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Packing Up and Reminiscing

On Saturday, I headed into school to work on my classroom.  First, I stopped by Chick fil A to pick up empty boxes after calling ahead to ask the store to hold them for me.

I had tons to do, so I got busy.

My ultimate goal was to pack the hundreds of books that line my shelves and cupboards.

This proved easier said than done.

Have you ever started picking up around your home, aiming to get ONE thing finished but quickly discover that you can’t do one thing until something else is done.  Then you realize that you can’t do that until you do something else.  It’s a snowball effect, and it can become quite overwhelming.

That’s exactly what happened in my room.

Before I could pack up my books, I had to get them all in one place, so I had to go through my students’ folders, where they’ve kept the books they read during silent independent reading time.

Pulling the books from the folders led to me going through each folder, pulling out all of the papers and individual folders inside, deciding what to recycle and what to trash, and stashing stuff in the “Keep” pile.

Oh my word!

It took me about an hour to go through 60+ folders!

As I opened each folder and went through the papers, I thought about the student who belonged to the folder.

Have you ever watched the show Survivor?  During the last show, when the game is down to three contestants, the contestants go on a walk of remembrance, when they pause beside each person’s snuffed out torch and share memories.

That’s a little how I felt as I looked at each name.

I remembered meeting each student for the first time.  I thought about laughs we’d shared, aha moments experienced, and even times of stress when the student either acted out, or I became frustrated for whatever reason.  With each student’s folder I opened, I asked myself if I’d met that student’s needs during the year…if I could honestly say that I’d differentiated instruction.

Sadly, I realized that there were times that I had not.  I know this was due to my inexperience.

Oh, there were many times when I did differentiate…I just don’t think that I went far enough.

Yes, I realize that I’m being hard on myself.  That’s because I want to be the best teacher possible.  I wonder if I’ll ever reach a point in my career when I don’t feel like I need to apologize to my students as they head out the door into the land of Summer Vacation.

I sincerely doubt it because that’s the nature of the beast.  When you’re a perfectionist, you always feel the need to apologize for not quite hitting the mark.

Still, I feel like I have succeeded in many ways…only because of the lessons I learned this year.

Most of my students are on free and reduced lunch.  They come from broken families.  Some have parents in jail or prison.  Some of them live with grandparents, who are their primary caregivers.

This year, I taught ninth and tenth graders.  Those ninth graders came into school very scared and nervous about being in such a big school.  Some came in with a cocky attitude after being the oldest in their middle schools.  Humble pie was tough for them to swallow.

To all of this, I had a front-row seat.

And all of these memories came to a head as I went through those folders.

Monday and Tuesday are our last days of school…days in which students will be taking their finals.

As my kids walk out the door, instead of apologizing, I think I will thank them.

I’ll thank them for the lessons THEY taught me.

They inspired me with their fortitude.  They inspired me with their honesty…an honesty that was difficult to hear sometimes.

They taught me that there’s more than one way to skin a cat, and for a stubborn person like myself, that’s saying something.

My students taught me how much little gestures mean.  Something as small as a casually spoken compliment has the power to open up the quietest of students.

An example of this?  One day, my shyest student told me, “Mrs. AuburnChick, you made me feel so good when you told me that my paragraph was creative.”

My students taught me that I don’t need to apologize for being strict.  They need this.  They need routine.  They need to be held accountable.  They respect an adult more for it in the end.

My students have also taught me that I need to lighten up a bit.  I need to smile more.  I need to not take myself so seriously.

I adore these students I’ve had the privilege of teaching this year.  I cannot wait until the day when they walk the stage at graduation…when their names are called out.  I’ll be proud to say that they graced my classroom with their presence.  I’m a better teacher and a better person because they did.

3 Responses

  1. What a great post. Reread it next year when you’ve had a challenging day or class.

    Enjoy your summer.

  2. I think you’re already an amazing teacher…you’re just going to get better with experience! I hope the school knows how lucky they are to have found you!

  3. These kind of reflections are the best. You sound like a teacher with a great heart and a philosophy that breeds success. Be proud of all you have done and enjoy your break!

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