Tonight, I started to put together my end of the year gift to my students. For the past 7 years, I've given the same gift - a DVD slideshow, set to music, with pictures of our entire year. On the last day of school, after we get back from our picnic lunch outside, we will sit down at our seats for one last time. I will pass out individual awards (each unique, each one carefully chosen). Then, we will watch our slideshow together, as a whole class. Every year, it's the same - my kids laugh and giggle at their pictures floating across the screen, while I sit behind them, with teary eyes and a grateful heart.
I can't help but think of the past ten months. Ten months of challenging students to meet my expectations, and then challenging them to go even further. Ten months of developing independence, self-control, kindness, flexibility, and a deep understanding of what it means to think. Ten months of reading, writing, adding, subtracting, problem solving, and analyzing. Ten months of friendship circles, lessons, character building, and instilling confidence. Ten months of hugs, laughter, smiles, and jokes. Ten months of calling them "my class," "my kids." Next week, they will walk out of my room and for the billionth time this year, I will, as I do every day, tell them "I love you!" I will get lots of hugs from the girls and from my boys, fist pumps that end in our class handshake we all created together back in October.
As you head into your final weeks, it's easy to get swept up in the many "to-do" lists sitting on our desks. We have report cards, data, assessments, classroom packing, assemblies, and more. It can be overwhelming and fly by. I urge you, in these last few weeks, to take the time to simply ENJOY your kids. Draw a picture with them. Sit down on the carpet with them and read an extra story. Tell them a funny childhood story. Ask them what they are excited about for next year. Ask them what they are worried about. Give them extra hugs. Tell them you love them. :)
Sometimes we feel like we are spinning our wheels throughout the year and getting nowhere. However, you are making more of a difference than you thought. Today, one of my seniors walked into my classroom and handed me a note. I was her cheerleading coach when she was a freshman. We both had stubborn personalities. I remember a couple times when I thought, "I'm not getting through. I want her to know I care about her goals and dreams more than the sport of cheerleading. I just want to teach them how to be kind and goal-oriented young women." As a young coach who had no experience coaching high schoolers, and was also a first grade teacher, I found it difficult to be as firm and strict as I should have been. ("1-2-3 eyes on me" doesn't work with high school teenagers - just so you know.) When I resigned from coaching in order to spend more time with my husband and family, I felt defeated. I had so many things I would have done differently. What if I hadn't been as effective as I could have been? So this morning, I couldn't help but smile as I read her note:
Our students hold us in their hearts as much as we hold them in ours. We may not always see it, or realize it, or slow down enough to enjoy it as much as we should - but our impact reaches far beyond the classroom. As you say goodbye to your class this year, know that you have made a permanent sparkle in their heart and in their life.
It took you ten months to make an impact that will last a lifetime.