I am a few mere days away from finishing my first year as a full-time teacher, and what a year it has been. I’ve never been so exhausted, worn out, frustrated, confused, and lost in my life. My students challenged me, because they put on their brakes early in the year, and I felt like Sisyphus at times…rolling that boulder up the hill only to have it roll back down to the bottom. There were a lot of lows this year, and sadly, I think that’s what my students have chosen to focus on as they end 8th grade (although there were a few surprising comments regarding staying another year when they heard that you often have homework in every class every night in high school…with an average of seven classes a day, my students are already reconsidering graduation).
However, what is often forgotten and thrown to the side are the good times. We as humans seem to have this innate love and obsession with all that is negative. Look at our news. How often do you hear stories of tragedy and heartache? It’s a problem, and I’d like to address it here by sharing just a few of my FAVORITE memories about this past year.
Do any of my students even remember Pi Day? It was that day that we weren’t supposed to have school, but because of snow days, we did. You know. The day where we spent the morning in math drawing circles, measuring diameters and circumferences with rulers and measuring tapes? The day where we spent the afternoon eating pizza and cupcakes and donut holes, and calculated crazy things like the surface area of the cheese, the volume of the donut, and the surface area of N’s frosting on her BEAUTIFUL homemade cupcakes? I remember. It was great. We relaxed. We smiled. We laughed. We read Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi. It was the exact opposite of a Middle School Day.
Of Mice and Men
Two words: Mock Trial…the FIRST EVER at my school. My students rocked it. They put in effort, and worked hard, and really made it their own. I pretty much just assigned them jobs, and they MADE the magic happen. It was epic. It was wonderful, and it was inspiring. Granted, there’s a lot more that I can do to make it better and easier for next year’s crew, but that’s part of the learning process, and that’s on me. These kiddos were amazing! AND it led to another awesome event.
There was so much energy and focus and dedication put forth by my students for their Of Mice and Men unit, that I was in shock. And awe. And when I heard that Of Mice and Men was coming to Broadway, I knew it had to happen. And when my students heard that James Franco was in it, THEY knew it had to happen. The miracle? It did. It happened. And I was so grateful. Granted, taking a bunch of 12, 13, and 14 year olds to Broadway (where they behaved beautifully…BEAUTIFULLY…I wondered if I even had the same class with me) is a little risky, especially when Obama decides to block off a street between the theatre and your bus, and there’s a bunch of screaming fans between you and that street, but they were great. They loved it. The show was amazing. It was great to compare James Franco’s SNL skit as George Milton to his real George Milton, and it was common core through and through, and FUN.
High School Registration Day
The sad part about this day involves most of my class leaving for the last hour or so of the day because they needed to register for high school classes. The awesome part involves the 10-or-so students who stayed. With barely one-third of my class present, there wasn’t much that I could successfully teach. Most of the students there didn’t need remediation, either, so that was out of the question. Enter Batman. We sat and worked on their homework and watched Batman the Animated Series until it was time to go home. In fact, I think we even got out a little early that day (GASP!).
The Last Day Before Thanksgiving
This was another fun math day. We did a Math Lab, with about 7 stations. Students worked in groups to complete Thanksgiving themed math worksheets that involved Common Core math concepts. And coloring. And decorating. And we all got to leave early. Plus, half of the morning was spent practicing hiding drills.
Teacher Appreciation Day
This was another fun and exciting day…because the 8th grade was on a top secret mission…to write thank you letters to all of the other classroom teachers at our school WITHOUT LETTING THE CAT OUT OF THE BAG. We wanted to surprise and thank all of the people who have helped, and do help, them get to where they are today. This involved decorating, coloring, writing poetry, and lots of other fun and creative things…and it led to some very grateful and happy teachers. I was really impressed by a few students who went above and beyond decorating cards and finding ways to connect to all of the teachers. Many students turned in more than the requested three cards, as well. I loved the activity because I got to see a side of my students that they often hide…the vulnerable, reflective side.
There were so many other days this past year with these students that have been crazy and fun and wonderful, and I’ll probably put together another list of them in a few days when the school year is officially over. These kids have worn me out. But they’ve also left me with some pretty remarkable and amazing memories. As happy as I am to see them go off into the world and achieve their dreams, my heart is breaking a little because I’m going to miss these kids a lot more than I’d like to admit.