Today was my last day with my students. It was bittersweet. I am happy that I'm done, but it was sad to see my students (most of them) go. Especially after reading more letters today. They are very endearing.
Instead of writing a bunch of excerpts again, I thought I'd tell stories of some individual students.
There was a group of boys in one of my classes that would be considered on the "fringe." One of them was expelled for a while this semester due to drug-related offenses on campus, another one has a Parole Officer because of vandalism charges (and who knows what else?). These guys rarely missed my class. One of them informed me that my class was "by far" his favorite class, and the other one said he learned more from me than from any other teacher and that students love me. Needless to say the comments from these two were a little surprising/unexpected. One of the girls in my class who tended to sit with this "fringe" group said that last semester these guys skipped a lot and that I made students, including them, actually want to come to class.
In my other class, there was a group of guys who were absolutely obsessed with WOW (World of Warcraft) - Online video game. At certain points in the semester there would be tension in the class because I was constantly having to split this group up because they NEVER stopped talking...about WOW. By the end of the year, we had a fun teasing relationship. These group of guys had some of the best comments in their letters. One boy in particular, who I've been working with all semester to keep his grade up, lingered around my desk at the end of class wanting to know if I had read his letter. This student, as well as many others, had written that they were disappointed on the first day of the semester when they found out I was teaching. But, this student, as well as others, said he was really glad to be in my class. And, he wanted me to know that I am his favorite teacher.
Then there was the comment from a student who literally chose to do nothing all semester, but always came to class, and barely passed class with a D-Minus:
Dear Mrs. Chipple,
I didn't hate your class. I know that doesn't seem like a very great compliment, but I assure you it is. You wouldn't even believe how much I hate school...Not very many teachers give students as much freedom to use their creativity as you did and I really, really appreciate you for that. I enjoyed Mr. W's class more than yours, but don't feel bad because he's my favorite teacher. At first I was a little annoyed to have a student teacher, but you weren't too lame. In fact, you're way better than the majority of teachers out there. I truly mean that. Have a good life.
Well, you can't win them all!
I'll end with the two most significant letters.
One was from a student who I wrote about in February. I had called his dad to tell him he was failing, and the dad chewed me out, saying I was "un-motivating" and boring, and that's why his son was failing. well, This student wrote that after he got used to me as a teacher he began to enjoy the class more and more. That was a big deal to me.
The other student, who I had also called home a few months ago because of a failing grade, changed as well. I knew that at the beginning of the year this student had a hard time with me, I felt he was testing me as a young, female teacher. Well, by the end of this semester things had improved a ton. In fact, during our review game last week he dominated. He told me that he was "sketchy" about me at the beginning of the semester, but said now I am his favorite teacher. Furthermore, he said this class was his best class, with pottery as number two.
I am still reflecting on many of these letters and comments, as well as the semester overall. It's been a huge learning experience and I am still figuring out all the things I have learned and will continue to take with me in my future classrooms.
One thing is that I am less excited about the possibility of only substituting next year in PA, because the chance to really build relationships with students is not there.