Year 4 in the books

Today I said goodbye to another year and another group of students. It was a bit difficult as I said goodbye to many students I'll miss after our move. Though this was my most challenging year as a teacher, it was also the most gratifying. Here's why:

I teach English. It's not a subject area most kids look forward to because they see it as boring, irrelevant, or it's a subject they've struggled with before. Each year I work hard to try and "win" kids over and prove them that writing and reading IS relevant, can be exciting, and is an area in which they can succeed. Kids are a tough sell sometimes; nonetheless, each year I manage to change a few minds--but this year, I feel like I've changed more than a few. What's shocking is many in this group of students refused to complete assignments, didn't participate in class discussions, failed a portion of the course, and simply acted like they were too cool for English. It was maddening. I felt like I spent hours contacting parents. I gave many pep talks to kids after school. I wrote letters encouraging struggling students. I made more modifications and accommodations than I ever have. I did hands on projects with kids and let them have choices. It was exhausting. And many times I felt like nothing I did helped some kids. As a teacher, you sometimes don't see the fruits of your labor until the end of the year or much later down the line. Today I realized my efforts, no matter how exhausting, were worth it.

In the past few weeks I've received a few emails inviting me to read and follow some of my 9th grade students' (and former students'---I think 9 total) blogs. Of course, I've accepted each one and have tried to read and respond to all of them. Some of these same kids even started a writing group. They call themselves "Pen on Paper" and they've already had one meeting on their own and have another next week! They created a blog to share writing ideas and to stay in touch with one another over the summer. Some of these same kids gave up an entire Saturday a few weeks ago to attend a writing festival at UNK I helped organize. As an English teacher, I'm "geeked out" about this. To watch your students fall in love with writing, continue writing long after class in a public manner, and work to hone their skill is indescribable. Of course, letters and gifts from kids are nice, but watching kids fall in love with my subject area is far better! I'm excited to follow these young writers via their blogs; I hope their passion isn't squelched by other teachers, other students, or the numerous state tests they'll take throughout their high school years.

I'll leave you with a few photos of some writing and art work a few students left on my car today. It was cute because before 1st hour, they came up to me and asked if they could chalk my car!

If you can't read the text on the windows, one phrase says "I'm all geeked out"--this is one I frequently use when referring to things I enjoy.

The back window reads, "'member when we killed word real?'" --during our unit on word choice, we make a list of words we're going to bury and never use in essays again. These girls came up with the word "real" as in, "that pizza was real good..." they were "real" proud of that one.

Again...proud of their artwork :)

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