With that, my last day as a teacher in 2013 is over. I’ve given kids holiday cards and cleaned my room and supervised the cleaning of lockers and been the loving & grateful recipient of so. many. Christmas. cookies.
Today was, like many of the “last days” in my own high school, wonderful. Calm and relaxed and easygoing. We had a half-day so the kids watched the movie version of Persepolis in my class and I sat in the back and graded. It’s always heartening to see my students on days like this because I am reminded they’re people. They’re not just little robots in uniforms making annotations and writing essays but they’re people. In many ways I forget that sometimes. I have close relationships with many of my kids, but not all of them, and seeing them all hanging out and laughing and smiling has been a wonderful beginning to Winter Break. I wrote all 90 of them individualized holiday letters on index cards. sometimes, I think that just telling people you admire something about them – even if they are younger than you, even if they’re your student – can really mean the world.
The past three days have been like something from another universe. Wednesday night, my roommate and I went to our apartment building’s holiday party, where we hung out with a fellow 2013 CM and toasted the end of the semester. I spontaneously went out to dinner after that with a college friend, to celebrate the successful completion of her senior honors thesis, and took today off (hooray for PTO) to run some errands before heading home on Saturday. It was strange, to be out and about during the day. In a weird way I missed my kids and I missed my teacher friends. hmm. Last night was wonderful. Two of my teacher friends and I had movie night; I am quickly realizing that so much of why I have survived this semester is because of the people I’ve met and the innumerable ways I’ve been supported. We are so grateful for each other – the three of us – and sometimes I can hardly believe how lucky I am to get to work on a team with these people.
And today, a bunch of first year teachers and I group-hugged the morning of our last teaching day of 2013, and a bunch of us gave flowers and a card to our GLC, and as I finally walked to my car to leave for two weeks…my principal saw my huge smile. “Ms. _____! You did it! Remember this feeling – you’ll want to remember it forever.”
I cried & smiled all the way home.
In many ways, I don’t think it has quite sunk in yet. amidst the flurry of Christmas presents and cards from my kids, my school, my district, TFA Houston, the national TFA office, my MTLD, my instructional coach, all the wonderful people who have recently become a part of my life. This feeling is not like it was at Thanksgiving. Before Thanksgiving Break, it hit me all in a wave, almost immediately after the kids left. and this…I think this’ll take a while.
I do not consider myself to be any more special or unique of a teacher than anyone else. I do not consider myself to be anything more than the sum of alllll the support I’ve been given, the luck in having been placed at my school, and in Houston, and the immense gratitude I feel for getting to have this life. Every day, when I feel like I’m drowning, it’s easy to lose sight of that. Even a few days ago one of my classes had a behavioral meltdown – led by a kid who’s currently in his third day of ISS for an unrelated incident – and I wondered, what am I even doing here. But in moments like today it becomes crystal clear. I have to put my head down, and keep pushing, and have faith in things that are not seen.
I want to use break to think about my classroom. To not do work, per se, just to think. I’m about to start To Kill A Mockingbird. So much potential. My classroom needs to grow in the following ways next semester:
1) More close reading
2) Increased levels of creativity & out-of-the-box thinking (like the Poet Warriors project!)
3) Discussion/discourse based on the annotation style we developed this semester
4) Moving beyond compliant/on-task to passionate, urgent, and joyful
5) Using mentor texts to teach grammar
6) Increased levels of student accountability (note taking, connection to text, etc.)
There are other things, too. but that’s where my heart and mind are right now.
Speaking of heart.
I have this weird need to get closure with cities and semesters in times in my life. I leave for home tomorrow morning and though I still haven’t packed or cleaned my car, I think I need one last Houston drive. This city has taken so much out of me this past semester – but given me even more – and for that I owe it a goodbye. I always told myself I’d never go to school in a big city. The harsh, raw skyscrapers scared me. made me feel small. but now they are beautiful, in their own way, and as I drive north on I-45 and bask in their twinkle, I feel like I’m home.
“Then, shouldering their burdens, they set off.” -Lord of the Rings
In a semester of burdens, of tears and aches and fear beyond all else, I happily head home, steadfast in my faith in the things I am doing, hopeful for the things I am not doing, and above all, grateful for these burdens which writhe inside of me. Their gnaw reminds me I am doing the right thing. I’m where I’m meant to be. It hurts to feel so much because I care so much about what I do. Some people go their whole lives and never find something they love so deeply; for having found it already, I am grateful.