Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Summer Break "To Do" List

It's summer. I'm out of school on break but my mind keeps drifting back to tasks awaiting me when I return. You'd think that an Instructional Coach wouldn't have much to do or think about when teachers are out on summer break but I beg to differ. There are state standardized test scores to analyze; There is a School Improvement Plan to write; There are two math manipulative kits to assemble; There are three leveled libraries delivered but not yet coded and distributed to three new classrooms; There is an office to move and unpack; There is a office/classroom to decorate; There are new math diagnostic assessments to edit, copy, and distribute; There are three new EXCEL math spreadsheets to create. And, these are just the few unfinished items that are first popping up in my mind.

I worked last Friday and this Monday to get a jump start, and I'd like to think that I could work a few more days before teachers come back, but much like the rest of my summer, I'll be leaving today for a state baseball tournament, followed by a fun filled week of family vacation, followed by perhaps the regional baseball tourney in NC. To say the least, the list of unfinished business never dwindles rather just gets replaced by items added to the next list. So, like teachers and administrators, as a coach, I too, will keep widdling away to get tasks finished and try not to stress about how much is still left to do. Who says summer is all fun and games?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Goodbye for Now

Yesterday, I embraced a heartbroken mother, consoled a grieving father, and hugged a devestated little sister. Today, I will watch as her parents say their final goodbyes and bury their beautiful teenage child. I stand by this loving family grieving during this most devastating time because their vibrant energetic child once shared her smile and educational journey with me-I was blessed to be her 5th grade teacher and she was my student.

These are stories not often shared with eager baby teachers during their college years. They are not lessons taught in a college classroom rather come with experience as they arise. I would tell them that they are entering a profession of distinguished honor and sometimes heartbreak. They are beginning a journey where the fabric of their own life will be tightly woven with that of many families. Along this adventure, they will feed hungry children, worry about their home lives, hear their stories of strife and disappointment, and spend their hard earned salary buying some of them school supplies. This is not a profession that ends at the end of a school day or even school year.

As a teacher, they will shed tears for the children in their care, but more often than that they will reap the plentiful benefits and see the extreme beauty in teaching as children celebrate their successes. A college professor will not tell them that each child will become a special part of who they are. The children they are blessed to have as students will have talents abound and they have a responsibility to make sure each of them shares their gifts. My advice to a teacher just starting their career would be--Get to know them; Get to know their parents; Get to know their siblings. Genuinely listen as they reveal who they are to you. Enjoy each of the 180 days that they call you their teacher. Keep each class photo and display it with honor. Remember their faces and their names. No matter how old they are, or how many years have passed, they will always be your students.

As teenagers and young adults, they will seek you out in a crowd. They will make sure to say hello as they pick up a little sister from school. They will tell you about college as they check you out at Target, wave to you as you pass them holding a sign at a local store, and give you their employee discount as they check you out at your favorite Chinese takeout. They will stop by school hoping that you are still there so they can share their celebrations and sometimes their disappointments. Some of them will conquer extreme obstacles even scaling the steepest wall of cancer as you stand by and cheer them on. You will be amazed at their level of maturity, strength, and perseverance. Your heart will sing for them. On the other hand, some of them will make poor decisions, even end up doing jail time. You will wish you could step back in time and talk to them as a youngster, to try to persuade them to make the right choices. You would help them with the sorrow if you could. In life, some will be victorious and some will be defeated. They are all your students. In your eyes, you will always believe in them, in their ability to reach their fullest potential.

The lovely young woman being laid to eternal rest today was a great success. She was a delightful student- intelligent, energetic, and friendly. As I whispered, “I am so sorry,” to her mom yesterday, she said to me, “She loved you, you know. She always came home talking about you.” For me the feeling is mutual, I loved her, too. I hope that every student I ever teach, no matter their age, will feel the same way. I hope that with each of them I put relationships first and foremost.

Beginning teachers sometimes don’t realize how their heartstrings will tug and their tears will fall, but in time, they will. And, to me, I’m blessed that they do, because it most likely means that not only did they touch my life, but most hopeful I touched theirs, too.