Saturday, May 29, 2010

I Hope...

I hope the bandana reminds you of fun
Clear Creek
capture the flag

I hope the books remind you to READ
thirty-eight minutes a day
because you're going to

I hope the patriotic candy reminds you to
soldier on
a virtuous citizen
the Hope of America

I hope the lupine seeds remind you of
Miss Rumphius
things you're going to do
to make the world
a more beautiful place

I hope you'll stop to say
next time you see me
even if I don't remember your name
and it's already been
seventeen years

I wrote the above poem as part of a little bye-bye present I gave my students yesterday, the last day of my twentieth year of teaching. I thought I would have big feelings about this big milestone of twenty years, but the feelings are just normal...out with the old, after shedding a few tears, and in with the new. I loved my class this year, especially that I started with only twenty-nine and ended with just twenty-six. I still can't get over the thirty-seven I had last year. Once I got home, K and I hiked up to the cave for exercise. Where did I go in my first minutes of "summer vacation?" To my other full-time job!

I was honored again this year as Teacher of the Year. This is such an awkward rite, but I appreciate the appreciation. I assume my principal submitted my name, but when I emailed him about it, he didn't reply. It would be nice to know why I was chosen. Unlike the first two times, I went farther than just the school level. After the district emailed me (on April Fool's Day...are you kidding me?) to let me know that I was my school's "winner", they asked me to submit some paperwork to "compete" at the district level. I thought about not doing it since my application didn't get recognized last time, but the obedient side of me won and I sent it in on the last possible day. They must have liked something about it. I had to send in three letters of support. Last time I asked an administrator, a teammate, and a parent to help me out. Nothing. This time, I got current and former students to write letters and as it turns out, I got another email from the district letting me know I was a finalist for the western portion of our school district. My principal was getting copies of all these same emails and yet he never spoke to me about it or announced anything to the faculty. I was then summoned to the district office for an interview. My principal told me to have my team cover my class for me as the interview was in the middle of the day with a fixed time. My team covered for me, though I've worn out my welcome this year with them, due to so many appointments. I didn't feel like I could tell them why I had this particular appointment. It's hard to look your fellow teaching slaves in the eye and casually mention, "By the way, guess who's Teacher of the Year?" They are all so deserving. It's pretty ridiculous to choose one out of the whole school, but that's how the game is played. I'm guessing that's why my principal can't talk about it with me or congratulate me in front of the faculty...he wishes he could nominate everyone.

I walked out of that interview thinking, "Not it." I didn't cough up any stellar answers and I felt pretty flat about the whole thing. No one could have been more surprised than I was to read the next email, "Congratulations! You're the 2010 Elementary West Teacher of the Year!" I was honored by the Board of Education and received a nice plaque along with three other elementary teachers (north, central, south), a junior high teacher, and a high school teacher. My husband wasn't able to be there, but my principal showed up for the occasion and sat by me. Out of the six of us, they chose one overall winner to compete at the state level (not me). My faculty learned about the award when the district published it in their May newspaper. The librarian put a poster and some balloons by my door which made some of the students wish me a happy birthday. She also announced it over the intercom. Yesterday, I received a congratulatory cake from the faculty which K and I have thoroughly enjoyed.

So, yeah, it's awkward. I don't really feel like Teacher of the Year. I just do my thing the best way I know. Teaching is a daily battle with a few more wins than losses. I worry, I stress, I agonize. I hope I'm earning high points for trying. It's true--you really can't count the apples in a seed.

I'll finish this somewhat sappy and self-promoting post with the closing paragraph of my application. It's from my heart. Mine was the only recognition that made the school board cry. Also, I can't believe how many teachers have given me their class lists for a rotation class with children's names misspelled. I don't think I could teach unless my students were all listed with first and last names spelled and pronounced correctly. It's my personal starting place. I can't teach them until I have that much straight.

I am an outstanding teacher because I care deeply about the children. I know their names and I spell them correctly. I know their hearts, their habits, and their hang-ups. There is a monthly check deposited to my account, but the real rewards are found in reading fifth grade journals, visiting with former students who stop by randomly, and checking out the middle school Honor Roll in the newspaper while counting on my fingers and muttering to myself, "She was mine. He was mine."



  2. You are so awesome! You do so many unique things with your class and really give them a part of yourself. I'm glad you got recognized.