It was an email from a former colleague who now has in 6th grade some beautiful kiddos I taught in 4th. That class is extraordinarily special to me because they are the class that almost killed me as a teacher. There was so much going on with those 30 amazing young people, and the intensity lived all balled up in our spacious and climate-controlled (ha!) classroom of 800 square feet. Each day was a test in survival and patience, and while they pushed me to my utmost limits not just as a teacher but as a human being, it also meant that I grew immensely because of them. For all our challenges we became a stronger community, and I'll never forget the number one concern expressed by kiddos in June when I asked why they were so nervous about 5th grade: "I'm afraid about our community being split apart, and I am worried that we won't build a new family like we had this year." Out of the mouths of babes, eh?
|My babies on Valentine's Day, 2013. Heart you!|
|Our interpretation (a mountain we help classmates climb together) of Kohlberg's 6 Stages of Moral Development.|
These guided our class discussions, read alouds, classroom management, and so much more each year.
The end of every year with my kiddos is (err, was - still getting used to that) always tough because I am sad to say goodbye and because I worry. I worry if I devoted the right amount of time to the right lessons, whether the way I empowered students to own their learning will benefit them in the short and long term, and most of all whether they will remember and follow through with all the work we put in to becoming better individuals and better community members. Each year I fret over these things and each year I remind myself to trust in myself and in them - to believe that the tools are in their toolbox and they need an opportunity to apply them without me being there to remind them so often. It is their chance to take full ownership of our Words to Live By and remember their importance, without seeing them on the wall every day.
|The Words to Live By chosen by my first class of 5th graders.|
Although I tell myself these things I can't deny the doubt that creeps in when they've been sent off to new teachers and new experiences. If I'm being honest I suppose part of the doubt is wondering whether I really made a difference, and if it was the right kind of difference, in their lives. Maybe that's one reason the texts and emails from students, and the stories of their successes, are so valuable to me. Perhaps that's why this email means so very much, especially as I process the start of my first full school year out of the classroom.