Sounds of Vermont: school days

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(Host) Fifth and sixth graders are at an age of “in-between.” They’re in between toys and teenage years. And during that time are moments of personal discovery. For our series, “Sounds of Vermont,” VPR’s Patti Daniels listened in to some of that discovery during a typical school day in Waitsfield.

(Sound of kids arriving in the classroom, chatting.)

(Daniels) The first discovery is that the school starts early. At 7:30 a.m., Mr. Van Dine’s fifth and sixth grade students are recovering from the long Labor Day weekend.

“My mom woke me up at 6:50 and I was like, really tired. And I just got dressed really quickly and was like, uugghh.”

(Daniels) They settle around a few tables and get ready for the week ahead.

(Lee Van Dine) “Well, good morning.”
(Class, in unison) “Good morning Mr. Van!!” (Mr. VanDine) “How are ya’ll doing? All right!”

(Daniels) Lee Van Dine is ready for them. The mundane task of making a seating chart becomes a game.

(Van Dine) “Here’s how it’s gonna go: I’m going to put the tables on the board, I’m gonna number the seats. We’ll have a small drum roll. A small drum roll please .” (Jar of marbles rattles, a student grabs a ticket.) “That’s a six. Ben – you’re staying right where you are!”

(Daniels) The class visits the library for the first this time year. Librarian Ellen Drysdale wants them to use the library for more than just finding a great novel.

(Drysdale) “So we’ll be doing a fair amount of using the library to find information. Because, libraries are the same everywhere, you know. You can go to the Joslin library, to the Harwood library, to the UVM library to the Library of Congress….”

(Daniels) Ms. Drysdale has a tough crowd. The room is warm and some students try to sneak in a nap at a big round table. But when it’s time to find a book, there’s a system. Kids line up at Ms Drysdale’s desk to have their books scanned for checkout.

(Drysdale, talking with kids) “Okay, Runaway Radish’ for Tanner.” Beeping, scanning, books get piled on the librarian’s desk. The date is stamped into the books.”

(Daniels) Back in the classroom, Mr. Van presents an activity about teamwork and communication. The students struggle through the activity, and then consider the bigger challenges that lay ahead this year:

“We’re trying to make shapes of the letters of the alphabet, like ABC, GHI with little shapes likes triangles and trapezoids. And it’s a communication game because if we get it, we have to tell the other person how to do it, without touching their pieces.”

“It’s just, like, a mind teaser.”

(Mr. Van Dine) “What was challenging about this? Why was this difficult?”

“If we don’t communicate with you, we’re gonna get overwhelmed.”

(Daniels) Lunchtime comes fast. It’s a noisy mixture of sustenance and socializing.

(Sound of lunchroom, silverware clinking and trays clunking.) “You want some nice bread? You want some nice green peas?” “No! No green peas!”

(Daniels) After lunch, students file outside to recess. As they look at the jungle gym, the older students realize they’ve outgrown their old interests:

“We just got a new playground, it’s more for the little kids though. The people I hang out with – well, people call us a clique, but I don’t know what that means, ’cause I don’t think we are – but there’s a wall over by the cemetery and we just hang out over there and talk. Sometimes we play soccer and kickball.”
“If you fool around, like around younger kids, you know they’re looking up to you and they may do that too. So, you gotta be careful.”
“It’s okay, ’cause they look up to you. But then again, they get annoying a lot.”

(Daniels) The students move quickly through assignments all afternoon. By the end of the day, they’ve covered a lot of ground.

(Mr. Van Dine) “I think the homework is very self-explanatory. You must read this evening from your books.” (Sound of kids leaving for the day, saying goodbye to their teacher.) “Are you catching a bus? You better go.”

(Daniels) The older students – tall and independent – head out to the front of the school, passing by the little kids waiting for their parents.

As they board the buses, they look back at the school and wave. (Sound of kids boarding the bus, arguing over seats.) These students are full of anticipation for the new year. (Sound of school bus pulling away from the school.)

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Patti Daniels at the Waitsfield Elementary School.

Listen to the entire Sounds of Vermont series online.

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