Celebrate with Ruth Ayres @ ruth ayres writes …. because, we need to celebrate moments in our lives every chance we get!
Today, I celebrate my first class of kiddos:
All of you are now on your way to your dorms, ready to begin your freshman year at colleges and universities far and wide. It seems such a very long time ago now that you walked into my second grade classroom, all bright eyed and squirming with excitement, ready to begin a new year with a brand new, first-year teacher. Today, as I do at the end of every August, I unpacked this photograph of our class and placed it on the window sill of Room 202. My new sixth graders will be curious about this picture, and I will have to explain that it is because I learned so much from you that I want to hold on to and remember every new school year. And, in that way, I celebrate our special year of learning and the teacher I am today because of what I learned from you.
I remember starting our day with a good morning zydeco, dancing in our meeting area and clapping our hands to the beat. I remember snow dances to bring on snow days, and rain dances to celebrate buckets of rain pouring down just outside our big windows. You taught me that joy, and laughter, and silliness were just as important to our learning community as reading, writing, science, and math.
I remember walking around the school with yard sticks, rulers, and clipboards to measure the perimeter of our building and play ground. And, I remember trying to figure out how to balance varying cupfuls of water on hangers outside our classroom. In my new-to-teaching enthusiasm, I didn’t realize that multiplication and volume were not in the second grade curriculum. But, you figured it all out, anyway. My ignorance gave you the freedom to push boundaries and learn; I had such faith in your abilities, and you rewarded me each time by delivering on each high expectation, you thrived on it. You taught me to think beyond boundaries and have faith in my students’ innate desire to view learning as an exciting adventure.
I remember sitting under the big oak tree near the playground and taking time to read “Danny, Champion of the World” when Spring arrived at last. I remember how you spread out on the grass, on your backs so that you could see the passing clouds and the just budding leaves of our “Danny tree”. I remember whispered pleas to “read that part again”, and the conversations that would flow at the end of each chapter. There were no prompts, or guided questions, just your curiosity and your hearts leading us to think about kids and parents and love. You taught me that the heart of any reading workshop was creating a love and wonder of story, and investing on the emotional atmosphere that cultivates love and wonder in story.
I remember your forgiveness when I made mistakes: lessons that didn’t pan out, unclear directions that led to confusion and chaos, and the times I misunderstood and misjudged. You taught me that our mutual trust was a critical element in our classroom, and that my honesty in admitting mistakes was vital to our classroom culture, and our ability to learn and grow together. You taught me that I would grow every teaching year, too, because of the children in my room.
I remember the years after, too. Nothing made me happier than seeing some of you back in my sixth grade classroom when you finally made it to middle school. And that joy was the same as you stopped by to visit as you made your way through middle school and high school. I remember seeing fine young women and men in those last high school years, and marveling at this gift I had been given – to watch you grow up, and to be a part of your learning lives for so long. With each college acceptance that you burst into my room to share, I felt a bittersweet tug; you would be moving outside the circle of my attention finally, even as you found your paths in life. You taught me that teaching is all about building relationships with children; teaching is all about love.
So, 2S, wherever you are today, do great things, change the world, drop me a line from time to time, and come visit Room 202 when you are home and have the inclination. Thank you for all you have done to make me the teacher I am.