38 short years ago, I never thought this year would arrive. Perhaps back then, I wasn’t even sure that I would last as a teacher. That first year was very difficult, I was young… 20 years to be exact. I finished college in three years instead of 4, anxious to be out in the ‘real world’. I think now, “what was the hurry? ” College was a pretty awesome way to live. I loved decorating my room with my four roomies every summer. I loved getting my new books and the way they looked when they were all stacked on my desk. And yes, I loved my classes, I loved the library, I loved learning. I remember right where I was in the library stacks my freshman year when it dawned on me….I love research…how did this happen…suddenly I loved to learn!
It had developed steadily over a period of years. I don’t remember loving all subjects, especially not math or Think and Do, the sixties version of teaching reading. It wasn’t until Junior High school that I learned that writing wasn’t just beautiful cursive. I started to learn about telling stories through writing from an anti grammar teacher of English. I know she was ahead of her time. She used to say to us,
You will learn to write by writing in this class, not through filling out worksheets on prepositional phrases. I will teach you how to write a story with a prepositional phrase.
Thank God for Mrs. Gracey. She was a rebel with a cause in 1967! I never got above a ‘C’ on a first draft, but I remember that I kept working at something for the first time in my life. There were a few other teachers that impacted me along the way in high school, some that even saw some sort of potential in me and told me so.
When I was a little girl, every August I started feeling the itch for the structure of school. My mom always treated me to a pair of new shoes and at least one new outfit to wear. I loved to pick out school supplies and tried every year to become a bit more organized than the last. When I got my first teaching job, it actually was the day before school started. I didn’t know what I didn’t know back then . I quickly arranged my open space classroom after the inservice and felt like I was good to go. That year I felt like I was always trying to catch up, that I was always a step behind. I didn’t even have time to get my new pair of shoes or even a poster to hang in my first classroom.
The next summer, I basically got married, and then planned for the next eight weeks, curriculum, bulletin boards, letters home, mailboxes and the all important reading nook. That second summer I remember cutting a hole in a giant refrigerator box and using contact paper to cover the whole box. My mom started screaming at me while I steadily worked in the back yard, “You’ve got a wedding in five days and you are doing this to get ready? Really, Nancy, don’t you care about anything other than that classroom?”
But, every year since then I have always had to have something new for my classroom, something that my students would love. This year was no exception, even though it is my last. I wanted a new reading/writing workshop sharing chair. So last week I was busy painting it red and purple and stenciling flowers, vines and covering it in polka dots. I have discovered the little kids love to count dots when they can. I put one of my favorite pillows on and said to myself, “Voila…I am happy to start, excited to start, sad to start this bittersweet year of ‘Finishing Strong’. ”
What are new things that you are adding this year? I hope it brings you much joy….xo