This morning when I arrived for work, Mr. King had the 7th graders in a circle on the frosty grass of the quad underneath the flagpole, sitting on bags of ice, reading Endurance. (You know, Shackleton, the Antarctic expedition. Look it up if you don't know). It was a great Cedar Tree moment. A couple of hours later I overheard interesting snippets from the kids, including this gem: "My bum didn't get too wet."
I took the Crumbs quilt to the Kindergarten class to collect signatures. I discovered that some Kindergartners, although they can all write their first names, are shaky about writing even the initial of their last name. In fairness, some wrote their full last names without batting an eye (these tended to have 3-letter last names).
A few days ago I discovered that 1st graders sometimes need to be told how to spell their last names, but they could all at least handle the last initial. Second graders split about evenly in choosing just last initial or full last name; of the last name initial crowd, most put the period before the initial, so it looked a little bit like a web address: Sally.J
They get progressively more capable with each subsequent grade, until I finally get them in 6th - 8th grades. Then I start spending most of my time thinking about the imponderables, like why young people make unwise choices. Sometimes the more capable they are, the more help they need with the basics: doing homework, being kind to others, respecting their parents, reading their Bibles. I wish there was a failsafe, Kindergarten-style rubric to get smart kids through adolescence. But lacking that, I think sitting on bags of ice reading Endurance is a good start.