Closing the School Year

Ahhh! Summer vacation has begun - at least for a few days.  Contrary to popular opinion, teachers don't really have the summer totally off.  I would love to be one of those that enjoys a life of leisure during the summer months, but my summer days are always spent preparing for the next year.  Over the next 8 weeks, I will teach 10-6 hour iPad classes to district teachers, attend the Upstate Technology Conference for 2 days, become a teacher fellow in Colonial Williamsburg for an entire week, and conduct 2 book clubs.  Add in a trip to the mountains with my girlfriends and that is my summer.

This school year flew by at warp speed - faster than any other year.  It seems as if I just started and then all of a sudden it was over.  There was no slow down at the end, we just quit.  It was quite strange.  I finished teaching all of my standards on the very last full day of school.  Pretty amazing.

One of the final tasks was an awards day program for our 2nd graders.  At each awards program, each teacher chooses two children who exemplify a certain character trait and we write a letter to that student.  Normally, these are pretty routine letters that state why the child has been chosen and what I saw to qualify the award.  Our last award ceremony was anything but routine.  

I was the last teacher to read my terrific kid letters to a packed cafeteria.  The word we were focusing on was "Capable."  I chose a child in my classroom who had worked so hard this year.  She faced many challenges, but through everything she persevered.  She never, ever quit on me.  It wasn't an easy year for us.  There were many times when her confidence was shaken and I was simply exhausted, but we kept at it for the entire school year.  This child, lacked confidence in many areas.  She is the child who doesn't ask questions because she doesn't want to call attention to herself, the child who is nervous in new situations, etc.  She deserved the award hands down.  But, instead of me talking about how she showed capability in my classroom, I chose to write the letter about her future.  While I was writing this letter at midnight, I didn't think about how hard it was going to be to read it in front of 200 people.  

As I approached the podium, I already had a knot in my throat because the previous teacher had cried during her letter.  Needless to say, I didn't get very far before I broke down.  I stepped back and tried to restart many times, but ended up just pushing forward ugly cry and all.  I focused on the paper before me instead of the people in front and behind me.  My students were cheering me on with cries of, "Mrs. Looper, you can do it."  It really was the sweetest thing.  When I finally announced the name, the child hesitated in coming to the stage.  When she finally came forward, she had tears streaming down her face.  But what I didn't see were the other faces with tears streaming down cheering both of us on.  My principal, assistant principal, PTA presidents, and fellow teachers were crying with me on the stage, but so were the other parents in the audience.  I have never experienced anything so special.

Time stopped for me at that moment.  It was this moment that I think every teacher needs to experience.  She was so grateful to have received the award that she was emotional as well.  It was at this moment I realized that I wanted all students to have this sort of reaction to an award that they have worked so hard for.  Maybe not the whole ugly cry, but the sense of pride that a goal was accomplished.  It was a moment worth remembering for me.  And now, 2 weeks later, I still get teary eyed as I think of this moment.  It will go down as one of my best teaching moments - ever.