One of the things the three seventh grade teams had to do before we left for our Christmas break was to select the twenty-four students per team that we wanted to invite on the annual camping trip in May. The trip costs money ($100 to be exact) and since many of our kids receive money for Christmas gifts, we wanted them to know about the trip in case they wanted to use their money to help pay for it.
Choosing the twelve boys and girls we want to take is not easy. Some years it is easier than others. The group of students we had last year was so unpleasant that we actually had the unusual problem of not being able to come up with 24 that we could tolerate and trust for a weekend. This year the problem was that we have so many neat kids that it was hard to narrow the list down to the number we needed.
We could, obviously, do it the easy way and just take a look at the kids' grades and work our way through the list of A and B students. However, this trip was originally designed to serve as a something special for kids that may not have a lot of opportunities in life and may not have ever done something like this. So, we tend to pick kids who have good character, who could possibly be leaders in the 8th grade next year, and who may not have a lot of economic advantages. (The $100 is paid for over a period five months so most of the kids can, eventually, scrape the money together - if not, the student council can help, and we've had donations from some of our PTO families and even a teacher or two has funded a kid's trip.) In short, nice kids. Kids you wouldn't mind spending an unpaid weekend in the wild with and who you know won't start a forest fire or create some other disaster.
I had the team email me the kids that they felt would be good candidates (including some alternates as some kids don't want to, or can't go), and came up with our original 24. This was not easy. However, when I saw the list, I liked what I saw - we had a good mix of kids with different academic levels, ranging from gifted to special ed kids, and including at least two who are in our remediation class. We had kids from single parent homes, military kids, and kids who live with grandparents. We had every sort of race and ethnic group represented, and we had a nice mix of personalities - quiet and steady, fun-loving and active, and everyone in between.
It is a really neat group of kids.
And as team leader, I got to hand them the letter inviting them on the trip and letting the parents know the details. (It also helps that I teach a subject that ALL our kids have so I see them all.) Mrs. Social Studies wanted in on the action so I'd pop my head in her door and she'd come out and join me in the hallway when I'd call the kids out for a discussion.
The first few groups of kids all thought they were in some kind of trouble when we called them out into the hallway. When they found out what it was for - "I'm invited on the Camping Trip! - the look on their faces was absolutely priceless. Eyes widened, mouths hung open, and they looked at those letters in awe. We impressed upon them that this was an honor, that we couldn't take everyone, and that we picked them because of their good character. In other words, don't come back to school in January acting like a heathen and getting in trouble or we'll take back the invitation.
They were pinging off the walls by the time we sent them back into the classroom.
By the end of the day, the kids in the last few periods had heard about The Letter and when we called them out into the hallway they were already bouncing and bobbing around. The last group could hardly contain their excitement as we handed them their letters. Mrs. Social Studies and I had a ball!
The next day I was nearly stampeded with kids bringing back the signed letters indicating they were going to go on the trip - these kids (especially some of the girls) are pumped!
I wish we could take them all. However, this group of kids this year looks to be very promising. It may be our best camping trip yet.