Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Bringing our Time to a Close

These are the days that are difficult to write about. These ending days. As the school year comes to a close, as seniors don their graduation gowns and teachers begin to pack up their rooms, I am reminded that this year is a closing of a different sort. I am moving on with my graduating seniors.

Monday night was graduation.  I gathered with my group of 19 advisory seniors, students who I have seen nearly every school day since their first day as freshman, shared with them congratulations and tears, and watched them walk across the stage, reach out for their diploma. My 19 rowdy and resilient advisory students.

Just a few days before we shared our final homeroom together, celebrating with water ice and gifts. With the help and generosity of some fantastic writers, I was able to give my seniors a personalized and signed copy of a book as a graduation gift. Daniel Pink, Charles Duhigg, Brene Brown, K.M. Walton, and Tiffany Schmidt helped me pull off quite a surprise by signing copies of their books for my students. And I also was able to give them something back. The first day of their freshman year, I had my students write a letter to themselves, telling them that I would give it back to them when they graduated. A few of them had forgotten about the letter. Reading that letter helped bring to a close their high school experience by remembering where it all began.

On Monday night as I sat with them listening to the evening's graduation speakers, I was reminded of where my experiences as a teacher began. It began with them. Their first day of kindergarten, September 3, 2002, was also my first day as a teacher. It seems fitting that I am moving on along with them. This will be my last graduation with this district as I prepare for my summer move back to my home state of Michigan. My last graduation, last speeches, last final exams.  These past few days have been quickly bringing my first teaching position to a close.  And just like it was for my graduating seniors, it is an emotional time.  We are both taking time to look behind us, look at how far we've come, as well as to look ahead, both anxious and excited.

My classroom has become a metaphor for change. Earlier this year, my classroom won an award for the makeover I undertook this past summer in order to make my classroom a more brain-friendly, collaborative learning environment. Now, it is bare. As I pack my classroom library into rubber bins, take down the international flags, student work, and posters, students comment on how it no longer feels like "home." They've walked into our classroom each day this week with exaggerated pouts, "Ms. Ward, this isn't our room."  I couldn't agree more. Students no longer see themselves reflected on the four walls of our room. I no longer see myself reflected here. It reminds me how hard these closings can be. But at the same time, these empty walls are also full of possibility. They will welcome a new class and a new teacher next fall, all full of their own hope and potential. And I hope to find a new home, new students and teachers to work with. As the saying goes, when one door closes...
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