By Kelly Bunte, MHS History teacher and former Writing Center coordinator
I’ve been feeling nostalgic lately. Despite the fact that most of my being is aching—deeply—for June 9th, I can’t seem to stop looking back over my shoulder. I long for the youth of my three children, now in middle and high school. The days when they saw me as their heroic team captain. When my announcement that “Today….we’re going to the nature center!” was met with high fives and fist pumps. When walks around—and around—the block were epic journeys. I miss the years when my family operated as one sovereign unit, moving together through life with a common, daily agenda: get a good night’s sleep, rise early, eat well and often, get dirty, ask questions, read, laugh, and snuggle. Go to bed with a good book. Although simple, this daily itinerary had great purpose. And it was enough for all of us.
And now, as I march my classes dutifully through their last unit (It’s really just a mini unit!), and just one last summative assessment (Just 5 points—think of it as a summative quiz!), I can’t help feeling nostalgic for things from MHS’s past too. A time free of iPads and iPhones, hashtags and twitter feeds, Schoology and Google Drive, video announcements, and TurnItIn. When students in the hallway were looking at each other, instead of down at a glowing screen. When reading A Catcher in the Rye meant holding a weathered book with a history of its own. When teaching with historical documents meant opening my heavy metal file cabinet and pulling out carefully laminated political cartoons, historic photographs, and manifestos that were passed, from hand to hand, around the room.
Perhaps most of all, I am nostalgic for my work in the Minnetonka Writing Center. In my over 15 years in education, never have I felt such purpose than when I was one of its coordinators. Despite the fact that writing centers too have had to adapt to the digital age, what happens in them harkens back to an older time. It promises three simple things to students: careful readers, a compassionate ear, and thoughtful questions. Everyday students have the opportunity to talk with someone—a teacher or a peer—who is genuinely interested in listening to their ideas and helping them express them in the best way they can. Kind of old fashioned. But pretty awesome too.
So as we all race towards summer, by all means, “Finish strong.” But then take a step or two back. Rise early. Read a book. Leave your phone at home. Get dirty. Look up. Ask questions. Listen. And when the days get shorter,and the nights begin to cool, and you find yourself back in these tree lined hallways, try walking into Minnetonka’s Writing Center. You might find that “old school” is just what you need.