Saturday, March 30, 2013

First Year Letters

My first year of teaching, which doesn't feel like it was a full ten years ago, was a whirl wind. I wasn't in a good place school-wise, my family and one of my close friends had a lot going on. I lived in a teeny-tiny studio apartment in a not so great neighborhood by myself, with almost no friends in the area. I woke up every morning, looking myself in the mirror and telling myself that this job was actually better than law school.  When I look back at that year I find myself thinking about those memories- the constant fight to not doubt myself, the tricks I used to avoid the school's administration who was constantly nit-picking new teachers, the moments of trying not to burst into tears in front of the class because the kids were amazing and I was convinced they deserved a better teacher than I was.

I left that school and found my way to The Think-Tank where I learned that I wasn't the horrid teacher I'd been led to believe I was, that a supportive and forward thinking administration can create a brilliant school, and that teaching was in fact the right place for me over law school. (Looking back on the at first year it still amazes me that I came back to the profession).

After meeting one of my former students last week I found myself sifting through the scrap book I'd made from that year. I'd kept a few of their letters to me and put them in a book along with pictures from the year. Looking through it what strikes me the most is how much their writing changed and developed over the year. The letters from September are far different than the end of year letters. After all these years it turns out that I did teach them something that year after all.

Reading the letters also reminds me that it was a wonderful year despite everything else going on. We had an incredible class community where kids felt safe to learn. I'd forgotten about that.

Why do we have a test? Why do teachers teach?
"I enjoy being in our class. I enjoy you"
"PS. Keep up the good work"

I'm sorry we are having a winter break. I'm going to miss you.

Now that I teach students who aren't able to write these letters it's nice to take a moment to go back and remember a time when I worked with students who did drop random notes of thank you. Now I get thank yous in different forms- big smiles, spontaneous hugs, "I DID IT!" shouted at the top of a student's lungs, simply listening to a child read independently. It's different, but still good.

This year has bee difficult. I hope that ten years from now I can look back at the pictures and moments of the year and realize that it wasn't just about all the chaos and stress, but that flowers were growing among the weeds.

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