Winding Down

The hallways are quiet.  For now.  I know that in a few hours these hallways will be teeming with students anxious for their first breathes of summer.  I know, too, that there will be students who will be sad to see the year end.  Who have gotten comfortable in their classrooms, who know their important place in their classroom communities, who are sure of the people and things around them, who are anxious at the thought of what will come next.  It is like this for teachers too. 

We have three days left of the school year.  Days to reflect and laugh together about the moments that filled our years.  Time to think about how to take what has happened this year and use it to move forward and to be better students and teachers in the future.  

This year was a learning experience for me.  They all are, really. But this year brought a new structure to my teaching.  This year, for the first time, I taught two classes of fifth grade.  I taught them literacy and my co-teacher taught math, science and social studies.  For the first time, I was able to focus all of my energy on literacy.  For the first time, I was able to give all of my time to individualized and differentiating my reading and writing workshops.  For the first time, I was able to focus on just being a better literacy teacher.  

But there were challenges as well.  For the first time, I had to get to know two different groups of students.  I had to find my own place in two different classroom communities.  I had to build relationships with twice as many students and twice as many parents.  I had to work to bring together two very diverse sets of learners.  And this was hard.  This was really hard.  

To me, there is nothing more important than building positive relationships with students.  There is no content that will ever be as important to me as the connections I make with my students.  If there is one thing that I want them to remember about their year with me, it is that they were loved by me for being exactly who they are.  And that was harder to do with two groups of kids.  There were times throughout the year that I felt like I was failing.  There were moments when I felt more connected with one group or the other.  There were moments when I felt like there were students who snuck past me because I had two groups to focus on instead of one.  There were moments when I just felt like it wasn’t working. 

And now, in this time of reflection, I have to look back and give myself a break.  Yes, there were kids who slipped past me.  Yes, there were moments when I was more connected with one group than the other.  Yes, there were kids I did not reach.  AND there was a lot of kids that I did reach.  AND there were a lot of moments when things felt really good.  AND there were kids who did better because they know I loved them for exactly who they are.  

At the end of the day, at the end of the year, all I can do is look ahead.  I can take what I learned this year and use it to do better next year.  That is the true measure of a person.  Not that they do things perfectly the first time, but that they take the parts that aren’t so perfect and work to make them better in the future.  

So that is my plan.  On top of all the other learning that I plan to do this summer, and all of the new work that I plan to begin next year, I also hope to reflect on how to sure up these connections next year with both groups of students.  How to love two groups of students for their unique and varied personalities.  As long as I do better each year, then I know that I am going in the right direction.

I would love any advice, from those of you who teach more than one group of students, on how you build relationships with all of your students and all of your groups.  Any words of wisdom are always appreciated!