Last June, I spent some time and some money buying lottery tickets. I was in the mourning part of the teaching profession, giving away a marvelous group of students. If one was going to retire, this would be the group to say adios to teaching. So, I bought Scratch tickets and Mass Millions ticket in the hope of hitting it big and going out with these students. (Mind you, I entered teaching late, have two kids of my own in college and can retire no time soon). By the end of June, the students had left, and the only other change was that my wallet was a little lighter from buying the tickets. I was going to have to go back to teaching and this new class would have a hard act to follow.. I blogged about this both in June and in August before the new school year started. The new school year started, and I, fresh with new ideas from BLC10, started teaching again.
And then, a funny thing happened. A great new idea called CBL (Challenge Based Learning) caught on like wildfire with this new group of then 21 students. I started seeing the spark in their eyes, the enthusiasm in their voices. Our two Blanding’s turtle hatchlings, Bowser and Yertle, amazed us all. In early November, we decided to enter a nation-wide contest, Disney Planet Challenge (DPC). On a long November afternoon, as I listened to the children’s discussion on creating a goal for DPC and then developing guiding questions. This afternoon was a turning point for me as I started to fall in love with another class.
DPC was a simply amazing experience for us all. Students who didn’t like to write, were writing webpages. Students who were naturally shy were standing up in front of town boards talking turtles. A real deadline united us all with getting our portfolio done. Students who wanted to be in a certain group were fine with being a team member and doing what needed to be done to meet our deadline. This project gave learning a new purpose and these students rose to this challenge beautifully.
Along the way, other magical things were also happening. Blogging. The kids blogged all the time and responded to one another so naturally in such a respectful manner. Writing. Trips to the river made the students’ writing more and more descriptive. As the seasons changed, so did their writing. Confidence. Watching the students blossom as they progressed throughout the year was extremely satisfying.
The year also had its share of trying moments for both me and the students. Our turtle Bowser died during his laproscopy. During the fall, a series of freak accidents left me with a severe nerve injury that later required surgery, and a concussion that left me rather dizzy for a bit. This spring has been particularly trying for me after being asked to go to 5th grade, a change that I am very excited about.
So, today was day 179. At 6:50 in the morning, my buddy and I both cried over this particular student’s blog
(http://kidblog.org/Room305b/Alexander230/1520/ At 7:45 a.m. was our robotics demonstration. Wednesday’s dress rehearsal was as bad a dress rehearsal that I have ever witnessed. Needless to say, both myself and Ms. Howard were very nervous. However, in front of quite a panel, the students’ performance was flawless. As I sat scrunched on the floor, I beamed across the auditorium at Ms. Howard as group after group
totally nailed their presentation. After the last group, my room parents came up with a huge box. They said it had really special meaning. Tracey was right on with that assessment. As I unwrapped the box, inside the bubble wrap, was an absolutely stunning ceramic platter that was personalized with 22 different turtles. This platter was complete with the DPC logo as well as quotes that the kids said about DPC. I was stunned beyond words. It’s not very often that I am speechless. But this did it. Tears welled up in my eyes, and as my principal came over to see my gift, she noticed I was pretty emotional. She hugged me and said, “isn’t this the best job in the world?” It was pretty easy to agree with that statement.
At lunch, I went to walk one last time with my fifth grade student Justin. His teacher asked me if he could hang out with his class, which was a pretty easy question. I’ll be walking with him this summer. So, I started back up the stairs, when four students from last year, Owen, Henry, Trevor, and Julian, asked me if they could have lunch with me. I quickly said “sure”, and we headed upstairs. I got to tell them that they were a special group for me and that they were going to do great at the middle school. Trevor, who moved in during the school year last year, thanked me for doing what I did for him to welcome him into our class. Jason joined us with his yearbook for me to sign. It was a wonderful lunch and during it, I received a call from the office saying that
someone was coming up to see me. I wondered who, and soon enough, Sam and David strolled into my room, carrying the canoe paddle that they had used in the Community Chest Challenge. I had sponsored them, and at our reunion several weeks back, they thanked me for sponsoring them and said they had a paddle for me. I forgot about it until just then. It just seemed like the other day that I had these two boys as 5th graders, and here they were, both heading off to great colleges, back visiting their old 5th grade teacher. Sam had written on the paddle “Thanks for teaching and inspiring us from 5th Grade onwards;” and David had written “Thank you for everything. Your mark on me is deeper than a pen on paper;”
So as this school year is coming to a close, I have to honestly say that I am glad that I did not win the lottery last June. This year has been full of challenges, both good and bad, but as Kelly said, this is the ultimate job in the world. I can’t imagine doing anything else. I overheard one of my students tell his father during our slide show, look how the turtles have changed since September. I think its safe to say that both the students and myself have also changed throughout the year. Their river writing on Wednesday, was extremely reflective. http://riveredge.wordpress.com/2011/06/22/the-river-and-me-june-2011/#comment-265 Just as the river never stands still, my students past and present continue to inspire me to be a better teacher next year and to keep moving to find new ways to engage them as learners.
Have a great summer and I’ll be blogging about all the great classes and conferences that I will be attending this summer.