Friday, May 25, 2018

End of School Year Reflection (or the Burrito of Gratitude, with a nod to Colene)

The last day of the school year finally arrived and I am officially on summer vacation.  We go back to school August 6, which I know will be here in a heartbeat.

This year has been both the longest and the quickest year of my 23-year career.

It began with a series of workshops and in-services throughout the summer last year which served to introduce us to a drastically new curriculum which we were mandated to implement "with fidelity" this year.  It was so radically different from what we have been doing that this was a terribly stressful objective to me.  I'm "old school" in many ways and teaching without a textbook and following a script has been hard for me.

I am also a rule follower and so while I wanted to follow my mandate, I'll admit publicly right now that I did not always follow the script.  I tried.  We are on block schedule and so our academic year is made up of two semesters: I have one group of students from August through December, and then new ones from January through May.

First semester I tried really hard to do that first unit as prescribed.  It took less than two weeks for the light in my students' eyes to go out and for them to start eyeing me with dread. I stuck with it and supplemented more engaging lessons where  I could while teaching all the same standards.  Second semester it was much the same. I was a little more comfortable with the new curriculum, but it is still mind numbing and dull. Nothing but annotation, graphic organizers, and Cornell Notes.  All day, every day.

But, it's the curriculum and I have to follow it if I want to keep my job.  To me it's almost a moral dilemma: do I kill the love of learning by shoveling more copies of speeches and more worksheets at them while reading scripts from prepared slides?  Or do I subvert the system, close the curtains, and teach from the heart?  I've spent the entire semester questioning myself and my career.

That's what made the semester long.

What made the semester go by too quick was my students.  I love them.  I love them with my heart!  As they were leaving yesterday I had so many hug me goodbye and wish me a happy summer.  We're talking high school kids: not the little elementary ones who hug so easily.  I had students from previous semesters come by just for a hug.  Mikayla brought me a doughnut! Teyniah made a card for me!  So did Te'asia!  Maria (who I taught last semester), came down the stairs with her ponytail and her shy smile and reached out for a hug.  My heart melted and my eyes still get misty when they go.

We don't have a PTA at our school, wealthy parents, or big booster clubs that bring teachers expensive gifts at the end of the year like some other schools.  At our school we don't get gifted Chromebooks, televisions, or cruises like other schools.  Nobody will ever gift me an Apple Watch. We don't even get cute coffee mugs and Starbucks cards.

But these parents give us their children and I swear that's all I need at the end of the year.  That hug, that home made card, that single doughnut in a styrofoam bowl is all I need to reassure me that I'm in exactly the right place.

I love our kids and I love our school.

Today, we had a rare teacher work day which was glorious!  I was gifted two bookshelves from one of my teacher friends and I spend the entire day refurbishing them.

The first one was bright pink:

This is too pink for me.

...and now it is teal blue.  I'm just not a pink kind of girl.

Progress. Calming blue.
That bulletin board is going to get a makeover this summer, too.

The other shelf was beat up wood:

This might be the perfect shelf.

and now it is on its way to being covered in the pages from To Kill a Mockingbird.

I figured why not?  We aren't allowed to read novels any more in class and this is the only way I can get my favorite book in the room!  Boom!

To Kill a Mockingbird: one page at a time
Once I finish the inside I will polyurethane the entire thing and it will be fabulous.

It was relaxing and fun to be engaged in these DIY projects today.  We all moved around from room to room, visiting with each other (something teachers so seldom are able to do!).  Nikki brought a pan of banana pudding around to share with everyone.  Samantha came and ate her lunch in my room.  Emily came by with Colene to look at my bookshelf.  Macie came in to visit while I painted and Karrie and I ate lunch in my room.  There was a lot of laughter and fun.  I love my co-workers!

I went to Colene's room and watched her organize papers, in the library Stacy had her daughter's dance recital on video to show us, and in the lounge we all gathered for breakfast burritos from Sonic.

All in all it was a really nice day, reconnecting with my friends and doing just the smallest bit of prep work for next year.  My shelf isn't finished, but I guess neither am I.  I'm still learning and still growing as a teacher every year.

What I learned today is that no matter how badly I might fundamentally disagree with certain things, I will always find a way to stand up for my students and do right by them because that's what matters to me more than anything else.  I go to work everyday exactly where I want to and I will never need expensive thank you gifts from booster clubs or parents to make my job more more rewarding.

My students, their smiles, and the occasional breakfast burrito are all I need!

Now, it's time to decompress and take a little time off!

An Open Letter to Hal Braswell
Full of Promise: Bossier Bearkats Receive their Tickets to the Future
The SIGIS Summer Begins
Bearkat Pride Forever

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