I finally finished it all.
I can never again use the excuse that I am a first year teacher. I am not a first year teacher. I'm excited and planning and anticipating for next year.
The last day at school was a sad one. Not only was it the last day of school, but all the students and all the teachers are going to new schools next year. The students are getting split up, going to one of three or four different elementary schools. None of the teachers are teaching at any of the schools the students are going to, so they will not see their old teachers, as they are generally used to doing.
All throughout the last day, I had children hanging on me. Coming up and randomly hugging me. Telling me they love me. Just being there, next to me.
The students are sad to be split up, and worried about next year. Even on the last day, they were still asking about why the school had to close. Commenting that today was the day they had been dreading, the day that the school would be shut down.
I had a student come up and ask me, "Ms. Grownup, Why does the school have to close?"
He knows the reason. We have had many conversations about it. "You know why," I told him. "We've talked about it before. Why is the school closing?"
He sighed. "It's because they don't have enough money," he sadly and knowingly explained.
And it broke my heart a little more, because so many of the students hear that as the reason for so many disappointments in their lives. This child especially. There's not enough money. There's not enough money for a uniform without holes or a snack after school. And now there's not even enough money to keep the school that he's gone to for the last two years. The school that he has come to trust as the good place. The place that helps to take care of him, and teach him, and feed him. Of course, he'll go to a school next year that will do all those things, and he will be fine. But he doesn't know that now. None of the students know that. They will all be fine. All of us will be fine. But the uncertainty, what almost feels like broken promises for the children, that's not fair. There's not enough money to keep the school.
But aside from the sadness, it was a good day. I love these kids. They would come up and tell me they loved me, and I would respond by saying I loved having them in my class, because it didn't feel appropriate to tell them I loved them back, but I do. They were my first class. I think there has to be something special, something magical about one's first class.
My goal for the year had been to survive. And despite my posts of frustration throughout the year, I did much, much more than that. My goal had been to teach them just enough that I didn't completely embarrass myself. To teach them just enough that they were able to make up whatever deficits I had caused when they reached second grade. But, somehow, we all learned together. I have no doubt that I learned more than they did. I learned so much. But really, so did they.
At the end of the day, the moms came and hugged me, gave me a kiss on the cheek, thanked me for teaching their children. I loved the parents, too. I had some really wonderful parents in my class. The location of my classroom allowed me to see the parents every morning as they dropped off their children, and every afternoon as they picked them up. I chatted with them at the time. I spoke to them in my sometimes shaky Spanish, and they repeated themselves as many times as I needed until I understood. I loved talking with the parents. Conferences were some of my favorite times of the year. Even the kids who sometimes drove me crazy, who I tried all year to figure out, I loved talking to their parents during conferences - commenting on the areas they needed to develop, but expounding on the areas in which they were awesome.
It was a good year. Even without the extreme test preparation that I had used other quarters, more than 90% of my students "exceeded" on the district math test. 80% were reading at or above grade level. Only 30% were "meeting" for fluency, but despite the fact that the district and my administrators cared a lot about fluency, I really didn't. I worried more about comprehension and decoding, and that most of them were able to do. We did some science, we did not nearly enough true social students. We developed inside jokes. We became a class.
I can only hope that my next class is as fabulous as this one was. We had our struggles. If all the students I had this year had stayed in the class, I would have had 12 more students than I actually ended up with. We had a lot of movement. But, we bonded. We talked until the end about the students who had gone. (And they were all able to articulate why students sometimes need to move suddenly in the middle of the year.)
If I created such a community this year, in my first year, I suppose I'll be able to do it again next year. Right now, it seems so daunting though. Wow. They came in barely knowing their numbers to 20, reading at kindergarten levels, and they left being able to answer complex questions about number sense and mathematical reasoning and most reading at a 2nd or 3rd grade level. First grade is so neat. We made it. Together we made it.