Tuesday, August 10, 2010

With the End in Sight...

If you're in any way connected to education, you're beginning to feel a simmering force field of energy around you, and you know it's coming: the First Day of School.

I've been noticing it for awhile; I once was a Year-Round Calendar teacher, and I know how it feels to get those little prickles of excitement well before now. And as I've written before, the First Day is the BEST day (which is why I capitalize it like a holiday!) Blogs this time of year will be full of First Day activities and tips, and teachers all around are anxious with expectations on this the Happy New Year of Teaching.

This year, as you hand out insurance forms and Free/Reduced Lunch applications, I hope you'll think about another exciting time of a school year - the Last Day of School. As you look at your freshly scrubbed darlings sitting quietly (which is a good thing because you don't really know their names yet), think about what they'll look like, who they'll be, on the last day of school.

Chances are they'll be worn down and weary, many who worked dilligently but still failed standardized tests, many who've endured life-changing circumstances in their home lives - separation, divorce, domestic abuse, some who haven't fit in this year and are hoping for better things ahead...

I've written about Jamie who began the school year as a sixth grader, giddy with excitement, happy as a bird as my mother-in-law used to say. Fast forward to the end - Jamie was sullen, even weepy at times, over his parents' separation and pending divorce. He acted out in an effort to get attention of any kind, even negative. I didn't let him down. There were just days when he would push my buttons, and I'd end up calling his dad. Most days I was a listener and an advice-giver. But some days he wore me to the brink of exhaustion.

Teachers get worn down, too...tired of working extra hours for less pay, tired of health insurance costing more, but covering less, and tired of hanging from the ceiling fan to teach standards to kids, some who still don't pass standardized tests.

Last week I was on a beach vacation. I rode my bike just by a marshy area beautiful with blue water and green marsh reflections. I wrote the following about one particular morning:

Oak Island Goodbye

The pelican
has a choreographed

The pattern
is not a chance
of wind and wing.

Instead he flaps
just inches
above the water
then glides
on that glassy surface
until gravity
persuades the wings
to move again.

I watch
through sea oats
and grassy marsh,
looking over
sun-dotted water
and then make a vow:

Once I’m back
to my racetrack life...
speeding in circles
and getting nowhere...

I’ll remember
this place
and that bird
and this moment.

I’ll hold it
and think yet again
to slow down
and glide.


I challenge you to cherish those First Day children all year long. On the last day, look at them again and assess what your impact has been on their lives. In between...when you're weary and they're pushing buttons, think of that day and remember the freshly scrubbed darlings of nine months ago. Hold them like that as long as you can...


Allyce said...

as I am about to start my student teaching I am SO EXCITED!!!! I have been waiting for this since I was a first grader in my own "Mrs. Warnecke's" classroom. I am just beyond excited to see those eager first grade faces on the first day! Thank you for this post.

Sioux Roslawski said...

I once went to a facility in Florida that rehabbed pelicans. I found out something interesting about these birds.

Pelicans MUST have sight in both eyes or they will starve to death. They rely so heavily on having peripheral vision, that if they lose their eye, they cannot catch fish anymore, and will die.

Teachers, today and always, rely on both of their "eyes." They see with their heart and they see with their mind.

State tests, and administrators that are so bent on achieving at unrealistic levels, try to beat the heart out of us. They want us to look at data only, at numbers and scores and pre-tests and post-tests. There are no excuses accepted; EVERYONE is expected to achieve at an advanced level.

Don't let it happen to you. Don't let your heart get taken out of the equation. Continue to look with your heart...

Allysa said...

A much-needed perspective. Thank you.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Cindi---If you get the chance, check out my posting on 8/20. I have a surprise for you.

Trina Scanapico said...

I'm so excited to find out that you blog. I'm going into my 10th year of teaching and am at a point where that spark has somewhat dimmed. In the last few years I've become a mom and found a love for photography. In the midst of this change I let the politics of education get me down. As I sat in our beginning of the year PD and chatting w/ my principal about things...I found the hope I had that first day of teaching back when I was 21. I was sitting at home yesterday with a pile of Marzano's and Tomlinson's books and thought...these books are going to be amazing...but I need some encouragement. I searched on Amazon for teacher inspiration and somehow found your book. I'm only on chapter 2 now..but I can't put it down! It's really what I needed. Thank you!

Arti said...

Good teachers are rare; great teachers are rarer still. A great teacher is not just a capable professional but is foremost an extraordinary human being. A good teacher can help you climb the ladder of achievement but a great teacher does more. He/She helps you in redefining your sense of self. To understand better how teachers shape young minds, do visit the blog at http://oneworldacademy.wordpress.com/2010/09/02/juggling-responsibilities-a-teacher-a-guide-and-a-best-friend/
or http://www.oneworldacademy.com/mainpage/gallery/publications/a-good-teacher-imparts-information.php

Chloe Andrews said...

When I become a teacher, I want to be able to encourage children on becoming the best they can be and remind them to keep their head up. I hope to one day look at the first day of school as you do. :) As of right now, that is a little tougher because I am still in college. Thank you so much for your perspective.