thought pranced (visualize me prancing) through my mind when reflecting on the things that make FJH special; one key is our Functional Academic Program led by the one-of-a-kind Andy Schomburg.  His program is fun, academic, interactive and a constant hive of activity; but that is not what makes it great by itself.  It is watching the student body make his kids part of our school.  Every passing period kids engage Andy’s kids.  There is a line to sign up to come during BEST to help and the Peer Tutor program is beyond popular.  The program is part of the life-blood and heart-beat of Fishers Junior High.

There is no more perfect food than Cool-Whip.

Open house season always reminds me of the importance of Camp Tecumseh.  Counselors make up a good percentage of the open houses that I attend.  At its core is the outdoor education opportunity for my 7th grade students  It stillTecumseh - Chasing Balloons - 2018 thrills me watching my 7th grade students run across the field chasing a tissue paper balloon…it is that moment when they are for probably the last time…a pure child.  The program has continued to evolve thanks to Deb Kletch our resident science geek.  We have worked hard to turn our academic portion of Camp into a model program that takes full advantage of the acreage.  Kletch has brought all kinds of new science lessons including my favorite which has the studentsTardigrades3-949x475 looking for Tardigrades…of as Sturgeon calls them “Water Bears”.  The kids scrape smalls amounts of tree moss and go to the nature center looking for these microscopic organisms.  The best part is when they find so many other things.  Beyond the lesson improvements Tecumseh’s core has been the leadership of high school counselors and relationships built between teachers and students in the Tecumseh classroom.  Watching teachers having fun with students humanizes the relationship.  It is fun to watch.  Lastly the most special part of Camp is the chance to reconnect with former students when they become counselors.  Watching them lead their groups warms my heart.  Normally Tecumseh - Counselors - 2018 - Session 2teachers never get to see their students once they move on from the school; I have always thought that would be the hardest part of teaching elementary school.  These kids represent the very best of today’s youth.  Saying goodbye at breakfast on the last time tears at my heart; it is worth it to see them excel in a one-of-a-kind leadership position.  There is no substitute for this program.  It amazes me that so many of our staff go and jump right into the action.  We don’t ask much other than “management by walking around” and interacting with kids during programs.  When I retire it will be tough to step away from Camp most of all.

I love when Sturgeon rages against the Star Wars fanatics who trash every new Star Wars movie.  I just like to listen.

This year’s 7th grade students caused me much reflection.  They are the iPad generation. That manifests in both positive and negative ways.  I had kids in every class that augmented every lesson by searching in real time information from my lessons and bringing the search information into the class discussion.  At the same time, other kids would check Snapchat for notifications at every turn.  This year proved John Hattie’s research that feedback was critical to student success; however, feedback has a cost; time.  Without the constant feedback a large percentage (about 30%) would just stop.  This resulted in an educational Sophie’s Choice of failing 30% or 5%.  While the choice seems easy there are ramifications to each.  I chose the 5%, but was nearly 2 months behind; this is not a big deal on some levels, but my kids missed some treasured experiences (e.g., Tang Dynasty Poetry project, Feudal Japan, etc.).

This summer I am merging concepts from the British’s Knowledge Organizers, a Little Harrybritain-1939-75-knowledge-organisers Wong, and John Hattie’s research into a series of brand-new lessons with the idea of tightening the lessons without losing what works.    My goal is to front end assignments with the knowledge literacy so that I can work towards the understanding, connections, and analysis of information.  The idea is to take the mystery out of the background information and focus on the application of information.  By aggregating the changes should allow me to continue to focus on metacognition and long term learning goals.

Invictus

I waited to the end of the post to talk about my Weoples.  When looking at this past year there was no greater moment than watching my hard-working 8th graders standing on stage reciting Invictus after winning a national championship.  It is hard to explain to the lay person, because someone on the outside does not always see the work and struggle.  When watching my kids recite the poem Invictus from memory and knowing that they understood every message contained in the stanzas.  They pushed past the questions about last year’s team; they tackled hard Constitutional issues in a age of political turmoil with a gusto not normally seen in society.  They simplyAlchemis tackled every challenge; they reminded me of one of my favorite books given to me years ago by the Risinger family titled The Alchemist.  The book has a quote in it that sums up their journey.  Each time they suffered a setback they would come back stronger and more determined.  It defined the team.  They held on to the fear of failure and used that to push themselves to be better.  There were moments during the competition that are forever etched in my mind.  Day 3 competition was their best.  Every unit peaked.  I remember standing with Unit 4 after their performance; watching the smiles dominate their faces, because they knew.  They knew they crushed the round; all the hard work paid off.  They were champions on that day, because they took everything that was thrown at them and did not retreat.  I will miss these kids; they are fun to be around.  Their text messages have entertained my trivia group (for some reason they texted me Weople-questions on Thursdays).  They so desperately wanted to understand everything; not just for competition, but for their own worldview.  The class is filled with future leaders and world changers.  Better than anything these kids see the wonder of the world.  They are in my heart.

I have public thank yous to make, but I want to publish this blog before it becomes a book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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