Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end

How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.  -Winnie-the-Pooh

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children...to leave the world a better place...to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

It's the last week of school. Despite being a year-round year (read: longer than usual), it certainly hasn't felt like it. It's bittersweet. While I'll be at the same school next year, it's going to be in a different building, and a few new faces. It's hard to know that a lot of these kids I may never see again. Some kids are changing schools to be closer to home, others are moving. And next week, I have Reading Corps training, so fear not dear reader! My blog will continue.

As I wrap up my year--I just picked up the yearbooks that I designed for the school--and the 6th grade graduation is tomorrow--and I had end of year evaluations with my supervisors (all positive!), and an exit interview in 3 days from my program, I wonder what difference did I make? Did I "get things done for America," as per the Americorps motto? And I would have to answer yes. Yes, I did. Maybe not on a large scale. Maybe I didn't close the achievement gap, but I certainly felt like if I was a necessary part of my school's community. 

I made strides with kids who were below reading or math levels. I became a friend, teacher, sometimes mother-ish figure to my students. Almost every student in the school knows my name. I don't really know why--I barely spent any time in classrooms above the 4th grade, and while I know the name of almost every kid in the school, I certainly don't know all of them. Yet today, as I was chatting with their teacher, a few 4th grade girls came up and gave me hugs. For what? I don't know. But elementary school kids love hugs, I'll tell you that. Even the 5th and 6th graders. They're getting to the age (almost jr. high kids) where they're too cool for adults. Well, that's the front they put up at least. But I would wager that most of them still like being kids. 

Case in point: The 2nd-5th graders went on this skating/funzone field trip on Monday, and a bunch of kids came home with these arcade/vending machine toys--blow up hammers and such. But the most popular toy? Light up pacifiers. What? I didn't get it. This 5th grader who tries to act older than his age (not helped by his parents clearly--listens to Eminem and probably is watching TV/movies that are for more mature audiences than him), comes in after school with a pacifier. Not so tough now, are you?

Still it's amazing how much kids have grown in a year--when I first started putting together the yearbook, just looking at their fall pictures made everyone look like babies compared to how they look now. And realizing how much they've learned throughout the year is incredible. It's also interesting to compare how I was at the beginning of the year to now--I am so much more confident and comfortable in my roll at school--whether with discipline, making copies, or whatever. 

I'm so happy I get to be a part of the same community next year, even with the changes. I've discovered that community is a really important thing for me--it would have been hard to leave the school after just one year. The relationships I've formed would seem a waste to end after just one year. It's why I stayed in Minnesota after graduating from college--having the opportunity to visit Carleton several times this year made graduating easier. It's also why I'm torn as to whether to go to grad school in California or Minnesota. But that's a conversation for another time. Instead, I'm going to make the most of being a part of this community. I feel so lucky. And I'm not the only one. Recently a parent of a 6th grader and an alum brought the teachers treats as a thank you for all the school had done for her kids. And another family made 400 empanadas to sell with concessions for the musical, and also as a treat for the staff. They were so delicious! In addition to families, there were a lot of jr. high and high school kids--alums of the school--who had come back to see the play. 

Basically, even though I make much less than minimum wage, it's totally worth it because I LOVE my job, and just about everything about it. It almost seems wrong that I could be doing something so much less fulfilling, but making so much more money. I guess any job I have after this, no matter how bad the pay, will make me feel rich! At any rate, I'll get by on my little living stipend because I'm so happy with my life.

Related to my last post: Thanks to my friend Michelle for sending me this article to me about the realities of summer learning loss.
"Until our nation addresses summer learning loss, efforts to close the achievement gap will continue to fall short."

Also, another reason to love Matt Damon:

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