As you may or may not know, I am retiring from the classroom. The last few days of my teaching career loom in front of me. The most apropos words for how I feel are bitter & sweet. Bitter that Common Core pushed me out the door, bitter that my special needs students have been subjected to conformity, and bitter that anyone could think a student’s test scores equate to who that teacher is. APPR is fallacious, a word I learned this year teaching resource room and, up until now, had never used before.
I have started this blog many, many times and never could get it quite right. Maybe I needed to be here in order to write it. Here, is in bed – doctor’s orders. Saturday I took a spill off a ladder and thought nothing of it. Today, I followed up with my doctor, as my neck was still bothering me. First thing she said, was “lay off the computer for a few days, it is aging this country faster than anything”. So, I’m not on my computer or my iPad, I’m lying down (doctors orders) and typing this on my iPhone. Not the quickest tool, but I may want to drag this blog on for a while.
That’s because there are so, so many sweet memories connected to my 30 years in the classroom! I don’t want this blog to be a downer. I want to leave on a high note, even though I did get a “developing” on my informal evaluation, because my students were late. They arrive late almost every day since they are coming from another wing of the building and the cafeteria monitors are just doing their job and not letting the kids leave (who have all of 3 minutes to wolf down their food after waiting on line for 17 minutes, without cleaning up.) There, I got that off my chest!
My first year was soooo sweet and full of smiles, it was 1985 and I taught my one and only year of Gen Ed. It was a darling class of second graders; I still remember all of their names. I recently dragged out the scrapbook they gave me at the end of that amazing year.
~ Jillian, it was the sweetest thing when you brought in a box of Kleenex when I was so sick; dealing with my first year of epic germs wasn’t easy.
~ C.Penny, I still have that crystal-like paperweight that you gave me. Oh, if it could talk!
~ Dennis H., with your forever smile, you cheered me up whenever Charles got cheeky.
Since lists are so in-vogue these days I’d like to add 27 more sweet & smiling moments to make a total of 30, and hopefully not bore you to death.
Sweet Memories that will forever bring a smile to my face. Now remember, I’m a special education teacher; some of the names have been altered to protect the innocent!
~To Judy Wilenski, the class mother who oversaw that “end of the year scrapbook”. You were by far the most awesome class mother. The best ever.
~To the group of students I had second year, in a “relocate-able”, with a bird feeder. The students would lay prone and chart the number and kinds of birds visiting the feeder on their clipboards. This data collecting was for graphing purposes at a later time. Now that is Authentic Learning!
~To Marisol, a tiny powerhouse of a teacher on heels, who had “self contained” boys liking the learning and never experienced any management issues.
~To Angelo, one of the many special education directors, who let me order a punching bag for students to use when they had maintained their cool in a tough situation and just needed to hit something.
~To Ryan K., for being such an incredible talent of improvisation. You lit up my life for several years. I especially remember when you took over the superintendent’s seat and began ad-libbing a very creative fictional story about our class.
~To Frankie M., whom I just found on Facebook, and all the wonderful poetry you wrote. I see your own son also has a passion for baseball.
~To Adam Canales, and his story of walking from El Salvador with his four younger brothers. You asked me how to get a Christmas tree for your family and when we teachers all rallied to provide not only a tree, but also decorations, you asked me if you could call me Mom.
~To Timmy, who had a permanent condition known as “flattened head syndrome,” due to spending the first three years of his life lying in a crib, yet only saw the positive in all circumstances.
~To Kim B., who made a beautiful pattern on a standardized test bubble sheet and confounded the school physiologist when she scored in the 93rd percentile in reading comprehension.
~To Tara, who modeled a poem after a Langston Hughes author study. “I had a mother, she went away, and I knew she wasn’t coming back, the poem ends soft as it began”.
~To all of the 31 children who opened my eyes and gave me a serious reality check when they came and went, in one school year, because they lived in “emergency housing”.
~To Little Larry G., for handing me a tissue while I wept at the end of the book, Stone Fox, when the dog dies. (I’d read the book 1/2 dozen times and never shed a tear, It must have been the hormones being pregnant with my first.)
~To tough little Roger, who supplied the word s-h-i-t when we were brainstorming the “it” family. I was pregnant with my second child, somehow I didn’t pee my pants.
~To Jayne, (that’s right same name, same spelling) my present day BFF, who I met when we were both pregnant with our girls who are still BFFs to this day.
~To all my colleagues who were in the Masters Program in Technology, 18 years ago, and my darling daughter who was born in the midst of it all.
~To Roseanne Westgate and Harmon Cohen, who recruited me to switch schools when my daughter was six months old and gave me the courage to leave a tenured position with three little ones of my own.
~To Charles Pettaway, RIP – what a shame, you were so damn talented in so many ways.
~Lou Juan., and all the laughs you shared with us all by simply being yourself.
~To Lisa Carew, who wins the award for staying after hours prepping, a former TA turned teacher. We shared so many great laughs during our travels during February break.
~To Fiona, my first student with down syndrome, and the most memorable reader of anyone I ever taught.
~To Lylla Carter, the selfless volunteer who gave up every Friday morning to come in and read to my class for Reading Rainbow. BTW for several years in a row.
~To Celia Domenech, the wonderful Principal, and the board members who listened, and eventually hired my BFF a few years after I migrated districts.
~To Willie, when you spoke your first word “NO” as in “I don’t want anymore pancakes” and H.Swan, when he sounded out his first words and startled himself.
~To Suzie Wright, who rescued me when I was beaten up and feeling down, even if we couldn’t socialize according to that one superintendent.
~To Jackie H., the unbelievable reader of Clive Cussler, who helped me adjust to the middle school transition and the handful of other students that went to see the Broadway show “Wicked” with me.
~To Joel F., the year I was switched to inclusion, there was never a dull moment with you around, even if you did prefer to communicate via a portable whiteboard and dry erase marker.
~To all of the students I’ve had the honor to teach, first in K and 1st grade and then again in the middle school. You literally saved me during such a severe and unexpected change in teaching assignments.
~To the one twin who’s dad told me I could never get his son to like reading. His son finished the entire Alfred Hitchcock series this school year.
~To Karmen, who was my student in the primary grades and who I have had the unbelievably rewarding chance to teach again in 7th & 8th grade. She is off to high school, as an honor student. She’s driven by integrity, hard work and the scarce trait of sincerely caring. I have never seen a student as conscientious or as mindful.
Thank you to one and all who contributed to all of these sweet and smiling memories, I need to stop here or I could fill a tome. Plus, I really want to publish this before I am officially retired on July 1st.
PS: Out of school tutoring has also occupied my 30 year career. Cole, are you really going into 6th grade now?