Dear Fifth Grade parents,

I hope you had a nice Memorial Day weekend.  It is difficult to believe that, after our wonderful Spring Author's night,  we have only two more weeks left of school!  Read on for important information regarding the next nine days! Ha!

This Wednesday: The Spring Concert!
Just another reminder that our annual Spring Concert is this coming Wednesday, May 29, at 6:30pm. Grades 4th through 8th will be performing and musicians are asked to be here no later than 6pm in concert attire: white tops (no t-shirts) tucked in, black bottoms, and dress shoes.  Parking will be in the back.  If for some reason your child will not be able to make the performance please let me know so that we can plan accordingly.

Strings Next Year!
Our plan next school year is to, for the first time, begin a new "Upper Grades Strings Orchestra" program.  This is an exciting development for us, and that is one reason why Michele and I have tried so hard to keep the children playing their dang violin throughout the school year--in spite of the changes in strings teachers.  Students will have the opportunity to take one of two different classes: Strings Orchestra or Recorder Orchestra. Students whoi are interested in the strings orchestra will have to show their skill of playing their stringed instrument at a required level in order to participate. All students who do not choose to continue a stringed instrument will be placed in a Recorder class.  The majority of the students in our 5th Grade class will easily make the upper grades orchestra I imagine, so summer-time practice will be hugely helpful.

What, You Say?  New/Different Stringed Instrument???
Our move to a strings orchestra format next year will provide the children with a chance to migrate to a new and different stringed instrument, if they are interested (viola, cello, string bass).  However, in order to do so, students will have to meet the following two requirements:
1) Through their ability to progress in the violin this past year, show that they can read music and regularly practice their instrument
2) Be familiar with their new instrument before the school year begins (summer instruction of some kind--see below)
3) Commit to pursuing private instruction in that instrument during the upcoming school year.

If your child is indeed interested in doing this please speak to me as soon as possible so that we can begin to plan accordingly.

To that end...Summer Camp for the Violin/Viola/Cello/Bass? 
Here is a great (and incredibly [!!!] affordable) way to keep the violin running over the summer: Summer Strings "camp".  The deadline for the discount for our summer strings camp offered by Tammie Dyer, our violin teacher, is swiftly approaching.  Payment and registration is due by Friday, May 31 to receive the 10% discount.  Class size is limited to six-ten students with a cost of $12 per child/session.  Sessions are one hour in length and will be offered in two time slots: 11m-12pm and 12:30pm – 1:30pm on five Wednesdays: June 26, July 3, July 24, and July 31.  All fees must be paid in full to finalize registration and attend camp.  Drop-ins will be available based on space, with payment due at time of drop-off.  All sessions will be held at SBS in the library.

Tammie Dyer is willing to work with beginning-level students interested in moving into another stringed instrument (viola, cello, and bass) as well over the summer.  If this is something your child would like to do, please ask me about it this week.  She is also available for private lessons during the summer months.

Last Week's Class Parent Gathering
Thank you so much for coming to our class meeting last Saturday.  I realize it is a very busy time of the year, and there were a few who had unavoidable conflicts, so I was thrilled that so many were actually able to attend in spite of this.  I appreciate your willingness to make this a priority, and I hope you left our time together inspired in some small way.  I personally was inspired by your thoughts, questions and comments, and look forward to continuing to examine how we can work together in the coming years to give the children what they need so that they can leave our school with as many of the capacities, habits, and behaviors necessary to help them succeed in whatever endeavors they aim for in high school and beyond.  The questions I brought to you regarding "needs" of our children, and the challenges we face in our current times in meeting them, are deeply profound ones and obviously have no easy answers.  If there is one point I hoped to leave you with, however, it was this:

The aim of our work in the coming few years is to nurture within the children the "Life Lessons" that we assembled together on the chalk board.  We must help them to develop the "Non-Cognitive Behaviors/Skills" that we spoke of, and help the children build the "Capacities" of steadfastness, inner organization, purposefulness, imagination, will, sense of beauty, and objectivity in order to face the unknown challenges they encounter on their path through life.  

Doing this requires that we become conscious of the challenges that lay in our children's path.  The challenges we talked about included:
- a surrounding culture of "hyper concern"
- a world quickly being changed by powerful technology
- a materialistic society filled with astounding excess/abundance
- the hectic/overly busy day-to-day life

By penetrating these challenges, staying focused on our goals, and supporting one another along the way, we collectively benefit from each other's perspectives and experiences.  

As one parent pointed out, most of these "challenges" conversely provide us with incredible opportunities as well, which makes things kind of complicated.  Abundance is indeed a gift; It's important to remain vigilant and concerned for our childrens' safety; Technology offers such incredible gifts!  So we are doubly challenged with remaining vigilant, and on guard, while at the same time feeling gratitude and benefitting from the gifts these advances bring to our lives.  

As this class of children moves into the upper grades, challenges are going to arise, and the answers to those challenges will require great patience, tolerance and consideration.  Families will respond differently and we will have to work together. As the children begin to move into the challenging developmental period of early adolescence, we will need our communal vessel to remain very strong!  Thus my impassioned emoting about all this…

I left you on Saturday with the following requests:
Consider and clarify your personal boundaries around the issues we discussed.
Consider and clarify how you will (inevitably) face the different boundaries of others.
Consider how you will support the whole of our class community in the coming school year.
Over the coming weeks, I would appreciate hearing any thoughts you may have about these requests.  To that end, as promised, I will be sending out a survey to gather your input, and I hope you will take the time to respond thoughtfully and honestly.  

Summer Keyboarding
As mentioned at our parent gathering, a reminder to consider helping your child to learn how to correctly keyboard (touch-type/type) this summer.  I've encouraged the children to speak with you about it too!  Next year, students who pass a "typing test" and prove that they are able to correctly and efficiently keyboard will be allowed to use that tool for their classwork (where appropriate), and so the summer is a great time to start learning.  There are many different free options online, as well as a myriad of stand alone programs that can be purchased.  As I told the students, practicing (correctly) ten-fifteen minutes each day all summer long will probably do the trick.

New Student/Family
Next year our Class Family will grow by one student.  Zara Keen, Betsy Thagard and Andrew Keen's daughter, will join our class.  This will allow Betsy to have her daughter attend the same school in which she teaches, and also possibly allow them to move to the Napa area!  Zara is currently attending Summerfield Waldorf School, and through a few visits to our school with her mom, has already had a chance to get to know many of our students, which is just great.  Zara even briefly appeared in Mia's personal narrative essay at our Author's Night last week!  So, I am including Betsy and Andrew in our mail group starting now, and I hope that as Zara and Betsy move more deeply into our fold that you will have the opportunity to introduce yourselves. Zara will to be a wonderful edition to our class!
 
Important Reminders:
    Saturday, June 1st--  Birds and Bees Fundraiser.
    Wednesday, May 29-- Spring Concert-- Performers arrive at 6:00pm.  Performance at 6:30pm.  
    Week of June 3rd: Half Days! Pick-up time is 12:35 all week.
    Wednesday, June 5th, 12:45-- Main Lesson Book Gluing (Help Still Needed)
    Friday, June 7th-- Last Day of School (amazingly)
    
Okay, that's it.  Thank you for reading!  May you have a great short week.

Love,
Justin


 


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