One of the toughest school years is over. We lost two teachers, long-time friends, my daughter’s teachers within a month of each other. Each was planning to retire this year. We celebrated graduation with 400+ seniors stepping confidently into their futures. We lost students, and students lost beloved family members. We raised over $130,000 together as a school, to aide others. We endured our state policymakers’ continued attacks on our profession. We survived.
Along the way, I had nearly 300 students in my class – thousands of books were read, close to a million pages. I kept track of my extra hours (not finished yet reading and analyzing final exams) and am over 450 hours donated to my students and school.
I read over 150 books, most recommended by my students, and carted home fifty or so more to try to read over the summer.
One of my students is the daughter of two former students, connecting all the schools in Norman at which I’ve taught.
I took a misstep off a school bus and face-planted on our way home from volunteering at Special Olympics. I used ‘closed head injury’ as an excuse for all my mistakes for a week before students told me it was time to give it up.
I know the lessons I hoped to teach, but I know every teacher actually teaches many lessons in unintended ways, but the way we address the class, grade and respond to papers, handle classroom conflicts…
But what did I learn?
· Time is precious and plans are just that – plans. I learned sometimes we may hold on too long…
· Young people will rally together for a cause.
· I can still stay in a dorm (one night only) with a bunch of teen agers.
· Introduce a volunteer to Special Olympics, and they’re hooked for life.
· Some hugs are earned only after years of trying.
· The supreme joy and pride of being a ‘teacher guest’ of an Academic All State scholar. Irene Lim is still perplexed by the fact I burst into tears when she invited me.
· Most policymakers don’t care what citizens think – we are easy to ignore when ALEC money seems to fuel their campaigns.
· Schools, in the search for elusive test scores, will sacrifice kids’ artistic lives – my daughter-in-law, a music teacher at a Title I school, was laid off, leaving her students with no one to care for their musical talents.
· I still love to read students’ Reading Logs and final exams – I pore over them to make next year better.
I learned – relearned – I am in the exact spot I’m meant to be – in S216, surrounded by books and teddy bears and kids. Surrounded by bulletin boards with more kids, and kids of my students…Home.
Next year I’ll graduate with the class of 2013…fifty years after I graduated from high school, I’ll graduate again. Next year will be its own combination of bitter and sweet – I think I’m ready.