May in Maine; we feel the joyous change in the air. Warmer daytime temperatures, layers of clothing shed and replaced with shorter sleeves, flowering trees, and daffodils. All these changes nudge us to the acknowledgement of the change coming in the school year. The ending. Personally, I find endings incredibly hard. Every year I ask myself why on Earth I do this, fall in love with a group of kids when I know it will end…again. Yet we all do it. All us teachers do this year in and year out.
I’ll be honest, this year it was hard to fall in love with my class of youngsters. It wasn’t them, it was me. I was struggling with some inner turmoils and I wasn’t able to feel what I needed to for my kids. But then the inner turmoil ended and quick as that I fell in love, with my kids. I must say that they are a unique lot. Creative beyond words, effort that never ends, energy to beat the band, the insatiable desire to please, and a kindness and acceptance of others that just melts my heart. Yet they struggle. Struggle to write, to read with comprehension, and wrap their heads around math ideas.
Oh the dreaded math. This group more than any other I have taught struggles with the new abstract ideas of math that are presented to them. We all know what 5th grade math is all about. Fractions. This group would refer to them as the “dreaded fractions.” In the previous two years of teaching math to fifth graders my classes have loved fractions and understood them. But this group, for the most part, doesn’t. Oh yes they understand when we use manipulatives and we use a lot of them. But as soon at the manipulatives are removed, no matter how gradual, they loose their way. All year I’ve been really hung up on this. But last week I released it. I’m tired of focusing on what they can’t do.
I refuse to end the year focusing on what they can’t do. With only 20 some days left we will end the year celebrating what we’ve learned. We will continue to read and write, celebrating ourselves as readers and writers. Oh we will continue our math of course but it won’t have the dire press that it’s had all year. It will be slower, lighter, hopefully more fun. We will celebrate who we are as we leave elementary school and head to the next chapter in their lives, middle school. I taught middle school for ten years. I know what is ahead of them. As my grandmother use to say, “With the help of God and a couple of cops” the kids will have the skills they need to navigate their new school as well as thrive and enjoy the new experiences and freedoms. This is what I wish for them.
OK, I feel better now. Writing really does help. It helps us uncover what we are feeling and thinking. It helps us organize our thoughts and feelings and thus make some sense of them. We will write this week and hopefully it will help my kids navigate their thoughts and feelings as they end their year and prepare for the next. And then they will share and hopefully find out that their classmates share similar thoughts, feelings, concerns, anticipations. And may that will help them too. Change. It can be a really good thing.
May we all find peace in the ongoing changes in our lives,