Oh yeah ... October is tomorrow.
But it's still a pretty big deal because this is the first time Allison has been away from us overnight that she was not staying with relatives. The grade 7 and 8 Challenge students (around 100 in all) left this morning for an overnight trip to RKY Camp, about an hour northwest of Kingston, to return tomorrow afternoon. They'll be sleeping in a lodge and doing various indoor and outdoor activities like hiking and wall climbing. (I think the teachers will likely be the ones climbing the walls, actually.) This kind of excursion is a pretty big stretch for Allison, who is not experienced in camping, but she was quite excited about going.
Allison's first month in Challenge has now passed, and it seems that the early jitters have also smoothed out quite a bit. As the name suggests, it is a very challenging program that involves lots of group work and projects as well as considerable homework. (There are only 50 grade 7 Challenge students, divided into two homerooms.) Also, Calvin Park school is located in the top floor of a high school so they are on the high school schedule, with an 8:20 a.m. morning bell and a 2:35 p.m. dismissal time. They also have lockers, and they move from class to class for different subjects, so it's quite a change from grade six.
The first week of Challenge involved a lot of games and team activities and not much academic work, but week 2 was a different story. On the second day of week 2 Allison came home tearful, saying, "It's so hard to get organized and there's so much to remember!" Her teacher, Mrs. Hymmen, phoned us that afternoon to say that Allison was showing quite a bit of anxiety about transitions between classes, getting used to her locker and the busy hallways. Also, unknown to us, Allison's bus was getting her to school after the bell, which meant she was coming in to find her classmates already settled; even though they were just doing independent reading, Allison was upset about being late and possibly missing something important. The teacher did assure us, though, that most of the kids were feeling overwhelmed by the new routine and the level of expectations, so I think it helped Allison to realize that all of her classmates were in a huge learning curve too.
After that day things seemed much better: Allison seemed more organized and on top of things and there were no more tears. Then just this week we attended the school Open House and got a chance to check up on how things are going. Mrs. Hymmen said that there was a huge improvement since that first week: Allison is much more comfortable with the morning routine, she is able to quickly get over any minor upsets that happen during the day, and she has developed some friendships as well, which for her is a very significant accomplishment.
It was really fun to visit the Challenge classroom and see the place Allison is spending so much of her time. They do many very interesting and innovative things, and they are pushed to think and analyze at a higher level than they've been used to. The teachers have high expectations, but it seems to be a very supportive little community of enthusiastic kids. Allison's teacher also seems very suitable for Allison: very organized and structured, with a cool, unflappable demeanour.
All in all it seems like things are off to a good start. Now if October would only get here ...