My sister, Alena Stevens, is the refocus room coordinator and an educational support staff member at Verda James Elementary School here in Casper, Wyoming. The resource room is really where children are sent when they have a learning disability or in some way need a little bit of extra one-on-one time with an instructor. The student getting this type of support will receive some time in the resource room, which is referred to as a “removal from the regular education environment” portion of the day and some time in the regular classroom with modifications and/or accommodations which may include specialized instruction with their non-impaired peers. It isn’t a punishment, but rather a way to enhance their education, by allowing them to relax, outside of the view of their peers who do not struggle, and get the assistance they need to succeed. Besides helping children who have a special need, Alena is the playground supervisor, so she get to spend time with all the children in the school…and they all totally love her and want to stay friends with her all of their lives.
It seems odd to me that I would have any specific knowledge of the on goings of the elementary schools, because my children are grown and so are my grandchildren, so how would I really know what is going on in the elementary schools? Well, in most cases, I wouldn’t, but because I have become friends over the years with some of the students who came in contact with my sister, and because our grand nephew, Ethan Hadlock and our grand niece Aurora Hadlock, go to the school too, I have seen what a wonderful, positive impact Alena has had on their lives. These kids remain friends with her, years after they leave elementary school, and the ones I know have become such wonderful people, and many of them say that Alena had a big part in that, because as we all know, when kids struggle in school, self esteem suffers, but with the help of wonderful people like Alena, there are a bunch of kids coming out of that struggle on the winning side of life, against all odds.
Not everyone has the ability to look back on their life and see the positive impact they had on the lives of others. Many people even wonder if anyone will remember them very long after they are gone, but when an elementary student remembers a teacher when they are married and have children of their own, you know that teacher was a very special person. That is what I hear about my sister, Alena Stevens, and it makes me proud. Today is Alena’s birthday. Happy birthday Alena!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Kids have gone to summer school for a number of reasons over the years. Some go because they got behind in school, or need extra help to keep up with their class. Some go to get ahead on their studies for an early graduation. Some go as college students, so they can graduate in a timely manner. I never went to summer school for any of those reasons. In fact I really never went to summer school at all, but I can’t say that I never spent time at the school in the summer…because I did. For me, as for most kids, there was no desire to step one foot inside a school building in the summertime, but the playground…now that was a different thing.
As I was going for a walk last night, I heard voices coming from the playground. I looked and saw a number of kids playing on the swings, the monkey bars, and the slides. I’m pretty sure that those kids, like my sisters and me, had swings and such at home, but somehow it’s just different at the school…especially when you don’t have classes, but rather just an afternoon of recess time, minus the crowds that always seemed to be around the playground equipment during the school year recess period. Half the time…unless you were the fastest runner, or were in a classroom right near the swings, or you were watching the clock so you could bolt out the door at the sound of the recess bell, you ended up being one of those kids standing in line hoping someone would get tired of the swings so that you could have a turn before it was time to head back inside. Most often, the child on the swing was taught by their parents, just like I taught my girls, “If you had it first, you don’t have to give it up.” It was a great rule, unless you were the one waiting for a turn on the swings.
Summertime on the playground was a different thing, altogether. Either we were the only kids who thought to go play at the school, or everyone came at different times, or kids were at daycare, or they were out of town, but there was never the kind of crowds you saw on a school day, and you could play on the equipment to your heart’s content. It was a great time to be a kid. As I walked on, the laughter of the kids on the playground faded, but in my thoughts, I continued to reminisce about the good old days of complete summertime freedom. Those days are long gone now, of course, and daily adult duties have replaced them. Gone are the summer days when you didn’t have a job, you could sleep in, and asking Mom if you could go to the school was usually met with an affirmative answer, because after all, you were driving her nuts at home anyway. A couple of hours of peace and quiet were a welcome change from the constant whining school kids make in the summertime, about being bored. Oh, to be bored again…wouldn’t it be grand?
When I think back to my childhood, I always remember the carefree times. Summers spent with nothing but time on our hands, meant swimming at the Kelly Walsh pool, sunning in the back yard, and sack lunches eaten at the park, simply because it was something different to do. Of course, back then, you could easily send your kids to the park by themselves, and they could be gone for hours, and still you did not worry. That fact worked in our favor, because we were allowed to go so many places and do so many things on our own because the world was much safer than it is today.
I remember the hours we spent at the school…the very place we couldn’t wait to get away from while school was still in session. Of course, we weren’t there for the classroom, but rather for the playground. Just a couple of months earlier, we couldn’t wait for summer to come, because we were determined not to go anywhere near that school…oh well, the best laid plans…right? Nevertheless, just as soon as you got to those swings that were so very different from the ones at home, you knew that coming to the school in the summertime was a totally different thing, and very much acceptable. It didn’t even matter if you had to bring your little sister along, and going to the park was totally ok even if your parents had to come along. Somehow, even having that parental supervision couldn’t dampen your spirits.
I’m not sure why these thoughts of summer vacation came to my mind today, other than perhaps the upcoming Christmas vacation, which is definitely a close second when it comes to the carefree days of vacation from school. I loved school, but there was just something about that break from school that always felt so amazing. I just think every kid needs a break from school, even if they love it. There will always be time for kids to work every day for the rest of their lives, but summer vacation and Christmas break…well those are just pretty much for the kids, and of course their teachers, who I consider very blessed, by the way. I think most of us would love to have their summer vacations off. Nevertheless, that said, today found me thinking about the upcoming Christmas vacation that the kids will have, including two of my grandsons. It will be a welcome break from their studies, even if they do have to work at their jobs. To the kids, I say, enjoy those days while you can, because all too soon, the day will come when you too have a job and those long vacations are a thing of the past.
My mother’s is a large family. There were nine children, and with each new marriage and birth, it grows larger still. At this point, I’m sure the family is well over 300, and all from my grandparents, George and Hattie Byer, but with them, it all started with my Aunt Evelyn. She was their first baby. She was the one who informed my grandmother, when she was asked to go get her daddy, that “You must say Uncle Daddy!” She was the first of the social butterflies in their family, having a circle of friends who did lots of activities, and I’m sure that the younger kids wished they could do that too, but by the time they were of age, things like that weren’t done so much anymore. Fads like that come and go, and unfortunately for the little ones who would have loved to be a part of it, but they just don’t get to. Yes, Aunt Evelyn was the first of her siblings, and that gave her some seniority in the whole getting things by ages thing, but to me, she was just my aunt.
Because of the fact that my mom and Aunt Evelyn had children about the same age, they got together quite a bit. Aunt Evelyn, her husband, my Uncle George Hushman, and my parents went to the military ball together, the fireman’s ball together, and they bowled together. They double dated when my mom and dad were dating, and they spent time at each other’s houses. Because they did, my Aunt Evelyn’s kids, my cousins Susie, George, Shelley, Shannon, and Greg, were some of the best friends my sisters and I had as little kids, and we remain friends to this day, even if we don’t get to see each other as much as we used to.
As kids, we loved going to Aunt Evelyn’s house. She lived right next to the Mills Volunteer Fire Department, and I can’t count the number of times that we were there when the fire alarm went off. I will never forget how loud it was, nor how loud the fire trucks were when they went screaming out those big doors. Not every kid had the opportunity to live right next to that, or even to visit someone who does. It was quite interesting.
Many was the time when we went to Aunt Evelyn’s house and played hide and seek, or went down to the school to play on all the playground equipment there. There was never a dull moment when we went to Aunt Evelyn’s house. Of course, I’m sure that her kids always thought it more fun to come to our house, but that would just have to be their memory.
We lost Aunt Evelyn on May 4, 2015, and I still find it hard to believe that she is gone. Today, she would have been 87 years old. Happy birthday in Heaven, Aunt Evelyn. We love and miss you very much, and can’t wait to see you again.
I don’t know about you, but as a kid in grade school, recess was maybe the best part of the day…if you could get to the swings faster than anyone else. At the school I went to anyway, the swings were the one playground item everyone wanted to be on, and if you were a little slower getting there, you missed out. That usually meant that the younger students had to find something else to do…until they got older anyway. There was no time limit to be on the swings, but most of the kids were pretty good about swinging for a while and then getting off, but then recess was only 15 minutes long, so how much time did that leave the rest of the kids…not much.
The fight to get to the swings first, and the ultimate lose of that battle for many children, did very little to sway them from trying to get there, however. Every recess, the bell would ring, and the doors to the playground burst open as the kids ran for the swings. Of course, a few tears were inevitable, because there are always the little fights and little ones don’t always lose well, but all in all, they learned pretty quickly that the best solution to the problem, was to practice your running. The faster you are, the more likely you will end up with a swing.
This whole process goes on for a time, and then about 6th grade, which was still in grade school when I was a kid, the kids aren’t so interested in the swings anymore. They have started to mature some and look forward to being more like the kids in junior high, or middle school as it is known today. Playing on the swings was suddenly beneath them. How quickly things change. One year, you are fighting over the swings, and the next you are acting like all those little kids are so far beneath you that it is completely unbelievable.
Now flash forward a few years, and…well, I don’t know about you, but it’s funny how much fun those swings can be when you are on a date with your boyfriend. Of course, anything is romantic when you are on a date, right? In the years I dated my husband, Bob, I can’t count how many times we ended up at the park swinging on the swings like little kids. It seemed so different from those grade school days, somehow. It wasn’t nearly as juvenile as it used to be. Now it was romantic…and fun again.