Tomorrow is Friday. That means I’ve almost made it through the first week back at school. Every year is different from the one before. You might think staying in the same room, having the same decorations, curriculum and funky sign on the door would make things pretty normal. Not so.
I’m amazed every year at the myriad of little individuals that come through my door. Some faces seem familiar as if they were cut from the same cloth as a student who came before. Some are from families I have had in my room before. Some are kindred spirits who just seem to click into place immediately.
Regardless of who or where I’m teaching, I try to make it as personal as possible. I try to get to know my students not only by name, but by interest, personality, likes, dislikes, and skill. This year, I tried something a bit different. I’m a long time Pinterest addict, so I’ve seen a lot of education/classroom ideas go by. One that really stuck out to me this summer was the idea of having your students write you a letter telling you what they wished you, as their teacher, knew about them coming into the school year. I was not prepared for this.
I handed the letters out during our back to school night the Thursday before school started. I thought it would be cute and clever to stick them in an envelope with “TOP SECRET” stamped on them. I put a letter from me in there and the instructions for their letter back to me. I shared a personal story I thought was relevant….at the time…and asked them to share back. I made a big deal out of telling parents they weren’t allowed to look in the envelope or read what was said. I told them it was a big secret between me and their student and it was none of their business. (jokingly serious)
Most students brought their top secret envelopes back on Monday. I honestly didn’t have a moment to read them til tonight. To say that I was touched would be an understatement. The things these sweet kids shared made me laugh, cry, and worry. They were open, honest and raw. I had students write things from “I’m not comfortable sharing secrets with anyone, but…” to “I get bullied easily” and “I hate that my parents go divorced this summer”. Now that I’ve gotten to know these kids a bit this week, it was easy to see their faces and add this new information to the profile I have of them in my mental data bank. I’ve basically bonded with every one of them.
The other activity I had them do was to write a Want Ad for a friend. These kids are just All Out there! After reading the things they were willing to put into a friendship and their wide eyed desire for a new friend, I wanted to be every student’s BFF!
I wish adults could be so open and honest at times. I wish we could an ad out telling exactly what we were and what we needed. I wish we could trust each other to keep secrets and to play fair and to just look out for each other. It seems so simple in 5th grade, but somewhere along the line we really mess it up.
I had high hopes for this class before I even met them. My mindset was in place and I was determined to have a fantastic year. Now that I know them, inside and out, I have no doubts that the future of the world is in my classroom. I have a great responsibility to make sure I add to their potential and help steer them in the right direction.
I’m humbled. Cause I said so.