With their talents on display


What a time of year for anyone even marginally connected with school! Classroom inventories are finished, and school secretaries can finally work in peace. Cubbies and lockers stand empty at last. Diplomas remain handy for inspection and admiration – soon, however, to be filed with other mementos of certificated achievement. And those yellow buses are no longer traffic partners, although we must continue to share the highways and byways with the folks busy in fields stretching across the landscape.

But the deliciousness of it all may result in part from a glitch in our internal datebooks. The calendar still indicates spring even as our bodies and minds swear summer is upon us. Oh, by the fourth of next month – when the corn will be way higher than our knees – we will be accustomed to all that July and August have to offer. For the time being, however, we revel in wonderment at the longer days and greener surroundings we began anticipating long before the last snowfall – whenever that was.

This special little half season tucked between the biggies officially determined by modern meteorologists – and Poor Richard in his almanack – contains such charming traditions. Local libraries are recruiting for Summer Reading Programs, while area houses of worship are planning Vacation Bible School. And there are 4-H projects to be continued, along with FFA and 4-H animals to be tended.

Then there is the myriad of recitals and athletic contests filling my Facebook pages. Adorably-costumed dancers everywhere are showing off the rhythmic skills they have acquired. Private music students of former Marching Falcons Director Jeff Buell recently performed on the front porch for audience members in lawn chairs in the front yard. Sportswise, how about the state-level accomplishments of the West Liberty-Salem track team! But do not expect of me definitive statistics from the numerous games played by the various-and-sundry ballplayers I know.

Another Facebook photo, snapped at Graham Middle School, caught my immediate attention as a retired teacher of all-things-language. Teacher Lauren Buell posted a picture of 27 eighth-grade language arts students who, in the waning days of May, delivered TED talks to their classmates assembled in the auditeria and simultaneously streamed to all sixth-and-seventh-grade classrooms.

For the uninitiated, like myself until recently, TED talks began at a Technology-Entertainment-Design conference in 1984 where participants delivered short, high-

energy talks about new ideas. Since then, the expansion of TED has included the development of a classroom curriculum used by Ms. Buell since the first eighth-grade TED talks in 2018. This now-traditional unit, the focus of the entire final quarter of the school year, provides a brilliant cumulative opportunity for students to meaningfully combine and display the language arts skills they have learned.

During their final quarter, students chose topics, submitted proposals, completed organization and research, rehearsed multiple times, and analyzed their talks from speaker and audience perspectives. The most basic component required: the speaker must have lived the topic of the talk.

All students delivered their talks in the classroom but those with a B average and no uncompleted assignments could also choose to stand on the stage, miked and in front of a screen, with perhaps one notecard for presentation.

Watching the video Ms. Buell provided, I was totally impressed by the poise and professionalism of EIGHTH-GRADERS! Their offerings included “What Marching Band Has Taught Me About Life,” “How Slammed Doors Have Opened Our Eyes,” “Winners Make Sacrifices,” and “How Raising Animals Has Changed My Life.” It was the best possible final exam, during which the speakers displayed their abilities to influence and motivate their listeners. What a way to finish middle school before moving on to freshman year!

My favorite tradition at this time of year: the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Predictably, I recognized only the German words included in the list pronounced to the thirteen finalists during the televised display of their spelling and vocabulary skills. I have never even seen the English words “dasypodid” (a mostly extinct armadillo) or “phenocoll” (a crystalline base used in salt form as an analgesic) – they seldom pop up in casual conversation!

In the face of tradition, there were notable changes this year. After 27 seasons, the Bee will no longer appear on ESPN but on ION. And for the first time, the last two contestants engaged in a spell-off. One remained sequestered offstage while the other spelled as many words as possible in ninety seconds. The second speller did the same with the same words: a real head-to-head situation. Speed spelling at its best!

In the end, eighth-grader Harini Logan bested seventh-grader Vikram Raju with her 21 correctly-spelled words to his 15. Congratulations to Harini, with her trophy and $50,000 check!

In closing, I pay tribute to a highly-respected leader in education who passed from this earth last week. For more than three decades, Glenn Lewis, Graham elementary teacher and principal and Urbana University professor, displayed his considerable educational talents for everyone’s benefit – especially the little ones for whom he gave his all. As part of his school experiences, he hosted and traveled with foreign exchange programs. He wore every conceivable theater hat during twenty years with the Champaign Community Players. And he further served his community as a Friend of the Mechanicsburg Public Library, at the Caring Kitchen, and with the Champaign County Meals on Wheels. Mr. Lewis will be sadly missed but fondly remembered by students and teachers alike.

Boomer Blog

Shirley Scott

Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.

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