This has been a monumental year of both personal and professional growth, which has made this the most difficult post for me to write so far. However, I took it as a sign as to its importance, and after many drafts, its come together.
Exactly one year ago, June 2012, I was elated. I had earned my permanent teaching contract after continuous movement and was ecstatic at the reality that the fall would bring my own classroom from beginning of the year to the end. No more leaving classrooms mid-year or transfers to new schools, I would finally have a home and enjoy watching the growth of my students for a complete year.
What I came to learn that summer was that life rarely goes as we plan it to. What I hadn’t seen coming was the complete dissolution of my home life as I knew it, right as the school year began. Instead of joy and elation, I was consumed with grief, immense pain and bewilderment at the current state of events unfolding around me. Yet, I knew I had 21 beautiful, eager and excited students depending on me and needing me to be their guide and leader for the year. I had worked so hard pursuing my dream of teaching and I was bound and determined not to allow anything to stop me from enjoying it.
I set aside everything in my life that was not working and focused on what was, on the good. I was immediately surrounded by my family, friends and amazing colleagues. I knew that with their support, anything was possible and so I set off to make it the best year my students and I would ever have. It was going to be one to remember, and I wanted it to be remembered for the positives that were created.
During the most difficult of times, I thought of my students even more so than I usually do. How many of them struggle with hardships? How many of them have to confront issues that are overwhelming to them? How many of them need just one person who loves and supports them on a daily basis to make it through? Don’t we all? As an adult, life difficulties can present unimaginable obstacles and so my thoughts were with those students who I have met over the years whose lives were in constant turmoil. I thought of their perseverance, their dedication and their strength and just how amazed I was and still am at their accomplishments, despite the obstacles. I was going to make it, and I was going to do it for them.
I set about to make each and every day full of fun and learning. We laughed more this year than in any of my previous teaching years. I let go of the what ifs and should bes and allowed the learning to happen through inquiry, play and choice. I learned more and more about each of my student’s passions and lives. I supported them in their learning and little did they know it, but they were also helping me to learn and grow into not only a better teacher, but a better, stronger, braver me.
One of my students anonymously placed the note in the photo above on my desk in February. I was moved to tears knowing that I was affecting their lives in positive ways. This was all I ever wanted, to be able to instil a love of learning in my students.
We accomplished so many amazing things this year. We experimented, we failed, we succeeded, we persevered, we connected, we grew and most importantly we laughed.
Through adversity comes strength. This year I learned that the power to define my life is in my hands. This was something I had always believed and reinforced with my students, but it took a life re-direction for me to truly experience it. The amount of personal change and growth this year has also propelled me into significant professional changes. My passion for writing, reading, researching, experimenting and technology had been re-ignited. I feel as if I’m on the cusp of so many amazing experiences and this is just the start!
So, as this year has come to an end, to my students I say:
“No, Thank YOU… because YOU changed MY life in learning.”