Looking for that Umbrella
As I sit here looking at the once dust-covered box (had to wipe it off; the dust was making me sneeze), I struggle to find the words to explain the emotions going through me...happiness, sadness, fear, regret...I'm not really sure how I should feel. The box contains artifacts from my first two or so years of teaching. I know there's cards from kids and parents in there, and lots of photographs, there may even be a copy of the VHS video yearbook I made for every student I taught my first two years.
I'm not sure what possessed me to crawl up into my steamy attic today to retrieve it - maybe the rain outside on this humid summer day giving me more computer time causing me to look at posts on Facebook from former students who are now, dare I say, "young" adults. Maybe it's the realization that I will be moving to a new subject and grade level after sixteen years, basically starting over. Believe me, the stresses feel like year one, the only saving grace is I have an amazing "bag of tricks" and stories to share that can engage a class at any moment. My emotions are a continuous roller coaster - happiness for the opportunity to start over, sadness at the realization that I won't be watching kids grow over the next three years, excitement over the amazing things I have planned for my kids.
I'm going to open the box in a few minutes and I'm not sure where my thoughts will go, or what I will post. Whatever I share, I know the emotions I feel from the items in that box are going to be powerful.
I can't explain the emotions. What I do know is this little box is invaluable. What has made these contents even more valuable is the connections on social media. I've connected with so many former students and I am watching them grow up before my eyes - raising their own kids and starting families, traveling, dealing with the ongoing struggles of life, and making moments in their lives. Some of my former students are no longer with us, and as I look at their pictures my heart breaks. Man, I miss some of these kids.
Being a teacher and developing relationships is the most important thing we can do. I often wonder the impact we have on our students, and what's crazy, is we'll never know. What I also know is that they may never know the impact they've had on me. With so much negativity and "rain" in our profession, we often lose sight of why we do what we do...why we teach.
I could post hundreds of pictures, not sure why I chose the ones I did, they just pulled at my heart or they showed things I was doing fourteen, fifteen or so years ago that are still essential in today's classroom, and I wanted to share with other teachers in the hope that they could learn a little something from them.
What I learned looking back is that relationships are what matter most in the classroom. Kids are people too and we must never forget that. I also noticed one thing in almost every one of the 400 plus pictures I looked at - smiles. We must never forget to have fun. The kids in front of us will never forget how we made them feel. I challenge you as educators to look at the pictures from almost two decades ago and see what else you can learn.
Sixteen years in and I have lots of boxes, a shelf in my classroom closet, and two bulletin boards devoted to the keepsakes from my students. I remember as an undergraduate student one of my professors encouraging us to keep a box with the things kids give you, from cards, to letters, photos, and all kinds of little odds and ends - to save it for the rainy days in the classroom. Believe me, you can never have enough of those umbrellas as a teacher.