Last Day

My last day with my students was so emotional.

This class was especially hard to say goodbye to because I have spent both last semester and half of this semester with them.
On top of that, I spent significantly more time actually in the classroom, compared to other semesters.

I’ve really gotten to know and build special relationships with each and every one of these students.

Towards the end of the day, they “celebrated” me by showering me with gifts, going around the circle giving me affirmations, and eating lots of delicious snacks.

I burst into tears when I was handed the class gift they had gotten for me, which was a copy of “What Do You Do with an Idea?’ by Kobi Yamada with a sweet note saying “Your ideas make this world a better place” and each student’s signature. I managed to make everyone else cry, and the entire class engulfed me in a big group hug.

Through my tears, I tried to tell my students how much my time with them had meant, and how I would never forget them, especially since they were my first real classroom that I got to teach and really make my own.

I truly believe that my time in this classroom has shaped who I am as a teacher and will forever have an impact on my career as an educator.
I was surprised and touched to see that so many of the students were sad to see me go. Even the boys and the English Language Learners in the class, who I constantly worried about whether or not I was effectively building relationships with, all lined up to give me hugs and teared up.

It wasn’t until this moment that I realized that I may have managed to make just as much of an impact on them as they did on me.

The rest of the week was spent in parent-teacher conferences. This was my second time sitting in on conferencing with these student’s parents, so I wasn’t that anxious. In fact, I was really just excited to get to gush to these parents about how wonderful their children were. I kept wanting to thank the parents for raising such wonderful kids, and for trusting me with their education.

I truly believe this semester and a half was one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever been given, and feel so fortunate to have found a home in this classroom.

There were plenty of days when I was stressed out, exhausted, and discouraged. With that being said, at the end of the day, it wasn’t that hard because these kids constantly reminded me of why I came into this field in the first place and gave me the motivation to do the best that I could.

I write this post from my bedroom in Verona, ready to start the next part of my student teaching adventure. Although I am linguistically and culturally an outsider here, I carry a new found sense of confidence with me, which I have gained from my time in this class.

Last Week of Full Takeover

This week truly felt like it flew by so quickly.
I’m sad to say that my full takeover has officially come to an end.
What an incredible six weeks it has been.
I remember how afraid I was of student teaching at the beginning of the year. The thought of being responsible for everything that happened in the classroom was so daunting.
Looking back at it now, I can hardly believe that I accomplished it.
In no way was it easy, nor was it perfectly executed on my part, but I did the best that I could, and I learned so much during the past several weeks.
I learned just how important it is to be prepared for everything before the day starts. I discovered more things every day about my management and teaching style that I had never gotten to explore before student teaching. I learned just how emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausting one day can be. And I learned just how rewarding it is to run the show and call all the shots.
I couldn’t have asked for a better student teaching experience. My students were so patient and understanding. I pushed them to do their best, and they pushed me to give them my all. My cooperating teacher was the perfect balance of supportive yet hands off.
As I wrap my last week of student teaching and prepare to start my last week before leaving to Italy, I am filled with conflicting feelings of excitement and sadness.
At least I won’t truly have to say goodbye yet because I know they will still be in school when I come back and I can visit them during their last week.

“Bad” Day

This past Friday was one of those days where as soon as the students walked out of the door, I kicked my shoes off and plopped down on the classroom carpet to cry. I have to say that, it’s quite surprising to me that this is actually the first time that this has happened. I’ve had plenty of rough days, but this is the first day where I’ve been mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted enough to actually move me to tears by the end of the day. I know that this will be a common occurrence for me during the first year of my teaching career, but I’m feeling really lucky that this is the first bad day that I’ve had throughout my student teaching experience.
The day actually started off great. My cooperating teacher was gone for the day, so we had a substitute. My students have gotten used to having me as their “main” teacher for the past few weeks now, so this doesn’t make much of a difference anymore. Earlier on in the year when I was still rather new in this classroom, the difference between the students’ behavior when my coop was there and when she wasn’t was still very apparent. Since this is no longer the case, the day was off to a very smooth start. The real trouble was in the afternoon. On Fridays, we have what we call Friday Free Choice. If students have met all the requirements for it, which usually involves turning in homework and finishing up any writing, math or other work from that week, they have the choice to spend the last hour and a half of the day doing whatever they want. Usually students play games or draw and color. The first week of every month they have the option to get on their Chromebook to play games (on school approved websites of course) if they wish. In addition, we do Friday Folders, which involves sending important papers, notes home for parents, and past work all together in a folder with the students. One thing that goes into the Friday Folders every week is the homework, which is due the following Friday. I realized halfway during total lit that afternoon that I completely forgot to print off the homework for that week (again). I figured between then and the end of the day I would have enough time to print it off although, ideally, I would’ve had it ready to go so students can fill their Friday Folders and put them in their backpack before starting Friday Free Choice. Once Free Choice time starts it can be a little chaotic, and students often leave behind, crumple up, or loose papers when they are handed to them on the way out the door.
The hardest part about trying to get the homework ready for the students wasn’t even making the homework. I had it all typed out and ready to go, but printing it out was a whole other story. I had been battling with the printer for the whole week, and this afternoon was no different. Nothing quite irritates me like technology that doesn’t work the way it is supposed to. As I was running around, already flustered, I noticed that many classes were leaving their classroom. A quick glance through the windows that opens up into the gymnasium on the floor below informed me that there was an assembly going on. Seconds after this realization, I hear an announcement over the speaker asking teachers to send their student of the month down to for the assembly. I rush back to the room in a panic to ask the students if we had even voted on a student of the month for February. Different answers from different students tells me that we most likely didn’t vote for a student yet. The best I could think of on the spot was to send the student of the month from last month down, rather than just appointing a new one myself, since we always vote on them as a class. In a panic I sent the student down and got the rest of the class ready to go down to the assembly. Between this mishap and the jumble of trying to win my battle with the printer (which did not end in my favor), the afternoon was a mess and resulted in me being rather short with my students and not being able to give the individual attention that some of my students needed.
As the bell to signal the end of the day rang, I was simultaneously trying to rush the students out of the room and console a student that was sobbing hysterically for some reason that I couldn’t get out of her. I was feeling like I failed my students and was angry with myself for letting the afternoon turn into such a chaotic mess. On top of all of that, I was exhausted from the week and unsettled by the fact that I had to let my student walk out of the classroom still sobbing because she had ballet practice. Throughout all of this, I was amazed by the emotional intelligence of my students. Many of them, despite the chaos, took the time to hug me before they left or thank me for “everything that [I] do.” One student even drew me a picture and wrote a nice note. It’s so incredible how these kids can catch on to the way I’m feeling and I am delightfully surprised everyday by how thoughtful they can be. In hindsight, it really wasn’t that bad of a day, and the kindness my students showed me made up for all of it. This gives me hope that even my worst days as a teacher could never really be that bad, because at the end of the day, the relationships I get to build with my students and the love that I have for them (and in this case that they have for me, too) remains.