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Saturday, June 29, 2019

End of the Year Wrap Up: A Teacher's Perspective

End of the Year Wrap Up: A Teacher's Perspective
As I write this, we have 8 days of school left in our year (although it'll be summer break by the time you read this).

We began our year by counting the days we've been in session, and it's somehow morphed over to the ultimate countdown to summer. I look at this dwindling number with both excitement and pangs of sadness. My time with these little students--my charges for the school year--is almost up.

Since I teach at a Montessori school, there is a high probability that over half of my class will return to my care next year, but the 3rd graders will not. They'll be moving on to the world of Upper Elementary where there are no more birthday circles, homework is abundant, and independence is the key to success.

As I write this, I'm taking a break from filling out report cards. It is exciting to see the measurable data in student progress. Looking at beginning, middle, and end of the year test scores can sure make me crack a smile! However, the things that you can't measure--and no one else can really see--are the most valuable to me. Too bad it's the least important data for a report card.

Report cards don't capture how many hugs we gave (and received) this year, how many times a student stopped what they were doing to help a friend, who participated in class discussions or the several times we completely got derailed in order to stop and appreciate each other.

I value the academic accomplishments and am so proud of my students, but I really want to highlight some of the biggest milestones we had this year.

At lunch one day, one of my most reserved students felt safe enough to respectfully advocate her perspective on adopting animals. She did it in such a mature and kind manner that I was completely taken aback. I emailed her mom to let her know how proud I was of this young girl.

I also had a student who is so shy that he hardly ever speaks in group settings. He has gained some confidence this year, but I was completely blown away when he nailed his solo part in our class play! He sang his little heart out on stage. I was teary eyed watching him and again while writing this.

I have a little first grade boy who demonstrated to the class what grace looks like during a puzzle contest in which he challenged me. He's an expert puzzle master (but so am I) and all year he's asked if we can do a "puzzle challenge." With 20 minutes on the clock, we both frantically scrambled to put a 100 piece puzzle together in the classroom in front of our biggest fans (my other students). He's good enough that I couldn't let my guard down and I ended up winning (barely). Instead of sulking, he stood up and gave me a high five and said, "Ms. McKenzie, thank you for doing that with me." His reaction speaks volumes for his character.

Report cards also don't measure the fact that this year one of our classmates passed away. It doesn't show the compassion these kids were capable of, the tears that were shed, and the projects that were sprung into action to memorialize a good friend. It doesn't show that we lost instruction time because we were too sad and confused to go on. Or that I now have a huge stack of books about the loss of a child and my class has every one of them memorized. 

Report cards don't show that their little hearts had to go through so much.

They don't show the times that I asked students to just pitch in and help me get things done and the little sleeves that rolled up instantly. They don't show the coffee that was delivered, the lunch that was shared or the times that we all belly laughed together.

My favorite memory of this year happened right after we returned from winter break. Our classmate passed away while we were on break, and I was distracted and foggy one day and stood in the lunch line holding up 3 fingers instead of our usual 2 finger peace sign. One student said, "What are you doing Ms. McKenzie?"

I immediately snapped to it and felt myself getting embarrassed and turning red. They must have noticed because they all sprung into action saying, "That's OK, Ms. McKenzie! It just means extreme peace." I looked around and all 23 little hands were proudly holding up 3 fingers to save my pride. I started crying, of course, and proudly displayed my 3 finger peace sign the rest of the way to the lunch room.

To this day you'll find my class holding up 3 fingers instead of 2, 99-percent of the time. It's a special memory that only this particular class will ever really understand. I know that five years from now, if we run into each other in the halls and hold up 3 fingers it will be like our own little secret language.

So, while I value data and understand the importance of assessments, I also value life experiences just as much. While I'm writing report cards and inputing numbers, I'm also reviewing our year together. If your student didn't get the highest points on a math assessment or isn't reading at the desired level, remember that doesn't mean your child isn't successful. I can guarantee that your child's teacher can rattle off a hundred special memories from their year together that would demonstrate what type of person your children are much more effectively than any data driven report card can.

So my little birds are getting ready to fly the nest.

I'll send them on their way and wait for some of them to return to me next year. For those that won't, I'll check on them (secretly of course) and wait for the opportunity to hold up 3 fingers next time I see them in the hall.

How did the year finish up for your kids? What are you looking forward to for summer and next school year? Leave a comment and let us know!