Today is my last day of school. My first year of teaching is done. Saying goodbye has never been easy for me. As a teacher this is one of the realities I knew would hit me every year as a group of students move on. This year is particularly difficult because I wasn't prepared to be moving on myself. I had envisioned having half of my students (my current 5th graders) return next year and seeing the other half in the hallways as they started their junior high school days.
As I was reflecting on the year I began by wondering if I had taught this group of children anything at all. In fact, as we were having class wrap-up discussions one boy even said he hadn't learned anything in social studies. That's a bunch of hooey, and I know it. I think he's just a 6th grader who doesn't want to admit he worked hard. I saw incredible growth in this child, especially in the last month.
I realized, though, that I wasn't too worried about how much social studies the kids learned. Sure, I hope they picked up on some concepts. To be honest, though, I really hope I taught them skills they can take with them for a lifetime. I hope they learned that a person can be honest yet kind. I hope they learned that the amount of effort put into a project has a direct effect on the outcome. Be it a grade or just a matter of pride, effort really does matter. I could list dozens of ideas I hope my students have learned. THESE are the important parts of teaching in my opinion. It is what drove me to be a teacher.
Here is a poem I wrote the other day that I hope captures my thoughts:
Tonight I remembered exactly why I teach...
A thought that lately has seemed so out of reach.
In this time of stress and worry,
Testing, homework, hurry, hurry, hurry
Tonight, though, I remember why I teach.
It's about the whole child, never just a part
It's not about their brains, their grades, their abilities
It's all about what's in their hearts.
Now we move along, each on our own path
And as we part they should know that this is not an end...
It is just the start.
I hope I taught them well-
Not just history but the things that really matter.
Only time will tell.
To my students I now say goodbye
(Yes, it's said with a sigh-
You've noticed that every time we've had to part).
Go out there and capture the life's best.
I've given you the tools..
It's up to you to do the rest!