Monday, June 3, 2013

Tie Dye, Tug of War, Popsicles, Pizza &&& Awards... This is What the End of the Year is Made Of!

As I sit here with my cup of coffee, my 2 pups, Kathy Lee and Hoda Woman in the background, and millions of boxes surrounding me I have one thought....I made it...alive...and all in one piece. The end of the school year is a crazy, crazy time. Any teacher out there can account for that. My to do list would be enough to give anyone nightmares, but it's finished! My keys are turned in, my room is packed for the summer, and the birds are singing happy songs...right? Well, kind of...I'm stoked out of my mind about summer break (I would be nutso if I wasn't), but my nightmares about being made to move grade levels again have started. Once you've been moved unwillingly 2 weeks before school starts you never quite get over it. I know that a lot of people have been given less notice than that and my hat is off to them for keeping their sanity and living to tell their story. However, regardless of the time given to move, my fears tend to get the best of me around this time of year and my anxiety peaks about all of the "changes" that are in store for the 2013-2014 school year. Silly, I know...but when you are a smidge OCD (self diagnosed) changes are just not something that you look forward to when you spent countless hours organizing your files during the school year so that the next could run as smoothly as possible. Just in case I haven't posted my adventures in teaching before here goes...

Fresh out of college I got a job teaching Pre-K. I student taught in a first grade classroom and first grade had always been my focus. Pre-K was a shock to say the least... I was a fish out of water and I shudder to think about how completely incompetent I looked. The first day of school I busted into the cafeteria with kids hanging off every appendage (one having a serious melt down)'s the stuff movies are made of, but it was my life. I survived somehow and was moved to first grade (thankfully...for more than one reason). I taught first grade for the next 2 years, loved it, met some of my best friends in the entire world, and then the rug was ripped out from under me when I was moved to second grade unexpectedly. I spent the year with some of my favorite babies from first grade so it wasn't all that bad. At the end of the year I was given the choice to move back to first grade or to stay where I was. I chose to move back to first where my heart had never left. I've been back for 2 years... bringing me to the grand total of 6 years completed. I'll be starting my 7th year in August && hopefully I'll be in B-104 for many more years (it's my home away from home).

Now that I've gotten that off of my chest let's visit the last week of school. Field day was Wednesday so I spent my Monday off of work cutting, rinsing, and washing the tie dyed shirts my loves made for field day.

After about the tenth shirt I questioned why I do this every year, but seeing all of them together on field day in matching shirts made my aching back and dye stained fingers worth it. For field day we had 4 events: dancing, batton relay race, water relay race and tug of war. The music for the dancing portion is so old school...and it's the same every year. We didn't win any of the relay races, but the kids had a blast, I lost my voice, and of course we looked fabulous! We did manage to win one of the tug of war matches and that was the cherry on top of the sundae. My kids were so excited...seriously filled my heart for years to come seeing them jumping, cheering and high fiving each other. Obviously I can't post any pictures of my tie dyed army of 6 and 7 year olds, but this is me swallowed up in all of their tiny t-shirts.

On Thursday we had awards day. I gave out my academic related awards at the grade level  Awards Ceremony and then handed out my "Warm and Fuzzy" Awards in class later that day. (I blogged about these a few blogs ago).  I try really hard to make sure that every student gets an academic related award by the end of the year. I don't believe in giving the same kids awards time after time because if there's one thing you learn when you're teaching it's this: There is no growth too small to be celebrated! My reading award doesn't always go to the "highest/fastest reader." Sometimes it goes to the next highest or the student that reads with the best expression. Simply put, I believe in making each of my kids feel validated about themselves as a learner and it's easy as pie to do. Anyway, as a teacher you'll eventually learn that you won't be the only one teaching. Your kids will teach you a lot along the way as well. I've always felt in my heart of hearts that academic awards didn't compare to the awards that recognize students for who they are. Call me a flower child at heart, but there's something to be said when someone recognizes you for what makes you special--what makes you, you! From day one of school I'm of course paying attention to what my kids can do academically (that's my job), but I'm also paying attention to their quirks. What they like and don't like. Who they are and what makes them special in my heart. My warm and fuzzy awards are my way of saying thank you for being you- -I love you for who you are not what your test scores are. Until this year, I haven't had a parent comment on the awards. I gave my awards out on Thursday (the last full day) because 5 of my kids weren't going to be there on the last day of school. On Friday morning one of my parents came to my room to drop of snack bags for the kids. She shared a few pictures of the award that I gave her child for being the "Class Sweetheart." The first was a picture of C with her award smiling. The second was a picture of the award framed and sitting on C's nighstand by her bed. C also received an award for being a Star Reader, but that award wasn't in a frame. Call it what you like, but for me it was God validating what I've always felt in my heart...that recognizing the whole child is much more important than focusing so much on their test scores. Test scores aren't everything...I remember all of my teachers for their kindness and for them making me feel loved. No doubt they taught their butts off and molded me into who I am academically, but they also made me feel loved...and that's what I remember the most.

The last day of school was a half day so it pretty much went like this... breakfast, clean up, dance party, finish writing in our memory books, clean some more, pack, lunch, finish Finding Nemo, &&& go home. Of course I had an end of the year gift for my loves. Nothing special, but just a little something wishing them a cool summer.

None of my friends cried this year. Their hugs were a little tighter than usual, but no tears were shed. I don't think they realize that they aren't coming back to our class next year. That's how it was for me when I was their age. I remember skipping out of school on the last day after giving my first grade teacher a hug. I swam all afternoon in my Grandparents' pool and had a blast. Summer was awesome! It wasn't until I was sitting in the tub later that night before bed that it hit me...I was a second grader now...I wasn't going to have the same teacher next year...and I cried buckets.

Speaking of crying buckets..I might not have cried with my kids, but as a grade level we sure cried buckets after school when the reality that 2 of our team members weren't coming back next year sunk in. One is retiring and one is getting married/moving. All I can say is retirement has never been done bigger or better at our school. ..go big or go home! Long story short, we decorated her door, put together a really sweet slideshow, had her family come to the school for the send off, and rented a limo to take us to happy hour. It was the best last day ever!

First grade won't ever be the same, but we made some memories that will last a life time. #forever1stgrade2013

Now that I've successfully avoided unpacking for 2 hours I guess it's time to get busy. Living in the land of boxes isn't exactly the look I was going for with the new house. I'll be back at some point this week to blog about what else...SUMMER! && maybe about next year...if my brain can handle it! Until, love, &&& enjoy summer vaca!

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