Favorite Thing Friday: Summer Break

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Class dismissed
goodbyes said
Yearbooks signed,
hugs and tears
Grades are done,
pass and fail
Empty desks
silent halls
‘Til next year,
summer break

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Today is the last day of the school year! Yesterday, I said goodbye to my students and I can honestly say I will miss them. All that’s left to do is turn in grades and pack up my classroom for the summer. Despite the challenges of putting together a brand new class, it was a great year. I felt like I really connected with my students and it feels good to walk away knowing they learned something. When they left my classroom saying, “this was my favorite class” and “you are my favorite teacher,” I know I did something right.  I wish them all the best as the move into what I’m certain are very bright futures.

Now, it’s time for some serious relaxation, writing, and knitting! 🙂

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c.b.w. 2014

Book Review: What I Was

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what_i_was_1At the cusp of adulthood, we are all looking for one thing: identity. Some find it quickly, while others linger in a fog of confusion. Meg Rosoff captures this enigmatic aspect of life with a powerful and emotional tale of self-discovery and friendship.

Near the end of his life, “H” reflects on his troubled youth. Bouncing from one boarding school to another, he finally lands at St. Oswald’s on the eastern coast of Britain. Despite being well aware that this is his last chance to prove to his parents he can rise to their expectations, he questions whether his path in life involves learning Latin, mastering maths, and wallowing in a second-rate boys school.  H is lost in a world constantly trying to force him into a life of conformity and he has yet to decide if he will join the masses or step outside the box.

Framing H’s dilemma is a beautifully crafted atmosphere of fog, chilly wind, mist and gray skies. Rosoff brilliantly allows the scenery to mirror the melancholy and isolation breathing inside of H as he struggles with the pain of growing up. The drab walls of St. Oswald’s could almost be the pale skin of a young man trying to find his place in the world.

As the tide begins to shift, so does the trajectory of H’s existence. One day, while walking on the beach, he meets Finn. What follows is an infatuation that drives H to break every rule in order to spend time with the young man who lives in a hut on the shoreline.

Finn is beautiful and everything H wants to be. Independent. Alone. Free. H’s emotions are intense and all-consuming, but much like everything else in his life they are hard to define. The question of whether it is love, friendship, or envy is never answered, as H himself is unable to sort through the feelings driving his connection to Finn.

The relationship between H and Finn grows into one of comfort of companionship, but forces beyond their control pull them in different directions. Both find themselves fessing up to truths they’d rather forget and making choices that can’t be avoided. While this sounds like a typical coming of age story, Rosoff crafts a brilliant twist ending that leaves both H and the reader with a surprise neither saw coming.

Final Verdict: On goodreads, I gave this book (a rare) 5 stars. If it’s not on your shelf, if should be.

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c.b.w. 2014

Favorite Thing Friday: Teacher Appreciation

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Towards the end of the school year, my school has a tradition of having students write letters of appreciation to their favorite teachers. Every year, I get a couple in my mailbox and they always make me smile. A little thank you goes a long way.

After a school year that’s had its fair share of challenges, I was beyond surprised to find so many letters in my mailbox both this week and last week.  Instead of the usual one or two, thirteen letters found their way to me. And they were amazing. Several came from students I thought couldn’t stand me or have never said as much as three words in class. To hear their voice and understand the positive impact I’ve made in their lives was an incredibly moving experience. They wrote about the little things I do – like making the classroom comfortable, decorating for holidays, the fact that I smile all the time and say good morning every day – that I never thought they noticed. It turns out those little things mean the world to them.

Some of the letters I received from students this year.

The biggest surprise, however, came through my e-mail. In the school’s weekly newsletter, my name was listed among teachers nominated to receive the “above and beyond” award by the United Parent Council of my district. At first, I felt like an idiot because I had never heard of this particular award, but after asking a few questions I found out it’s a pretty big deal. The award is only given when a parent or student writes a letter to the council explaining why a particular teacher deserves the honor. Of course, that made me really curious: Who nominated me?

A few days later, an envelope showed up in my mailbox. Inside, I found a nomination letter that was written by one of my students. She wrote the equivalent of a five paragraph essay detailing all the reasons why I was her favorite teacher. I sat at my desk and broke down in tears – everything she said meant so much to me. Her words made all the hard work, the stress, and sleepless nights totally worth it. Not only is this a student I never would have guessed felt that way about me or my class, but she is a student in my AP Art History class. Teaching this class was a huge undertaking that tested every professional skill I possess. To know I did something right, is immensely gratifying an deeply rewarding.

Last night, I was publicly recognized by my district’s superintendent and governing board. While the professional recognition is nice, I treasure the letters written by my students more. They are the reason I go to work early every day and give so much to the job I love.

As the school year begins to wind down, please encourage your children to let their teachers know how much they appreciate them. It means everything to us and encourages us to keep trying as challenges continue to grow. I keep every letter I’ve ever received in a box and I read them whenever I have a bad day. This year’s batch is sure to raise my spirits for years to come. Aside from learning, this is the best gift a student can give a teacher.

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c.b.w. 2014