Today was the last day of school. We had our Eighth Grade Promotion this morning, and then we had a DVD for the kids, but most of them just hung out together, waiting to be picked up.
Tomorrow is a teacher work day, and I have a full day's work ahead of me shutting down my classroom, but I went ahead and pulled down my bulletin boards, and then sat looking around the bare room. What a year it's been. It feels like a great achievement to have just survived it, and almost a bonus if anybody learned anything. At the beginning of the year many of the kids were jumpy, panicking at sounds or vibrations caused by passing trucks. I sympathized because I was exactly the same. Some days they wanted the door open so they could make a quick getaway in case of an earthquake. Some were grieving huge losses; some had been under the rubble themselves. We were all fragile, our lives disrupted; we were finding new ways to live. Now we're certainly not "over" the earthquake, but the problems and drama of each day were more normal by the end of the year, more the way things used to be before January 12th, 2010. The speeches in Promotion mentioned that day and how it marked all of us, but the earthquake wasn't the focus; the kids were. Kids who, while crazy-making, are brimming with potential and are going to be fabulous adults in a few more years.
On their final quiz, I asked my students to tell me what they had written this year that made them the most proud, and their answers were wonderful to read. Some spoke of speeches they had made, some of poems that expressed who they really are in a way they hadn't done before, some of stories or profiles into which they'd put a lot of effort. Few mentioned grades; they were telling about what they were proud of, not what their teacher appreciated. The pieces they valued most were the ones that were most personal, which is exactly why I do Writer's Workshop. One talked about her earthquake piece, which, she said, was "engraved on my heart." Reading about their favorite books made me happy, too; there was so much variety, and so much excitement in their recounting of plot twists. One student talked about the "BFF feeling" her book had given her. (I love that! What teacher doesn't want students to have a book as a BFF?) On Tuesday I finished the read-aloud I was doing with my seventh graders, with about ten minutes to spare in our last class period together. I couldn't have made that work out so perfectly. (It was Peak, by Roland Smith, book #18 of the year for me.)
In general, this last couple of weeks contained many positive, encouraging interactions with kids, after a month or so that had been difficult. I'm ending this year the way I began it, loving my kids and hopeful about their future. Sure, many of them still have iffy punctuation (sorry, ninth grade teachers, I really tried; next year's eighth graders will still get some attention before you deal with them), and my middle schoolers have lots of growing up to do. But we made it through the year, our first post-earthquake year, and as I said goodbye to them and prayed for their summer, I thanked God for bringing me back to Haiti for this school year.
Pretty soon, I'll start thinking about next year; I'm already making my shopping list. But for right now, as I clear the debris in my room, cover my shelves with plastic, and put everything away, I'll be praising God for this year. We made it. He brought us through. I'm so grateful.
4 hours ago