Friday, May 26, 2017

First Day of Summer Vacation!

Summer vacation!! Today marks Day 1, and I've managed to accomplish absolutely nothing! Haha!  Just kidding.  Last night, without the stress of the end of the school year looming over me, I managed a full, uninterrupted 8 whole hours of SLEEP!!  Hell, yes!! Then I got the dogs to the vet and took them outside for a bit.  It's been a great, stress-free Friday!

Anyway. Rewind a little... The last day of school this year was quite the adventure.  Five years ago, I got my first group of kids here in Alaska. It wasn't really a big deal. It's not like this was my first year teaching. I just got my first job in this state... after A LOT of stress because of the hiring situation here.  Long story. Maybe I'll tell it another time.

So five years ago...

I got this classroom with these kids... These FIRST GRADERS... I had no idea what to do with first graders. None. Nada. Zip. But this particular group of first graders did a TERRIBLE job of preparing me for future first graders!!  The classes to come weren't nearly as independent or kind.. Haha!  These kids, though, were so well-behaved. So independent. So kind. So respectful.  I think I only had one "challenge" in my class that year, and that was okay with me because he wasn't even really that bad.

In fact, my principal walked into my classroom one day early in the year to do an informal observation, and she turned and walked out because she thought she made a mistake putting me in first grade. (My previous five years were in fourth grade, and I did second before that.)  But my kids had my back! They told her exactly what we were learning, and they used my "fancy" words (Fancy Nancy was the sh*t back then! And she had some ~fancy~ words!) and our academic vocabulary.  My first graders were bomb dot com, fo sho!

I knew they were going to be top notch kids, but I didn't know I would get to see it first hand. This year, I was moved to fifth grade. I got to see my babies all grown up!  They were just as amazing as I remember. Still so kind. Still so respectful. Still so obedient.  I am so glad I got to meet them when they were tiny because seeing them all grown up really made my year this year!

So.. fast forward back to last Wednesday. The last day of school for students.  I put on a real dress, and we did it up at our Fifth Grade Celebration as the kids transition from elementary school to middle school.

My "real" dress

Our celebration was definitely one for the memory books. The kids practiced relentlessly for almost three weeks. My coteachers stressed over this a little, but I was lost in the sauce since it was my first year in fifth grade, so I just spent my time just trying to make sure I didn't tell my kids the wrong things. Haha! (Story of my year, seriously!)  Our Title I teacher and our interventionist decorated the stage for our students' performance.  The whole thing was so fitting for these students. (Hashtag love them!)

Kids performance for their families before they sat down for the ceremony.

Our ceremony was just as you'd think.  Certificates for students' completion of elementary school. Parents crying and smiling over the whole ordeal. Teachers trying to hold it together as they say farewells and wish-you-wells to the students.  This celebration was a little different for me since I have a longer relationship with these kids.  I didn't cry, but it was hard to keep it together. 

Then, of course, a student's dad came up to me at the end... "Ms. Dawley. I just want you to know how much I love you. You have been there for [my son] all year, and you've helped him so much.  You have so much patience, and I'm glad you were his teacher. I love you, and I know [my kid] has grown so much this year because of you."

Seriously, Dad?? Ugh!! Enough of that!! Haha. No tears!

At the end of the celebration, it is a tradition at our school (one that the students so look forward to) for all of the younger students to line the hallways and clap/cheer/high-five as the fifth graders walk through the school.  We call it our Clap Out.  It's so amazing to see how happy everyone is and to hear the teachers comment to the students on how proud they are.

Clap out through the 3rd/4th grade hall and the Kindy hall

Then, we kick the kids out because they don't go to our school anymore! HAHA!! I am so proud of all of the fifth graders, especially those who I got the privilege of having five years ago as well. Unfortunately, as we all know, families move and students don't usually stay in one place.  But I am so glad to have been able to watch my first graders walk that line and celebrate their accomplishments.  I am so proud of them!  These kids will always have a special place in my heart!

My first graders all grown up and moving on to middle school!  I had a small first grade class that year, but these ten represent almost 2/3 of them.  I love them all, and I wish them all well wherever they are right now.

And so it ends. I close the books on my 11th year teaching and head into the summer knowing that these kids have left footprints on my heart more than they will ever know.  So one more time... I pack up my classroom.  I turn in my keys.  I walk out on this year knowing I've made a difference in the lives of so many children.  Not just the 19 students in my classroom who can now say they are published authors, movie actors, lovers of books, phenomenal mathematicians, and curious scientists, but the 39 other students in fifth grade as well.  My coteachers and I were able to provide these students with such an amazing experience, and these students will never forget their end of elementary school.

"Lord, may I always remember... There is nothing more important than to make a difference in the life of a child."
-Teacher's Prayer as written on a picture frame my mother gave me many years ago.

I wish you well, my teacher friends. Those of you still finishing up your school year, you've got this! Those of you already on summer vacation, relax and spend time reenergizing.