I have officially finished my first semester of my first year of teaching. One semester down, one to go. I think I have learned more than my students so far this year, but that's okay. Everyone keeps telling me that is what the first year is all about.
I have to admit that I have had a harder time connecting to my students than I did last year during student teaching. I think that has something to do with the fact that this year I have 70 instead of 30. Also, I only see each of my students for an hour a day rather than being with them for the bulk of school time. My students also have five other teachers each day, so they aren't as chatty as last year's kids who couldn't wait to come in and tell me all about last night's episode of "The Middle." By the time they get to my class they are all talked out.
There ARE connections being made, however, and the exciting thing is that as long as I get offered a job at the same school next year I will have half of them again. Since I teach 5th and 6th grade, my current 5th graders will be in my class again. The students are slowly learning about me as a person, and I learn more about them each day. One helpful thing I've done is have them write journal entries about what they are learning in Social Studies. I'm always amazed at some of their thoughts on the topics we are studying.
As we prepared to leave for our three week Winter Break students were in and out of the classroom bringing me gifts. I never expected to get holiday gifts from middle school students since they have a total of seven teachers they see each week. I was especially confused because 70% of my students don't celebrate a winter holiday because of their religion. I love mugs of all sorts, and I got three of those to add to my collection. I also got some hand-made socks flown in from Turkey, the home country of one of my co-workers. She asked her mother to make them for me. That was the most special of all the gifts I think.
The most touching, though, were some of the words written in a couple of the cards. "Thank you for being such a fun and awesome teacher. I'm looking forward to seeing you next semester." This is from a girl who rarely smiles and who seems like she couldn't care less about school. She was grinning from ear to ear when she handed me a gift bag, though, and I can tell the card was not something she was forced to do. THESE are the moments I cherish as a teacher. They don't come often, but when they do they lift the spirits for quite awhile. Another student, who will not be returning after Winter Break, wrote, "... Most importantly, I really enjoyed being in your class." As teachers we don't always have positive reinforcement that we are making a difference. Apparently I am, though. Even if I don't teach another drop of history, knowing that students are enjoying and looking forward to coming to school to learn has made my year successful.