Today, I officially completed my fourth year of teaching.
I’ve been thinking about this day for the last couple of weeks.
I’d been reflecting…trying to put to words what my heart had been feeling.
Locking my door after closing up shop for the summer was bittersweet…
If I were to ascribe one word to each of my first three years of teaching, the list would look like the following:
Year #1 – Overwhelming (five preps and no teaching experience were a tough combination)
Year #2 – Stressful (learning how to teach remedial reading to teenagers dependent on passing the FCAT led to much angst)
Year #3 – Magtical (the pieces started coming together)
That brings me to Year #4.
The word I’d use to describe this past year would be impactful.
As I read my students’ reflections last week, had conversations with parents over the last couple of days, and talked to my mentor, Cinda, I grew to realize that my relationship building skills had grown by leaps and bounds this year.
I’ve often said that you can’t teach if you don’t have a relationship with students.
This never proved more true than this year.
One of my classes was comprised of students who were in double blocks of reading and math, so they spent over half of their day together.
That’s a lot of time for annoyances to creep in…for tempers to flare.
Flare they did, and class could get very “interesting” at times.
I worked very hard to build rapport in this class.
I didn’t always do a good job holding my tongue as frustration set in on particular rough days, but students and I learned to reflect thanks to Cinda’s modeling early in the year.
My students and I learned how to pick apart lessons that had gone awry…procedures that weren’t fitting in with the classroom environment…and changes were made.
I did this with all of my classes. What worked for one class had to be changed for another to fit that class’s needs.
As students saw me reflecting and taking action, they began to do the same.
This was very impactful, and I witnessed students’ conversations naturally leading to introspection.
It was an amazing process to behold.
Another thing that happened this year was that my students became genuine book lovers.
I have always fought my students when it came to silent reading time.
This year, I purchased many, many books for my classroom library.
If a student found an author he/she liked, I bought all of the books by that writer.
If a student enjoyed the first book in a series, I bought the rest of the books.
Students began having conversations about their books. I learned that just because students were talking during class did not mean the conversations were about boys/girls or the latest parties they had been to.
Kids were talking about books.
They were showing each other funny parts of the books.
They were borrowing each others’ books.
My class that had the toughest road to travel…well, that class seriously could not stop talking about books. I’m really not kidding.
Take a look at the letter a student in that class wrote to me. She gave it to me the last day of school.
As you saw in the letters of advice my students wrote to next year’s students, they read…a lot…and they reflected on their reading through the writing exercises that followed.
This was impactful.
The last day I had each class, students talked about how sad they were to leave…how much they were going to miss me.
They had watched the movies I had made for them…slideshows comprised of photos taken throughout the year.
They had laughed and cried as they watched the school year fly by, frame by frame.
Strong bonds were forged this year…student-to-student and student-to-teacher.
I called a parent today to discuss her son’s wonderful progress on FCAT, and we had a lengthy conversation.
She asked if I had been the person who had made the movie, and I said yes. I had given CDs of that class’s movie to the students after they requested copies.
This mom and her son had watched the movie together at home. I heard the tears in her voice as she said, “You done something to him with that video. It changed him.”
He had been impacted by the images…reminders that he had been important to me.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I sat at my desk and cried after I hung up the phone…humbled at the blessings that the Lord has bestowed on me through this marvelous career He led me to.
I have so many stories I could share with you…stories I’ve constantly shared with my mentor.
I do so…not to brag but to share how amazed I am every single time someone tells me thank you.
There are so many difficult days of teaching…times when lesson plans don’t work…students misbehave…decisions get made by asinine state officials who have never stood in front of a classroom.
At the end of the day, what matters most is the impact I’ve had on each child who has crossed my threshold.
This was, by far, my best year of teaching to date.
I got into teaching because I believed in the power of shaping young minds.
I never knew that I’d be shaping their hearts as well.
The picture below shows a happy face…mine…one that is excited to go home and kick off summer vacation with a long nap.
What you don’t see is my heart…enlarged and filled to the brim with an intense love for people who, nine months ago, were strangers…now grafted into my ever-growing family.
These kiddos will always be my children, and I will never forget them nor their impact on my life.