Tomorrow is my last day as “Ms. Fisher.” It’s my last day teaching, parenting, mentoring, and pissing off 6th graders. I could not be more excited. Along the way there were a few laughs and lots of lessons learned made, but it was mostly the most miserable thing I’ve ever done. Of course, I didn’t realize everything I learned or the things I enjoyed about my job until it became[almost] hindsight.
Lessons Learned: To say that I’ve learned a lot this year would be a gross understatement.
1. 6th graders are children–no matter how fast they’ve grown up or how hardened by the world they’ve become.
2. The education system in America is jacked up on so many levels. I already knew this, but having spent a year in it, I understand so much more how my students are being set up to fail on a daily basis–especially for students with true Learning Disabilities.
3. Take advantage of the knowledge and resources in the people around you. I would have never made it through the year if it weren’t for the teachers who listened to me vent (often about the same things day after day), gave me books and resources to use in the classroom, and taught me how to handle the bureaucratic nonsense.
Accomplishments: For someone who spent the first 27 weeks of school worried about getting fired, I actually got a lot done:
1. Almost all of my students passed the CRCT (end of year standardized testing). This is huge because most of them failed last year or have never passed one in their life.
2. In August, most of my students were at about a 2nd or 3rd grade reading level. As of last week, almost all of them are at a 4th grade or above reading level.
3. [This last one has nothing to do with my students] I am incredibly proud of myself for completing the entire school year. In October, when I hit my meltdown phase (which lasted until January), quitting was a daily consideration. I’m especially proud of this in light of the fact that I had essentially no training on how to be a teacher, how to work with Special Education students, or how to do the hours and hours of Special Education paperwork.
Student Showcase: Any teacher who says they don’t have favorites is a liar.
1. Naquayvius: This kid is such a goofball; he just turned 13, and he’s already about 6′. Naquayvius came in at 1st grade reading level and hated school with a passion. He had never passed a CRCT and never expected to pass or succeed at anything. Naquavius’ dad was killed when he was about 11 and he’s had anger issues ever since. But here’s the thing about Naquayvius: he is the most playful, artistic, kind and insightful kid I know. Naquayvius passed all but one of his CRCTs and independently put himself in an anger management class. Yesterday at lunch, he made a toast with his milk that went like this: “You know, Ms. Fisher isn’t so bad when you get to know her. She never gave up on me or let me give up on myself.”
2. Jasmine: From August to sometime in November, this girl brought me to tears on a daily occasion. I’m pretty sure if you look up “defiance,” “rebellion,” or “attitude” in the dictionary, her picture would have been there. Then one day, Jasmine asked if she could sit next to me at lunch. I hesitantly said ‘yes’ and tried to get to know her a little. Surprisingly, we’re pretty similar: Jasmine is a twin (like me, she’s the dominate one), she loves salad & vegetables, and everyone knows & loves Jasmine. I quickly realized that Jasmine loves to please people, she’s a natural leader and she loves to do well. Once I figured out to use these traits to my advantage (positive manipulation???) , she quickly became my personal assistant. Jasmine is the first one to tell the rest of the class to “shut up” (still workin on that one) and she’s the first one to recognize disrespect and straighten that out. Her current career aspirations are to be either a teacher or a Marine (OORAH!).
3. Brandon: This boy has seen a lot more in his short life than is fair: in the 6 months that he’s been at RMS, he’s gone to 5 different foster homes. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why–I’d adopt him tomorrow if I could! In all settings, Brandon is sweet as can be, incredibly respectful, he does his work exceptionally well, and he’s an outstanding writer. Brandon never lets his circumstances get in the way of his success. I have so much respect of this kid’s diligence and determination.
I have a newfound respect for effective educators and those who pour their lives into the next generation; quality teachers are without a doubt, the most underworked, underappreciated and underpaid workforce. I’d like to think that in some small ways I fall into the category of “quality teachers” and that this year wasn’t for naught.