As you can see, I have had a hard time writing this post. It's been over a month since I packed up my innercity classroom for the last time and moved my 15 boxes of prized teaching possessions to our rental house about 2 hours away. The boxes are still sitting in a sort of holding pattern in our utility room and sometimes its hard to believe I actually packed up the last 4 years into those boxes. So yes, it has been a bittersweet experience leaving my old classroom behind. In the past weeks of quiet, summer vacation that teachers await all year long, I've done a lot of reflecting and there are a few points I've learned from Room 102 and hope I never forget.
1. A good teacher can make magic happen in any type of setting.
It's no secret that for the past four years I might not have always had the newest equipment or nicest rooms. Sometimes the furniture was mismatched and falling apart, but the minute I got in the classroom every August and started putting my own touch in the room, the space came to life. It doesn't look like much when it is all packed up, but I spent so much time in that room and when it really came down to it, details of the space didn't matter. The time spent on that carpet exploring books or doing a science experiment were far more memorable then the space around us. We just got used to it and moved on. I hope I remember that if you are flexible and keep a positive outlook, it doesn't matter what the four walls around you look like. Teaching can happen anywhere.
2. My colleagues were my saving grace.
Without the support of my team, I would not be the teacher I am today. My greatest accomplishment over the past four years was being named my district's Teacher of the Year. I wish they could name a grade level of the year, because no teacher can succeed on their own. It truly is a team effort and whether I needed to vent (which happened a lot) or celebrate a breakthrough during reading group, my team was always there. Even though our school was working through some issues, I honestly believe I worked with some of the best teachers in this country. Any child would be lucky to have them. We lifted each other up and supported one another in ways that I've never experienced before and for that I will always be grateful.
3. You may not think you are making progress or a difference, but teaching is a magical thing.
I experienced some of my most frustrating days in Room 102. These walls forced me to grow up and learn some tough life lessons. I learned to be patient...really patient. I also learned how to speak up for myself in a professional and productive way. Over the past four years my positive outlook saved me, whether it was in listening to and helping fellow teachers work through a situation or talking with a parent during parent teacher conferences. I loved that just about any teacher in the building felt comfortable stopping by my room in the mornings or after school just to chat about their day. I loved the "high" I felt after an exhausting day of parent teacher conferences. But what I will remember most are the notes, phone calls and conversations with parents thanking me for my work with their child. Sometimes they felt few and far between, but when they did pop up, the passion from my parents was so strong it could bring you to tears. I grew to love these families and even when I thought we had hit a dead end, I was always amazed at the end of they year with the progress my kids made and the outpouring of support from these particular families. Their energy and dedication despite whatever was going on at home, propelled me through the tough days.
The platform of this blog was meant to document and support urban teachers. I may never work in the same setting as I've had for the past four years, but I know without a doubt the lessons I've learned in that city have set me up for a successful career in education. I'm proud to say I worked in an urban setting and had the opportunity to experience the passion of so many wonderfully dedicated teachers. And even with all of the challenges I faced, I already miss it terribly. But stay tuned...a new chapter and purpose for this blog is on the horizon and I can't wait to start the next chapter of my life as a teacher.