July is halfway between the end of a school year, and the beginning of a new one. It’s always been a time when my thoughts return to the classroom. I contemplate on everything from furniture arrangement and decorations to what worked in the past and what new ideas will I implement. As a teacher we are always growing and changing. We have hopes and dreams for the year ahead. There are questions swirling in our minds…What will this new class bring? How can I make this year meaningful and memorable? What new strategies should I pursue? What needs to be put back on the shelf?
This year is a bit different. It’s the beginning of the end. I have known it was coming since I signed a form nearly three years stating I’d retire in 2017. I made that decision after realizing that with my two years of sick days counting and paying for the two years I taught outside of the state, I’d have the magic amount of time to be fully vested and receive a pension. The reason I moved forward with this plan was the uncertainty of what the state would do in future years with teacher pension. If our governor’s plan came to be I’d end up losing money if I continued to teach in the state. It wasn’t that I was ready to leave, but that I needed to consider my financial future. So, this is my finale in fifth.
Last week I taught two workshops on close reading, one on fiction and another on nonfiction to staff members from all four of our buildings. I used the Notice and Note books by Beers and Probst as the cornerstones for these sessions. The group seemed engaged, time went quickly, hopefully these ideas will find their way into more classrooms. I also realized that while it’s been a while since I taught adults, I enjoy working with this group as much as I do my 5th graders. Pervious to returning to the classroom nearly ten years ago, I taught many workshops as the Instructional Technology Coach. I had also spent just over a year working for an educational software company and helping teachers across the country implement technology into their classrooms. Perhaps I’ll head back in that direction as my new adventure. Perhaps I’ll find a teaching position in another place.
I’ve currently been working on a welcoming theme for my classroom. I’m not one to make everything match the theme for the year, but I do like to have a theme to begin the year. I decided to incorporate a movie theme this year: The Cast and Crew of room 202. Locker tags will be small versions of the Hollywood Walk of Fame Stars. The first day I’ll take student pictures with sunglasses and add to a door decoration: “Our Future is So Bright, We Need to Wear Shades.” We will be: “Setting the Stage for Learning” too.
What is different about this year, that I hadn’t anticipated, is while there are four fifth grades at our school, I’m the only returning fifth grade teacher. We have two teachers new to our district and one fourth-grade teacher looping on our new team. I’m excited to work with this group, but somehow didn’t expect to have the rest of my team making their debut in fifth while I begin my finale. I will do everything I can to make sure they are successful as I hand off the baton and they continue the race.
As I look back to my first year of teaching and the many twists and turns that has lead me to where I am now, I can’t help but smile. I’ve learned so much along the way, hopefully I’ve also shared some lasting knowledge with those I’ve met on this journey too. My adventure continues as I embark on this final year in Room 202. I am sure that when June comes around, tears will be shed as I say goodbye to this chapter. There will be milestones this year I will cross with some melancholy. There will be celebrations, laughter and smiles too just as there was when I began this journey. This year will be an adventure and I’m ready. My only question is what’s next?