My four monsters…

four monsters

I believe becoming a parent has changed my outlook on teaching and education. I have been thinking a lot about this lately as my monsters grow. As some of you may know, I have four children. Yep…4! And although they share the same parents and have been raised in the same home, they are each unique in unbelievable ways.

Our oldest…she is so many things. In school she is bright and hardworking. She is kind, fair and just. She is kind to all she encounters. She loves younger children and tends to “mother” everyone. She has a strong sense of right and wrong and is not afraid to call anyone on it. This causes her some issues with her peers. She tries desperately to make things just and fair. In her mind this helps everyone to feel good. She is bright and she loves math, but she doesn’t want anyone to notice. She would rather be in the background, unnoticed. As is normal with girls her age, she struggles with her confidence. She doesn’t quite “fit in.” She is beautifully artistic. She can see lines, patterns and colors in the most mundane things. She loves to create and be creative. This is her passion. However, she has been told too many times, by too many adults, “Just do it my way this once… or you didn’t follow the steps…” So now, sadly, she only looks for the “right” way rather than the creative way to solve a problem or complete a task. As her parents, we work hard to nurture her creativity as we see this as a wonderful strength. As she grows older, she is developing a quick wit and a wonderfully sarcastic sense of humor. She can play the piano beautifully and paints with her heart.

Our oldest son is unique and has many different talents. He is exceptionally bright and a fantastic problem solver. I am pretty sure he has a photographic memory. He can see or read something once and remember it forever. Learning and athletics come easy for him. He rarely has to work hard to achieve. This can be a strength, but also a weakness. He is also a bit of a perfectionist and he hates to fail or make a mistake in anything. When he does, he folds into himself and needs time and space to feel better. He is an excellent problem solver. He doesn’t necessarily talk it out or write it out. I often wish I could get inside his mind to figure out what he is thinking. He is a wonderful athlete. He can participate successfully in almost any sport. However, his passion and love is hockey. He lives, breathes and sleeps hockey. When he is not on the ice, he is in our basement practicing, playing it on the Xbox or reading books about players. He loves the strategy of the game and has developed into quite a good player. But he is also sensitive and sometimes passive. It could be this is part of his perfectionistic nature. Sometimes he appears confident but underneath he is soft and wants approval. He loves to read! He always has an adventure type book on the go and we struggle to find books that are appropriate content that will hold his interest. He also loves to play guitar and is has a great voice. As his parents, we work hard to nurture is natural athletic ability but encourage him to be a strong self-advocate when necessary.

Our younger son also has a variety of special gifts. He is a hard worker in everyway. In school, he works hard in every subject. He can be focused and diligent. He loves math, but won’t say it. He doesn’t feel he is as good at it as his brother, so he doesn’t want people to know that he likes it. He likes to read, but not narratives. Give him a non-fiction book and he will read and re-read it. Then recite the facts for days. He loves to work with his hands and figure out how things work. He is a thinker and a doer. He is a great helper, he loves to help us cook dinner or even bake. I would call him a Mama’s boy, but he is also a Daddy’s boy. He loves his family and is loyal to a fault. He will even take a consequence for something his brother did and not say a word. He and his brother are similar in that they both love hockey. While his brother prefers to score goals, he likes standing in the net saving them. Being a goalie takes perseverance and strength of character (and a little bit of crazy). He loves to make people laugh. If there is a joke, he’s going to tell it. If there is a prank, he’s going to be involved. Usually with the best of intentions. He is quick to notice if someone’s feelings are hurt and apologizes for his part. He is learning to play piano, like his dad. He is good at the songs he can play with a partner, he enjoys being with others. As his parents, we try to encourage his hard work ethic and his sense of fun as well as nurture his sense of perseverance and loyalty.

Our youngest daughter is developing her own character.  She has decided that she likes hockey as well. She wants to skate as fast as her oldest brother and score lots of goals on her other brother. She is a determined (stubborn) little girl. She could barely stand on her skates at the beginning of the season, and now she is skating quite well. She is determined in life as well. If she has made up her mind, there is no convincing her otherwise. Especially with clothing…if it is “uncomfortable”, she will not wear it. While I know this trait will serve her well in life, it is frustrating to parent. Her determination has caused many morning arguments in our home. She is a great friend to her peers at pre-kindergarten and her day home. She understands that each of her friends is different and has talents. Of one little boy in her class who has some struggles, “he’s my friend, even when he makes bad choices.” She loves books and loves to listen to and to make up stories. Like her brother, she likes to make people laugh and she has a talent for it. She has a quick wit and can come up with some amazing one-liners that have us all in stitches. She loves to draw and create with her hands. Nothing with glue and scissors, rather clay and playdoh sculptures. And she loves to sing, she sings all the time and about the most boring of subjects. We encourage her creativity and her sense of humour and we will continue to nurture her determined, strong-willed spirit.

Four very different monsters. But they have taught me a lot about teaching and learning. While I want them to learn about Language Arts, Math, Science, Social and Religion, I also want them to develop into good people. Now, when I look at a child, I try to develop an understanding of them as a person. I understand that we can not realistically get to know each child as well as I know my own, but could i take a little time to get to know them a little better?  This is what I would love for each of my children’s teachers to do, why wouldn’t I do this for the students I serve? Each child is a unique combination of character traits that we need to unravel, understand, encourage and nurture.

Mindset…

mindset  - isolated word in vintage wood letterpress printing blocks

I recently had a conversation with a colleague about mindset and how mindset can affect many aspects of a school community. In Alberta, it feels as though we are going through a troubled time. Teachers feel unappreciated and overworked. There have been many conversations about Teacher workload and what we can do to help our hardworking teachers. How has teacher workload changed? Here is why I ask…

I began teaching in 1997. My first class consisted of 29 grade two students. There were 19 boys and 10 girls. Within this class I had 4 severe behavior students. One of those four would later gain educational assistant time as he had beaten me black and blue. In addition to those students I had 8 that required specific interventions for behavior needs. I had 3 students with diagnosed learning disabilities that required accommodations.   I also had 3 students who required challenge and enhancement. It was an extremely difficult year. I was exhausted and overwhelmed. I remember leaving school on the last day of school going home and telling my husband, “I will never teach again!” It took until the middle of summer to change my mind.

For the next seven years I worked in the same school. There were challenges and blessings. The school had a low achievement rate, we worked hard to help our students achieve. We worked hard to meet the needs of the students, families, administration and school district. We worked hard and we loved it.

Fast forward to 2015, we are still working hard, very hard. But what has changed? Our class sizes are similar (if not smaller) than 1997. The complexities of our classrooms are similar to what I experienced. I had to complete IPP’s and Action Plans for each student who required accommodations. I had to plan and re-plan. I had to assess and re-assess. I was continually looking for new ideas, strategies and lessons. So, what has changed?

I wonder sometimes if it is our mindset. Are we stuck in cycle of speaking negatively about our workload? Are we stuck in a cycle of complaining? If we don’t begin looking for the good in what we do, we will burn out.

In my recent conversation, I asked those questions of my colleague. Not to be accusatory but just a reflective question. She came to me a few days later and said, “Thank you Shelley.” As I had already forgotten about our conversation I asked, “For what?” She said, “I thought about what you said the other day and I have been trying to make some changes in the way I think about things…it’s making a difference.”

Do I think there are changes that we can make? Absolutely! But I think we need to begin with a shift in our mindset.

What I love most…

teaching and passion

Day 4: What do you love the most about teaching?

A few years ago I had the opportunity to watch my first class of students graduate from high school. As each of them walked across the stage to receive their diploma, I found myself in a state of awe. Each one had grown into a beautiful person, individual and unique. I had played a small part in helping them get across that stage. Now, as I see them in the community and ask them how they are doing, what they are doing, how their families are I find myself inspired to continue on my path. I have made a small but significant difference in the lives of students I have taught. Teachers change lives and although there are many significant issues facing education, I teach to change lives.

At the beginning of one school year, at a new school, I was “warned” about a specific student and his family. This student was a non-attender, struggled with anxiety and had several behavior problems. I was told that his family enabled and allowed his behavior. I decided early to determine my own judgments about the student and his family.   I knew I could become an advocate for this student. I remember the initial meeting with the family and the boy’s psychologist as being slightly tense. I listened to the concerns presented by the boy’s parents and his psychologist. I asked respectful questions about his diagnosis and the recommendations for the school. We developed a collaborative plan during this meeting that we hoped would help him attend school successfully. I spent the first month working closely with this boy and his family. I spent time getting to know what he liked about school, what he did not like and what he liked outside of school. I spent time developing a positive, trusting relationship with him. We joked, laughed and had fun playing practical jokes on our vice principal. I spent a lot of time defending him and advocating for his needs to the other staff members. Staff had done a great job of establishing an unfair, preconceived opinion about this boy. I reminded them, sometimes daily, he is a child, he is a student and he has a right to be in a safe and caring environment. I explained how his learning differs from “normal” students due to his various diagnoses. I would re-explain his plan for success to each staff member who would question me. He knew he could come to me for help with his anxiety, his schoolwork or just to chat about his day. By the second month, he was successfully coming to school every day for an hour. By Christmas he was attending school for a half day, every day. He knew that we cared; we would listen and he felt safe.  He was even able attend a couple of full school days, but consistently attended half days for the whole school year, a task he has never been able to achieve.  This boy and his family are proud of his achievements, and we are so very proud of him.

I love that I can teach with compassion!  Genuine caring is vital for success with students.  I hold strong beliefs about the power of building positive relationships with students and families.  I can demonstrate compassion in small, but meaningful ways, teaching children each day how to think, how to problem solve and how to move beyond what they know.  I will continue to teach and lead with a genuine and compassionate heart.  I will watch more students cross the stage to receive their diploma and remind myself, I played a small, but significant part of that.

:)S

Reflecting on loss…

red_balloon

Well, another school year is over…and what a year it was.  Back in October I wrote some reflections about September here.  September was a difficult month in many ways.  But the remainder of the school year continued to be a roller coaster ride that brought tears, laughter and experience, loss, growth and change.

Loss & Tears…

Back in September, I wrote about the loss of a student’s sibling and said that I had yet to experience the loss of a student.  Well, in April, we lost a Pre-Kindergarten student in a tragic motor vehicle accident.  This, by far, has been the most difficult and devastating experience in my educational career.  The VP and I spend each morning greeting students as they enter the school.  We start at opposite entrances, but end up together at the front entrance by the time our Pre-K’s are coming in (they come in a bit later to avoid the rush).  We have both said greeting these little ones is our favourite part of our day.  This little guy came in each morning with a beautiful smile and an enthusiastic jump in his step.  He was so excited to come to school to see his friends each day.  He was so excited to learn.  He had shown tremendous progress through the school year.  And in the blink of an eye, he was gone.

There are moments through this experience that I will never forget.  The phone call to his mother on the afternoon of the accident to hear that he had been transported by air ambulance to a city hospital.  The early morning phone call from his mother two days later telling me that he had succumbed to his injuries.  The “meeting” that the VP and I held with the Pre-K parents to let them know what had happened and our plan to support their children and families through this loss.  The strength of the classroom teacher and educational assistant.  The “meeting” we held with those beautiful little four and five year olds to talk about the loss of their friend.  The innocence of their statements and questions. The beauty of their unquestioning faith.  The balloon ceremony where we watched all the little ones chase after the balloons they released for their friend.  The heart breaking prayer service and funeral service.  Hugs from the distraught and grieving parents.  The support that the family received from our community and  that we received from our school family and our district family.

While we did receive a lot of support, our decisions were also questioned and criticized.  Comments, made by staff members. criticizing how we handled this tragedy made their way back to me.  This was devastating.  I sincerely felt that we had done the very best we could in this difficult situation with guidance from District office, Mental Health therapists and a Psychologist.  I felt that we had supported the students, teachers and families.  And it hurt that I heard in a round about way.  These were very difficult days.  Looking back I am proud of our decisions and how we chose to handle each individual issue that arose.  And I grew as a result of these experiences.

Growth & Change…

During our last week of school, the little boy’s parents arrived at the school to collect his school things.  We hugged and I walked them down to the classroom.  The children were excited to see the parents of their friend.   With tears in their eyes the parents collected their son’s belongings and a memory book of his time spent with his classmates.  I will forever remember walking them back to the entry of the school offering any support they might need and sharing a final, tear-filled hug.

Looking back I ask myself if I could have handled this tragic situation any better or any different.  It’s who I am, a person of reflection.  And I have thought about this experience over and over.  I’m not sure if I would change anything, but I did learn a lot about myself as a leader and as a person.  I believe that we have to do the best we can, with the supports and understanding provided, in the moment. As a leader in a school community, I feel that it is important to balance compassion with normalcy.  I believe we need to listen to our hearts as much as our heads during these difficult times.  Everyone grieves in a different way at a different pace.  It is difficult to know what may trigger someone’s tears or difficult days.  We need to watch over each other, be kind and forgiving.  This is not an easy task in the midst of hurt.

I know that I hug my own children a little tighter and a little longer each day.  My little Alexa often reminds me of the “little boy, that used to go to your school Mama, who is up in heaven with the angels.” :)   My older daughter has asked about the boy’s sibling and how she is doing.  The accident was a difficult reminder of how quickly our lives can change.  My oldest son has asked me several times about why these things happen.  While my younger boy asks if I am still sad about the little boy.  I still find it difficult to travel that part of the road.  I often think of the parents of this little one and offer up a prayer for them.  Their struggles continue each and every day.  It is a parent’s worst nightmare.

Next year, we will continue to greet our students each and every day at our school.  We will smile, say, “good morning,” give a hug or a high-5.  We will continue to care for and about each of them.

I will forever remember this little boy with the big smile!

:)S

 

Teaching the way students learn…

michaeljfox (1)

How often are we standing in the way of our student’s learning?  Why can’t we let go of “our way” of doing things?

Project Based Learning = Authentic Learning Experiences = TEACHING THE WAY STUDENTS LEARN.

Students learn by doing…

Students learn by communicating…

Students learn by collaborating…

Students learn by creating…

As I recently read through Alberta’s Framework for Student Learning, I couldn’t help but see the connections between Authentic Learning experiences and the competencies that Alberta students should have when they leave our schools.  As we embrace these competencies, I believe it will be difficult, if not impossible, to continue teaching in a “traditional” fashion.

The Alberta Framework for Student Learning states that we need to develop students who will be able to:

  • think critically
  • know how to learn
  • identify and solve complex problems
  • manage information
  • innovate
  • create opportunities
  • apply multiple literacies
  • demonstrate global and cultural understanding
  • demonstrate good communication skills and the ability to work cooperatively with others
  • identify and apply career and life skills

The competencies cannot be separated.  They are interconnected and interrelated.  Our traditional approach to teaching: teaching individual concepts in isolation will not work in a competency learning environment.

Authentic or Project Based learning is messy, busy and a bit chaotic…isn’t this how kids learn?  Students learn new concepts by making connections to prior understanding or relating the new concept to something they already know.  Students love messy!  They love busy and chaotic!  They love to play!

It’s time to change the way we teach to coincide with the way our students learn.

:)S

Initial thoughts on inquiry & project based learning…

anthony robbins

Over the past several weeks, I have been given the opportunity to visit three schools in other cities in our province.  If you have an opportunity to visit a school outside of your district or city, I strongly encourage it.  Spending time in other learning environments has both affirmed and broadened my thinking.  After each visit, I returned home with a renewed passion for my role.

In each school we encountered engaged students and exemplary teaching.

  • Students were engaged in meaningful, relevant and interesting projects.
  • The projects were carefully, purposefully planned.  Integration happens across subjects and grade levels.
  • Students were central to the learning process.
  • Teachers and staff were facilitating or coaching the learning rather than directing it.

So I ask myself, how did these schools get to this point?

I believe it started by thinking outside of the box…a bit cliche right?!?!?  But, so true!

In education we get stuck:

  • We get stuck in tradition or the traditional way of doing things. We get comfortable with “our” way.  The “we” and the “our” being the adults in the building.  Instead of focusing on the adults we need to refocus on the students.  Our students are screaming for less-tradition and more innovation.
  • We get stuck in a routine or a schedule.  “We have to teach Language Arts at this time…” “We need to move on to our Science block now.”  Learning becomes compartmentalized by our schedules and timelines.  Learning is messy and should not fit into a compartment of time.
  • We get stuck in  excuses.  “Well, if only I had more time to plan.” “What will the community think?” “What if parents hate it?” Excuses are easy.  There are a million excuses for a million things.  I tire of excuses quickly.  We need to move past them.

What if we began to think outside of the box, what if we tried to get “unstuck?”  What would it look like?  What are the possibilities?

I saw what it looked like at three separate schools…and I have to say this is kind of how I feel…

set your imagination free

Back to my initial quote… If we don’t make changes, we are going to continue to see more of the same results.  I would even challenge that to say that our results are going to decline.  Our students are demanding a different style and type of learning.

I can see what I believe education should look like for students, now how do we get out of the box?

:)S

Getting past “bloggers block”

So I have been struggling to write a blog post.  Tried all of December, no luck!  Tried over Christmas break, no luck!  Tried the past few weeks, again no luck!  I shared my frustration with a few people (I think one person was our Assistant Superintendent).  Today he shared the following video with me…

Well, a light went on!  I tend to over-analyze and over-think things (I know, this is shocking to those who know me).  I realize that I am right back to the same thinking pattern as I was when I wrote, “Say Something…” (back here)

After watching the video, I am refocused.  I can write about the day to day interactions and school situations.  I can write about my experiences, thoughts and ideas.

The important facts are that

1. I will be writing and reflecting; and

2. this blog is for ME.

I think I am past my “bloggers block” for awhile anyways…

:)S

September #SAVMP

september

Well, September has come and gone.  What a month!  Being in a new school, I anticipated being busy and tired by the end of the month.  I could never have anticipated being as emotionally and physically exhausted as I was on September 30th.

A new school and a new school year brings excitement, busy-ness and anticipation.

This September brought a new Junior Kindergarten program to the school.  I love, love, love this program!  So, I was through-the-moon excited to have it at our school.  We had to hire an instructor and set up an empty classroom, shuffle Educational Assistants and transition these beautiful 4 year old children into the school.  I love going into this classroom and spending time with these cuties!

This September brought 2 un-well teachers who would be off work for a minimum of two months.  Hiring good teachers quickly is not an easy task.  Being hired somewhat last-minute and being ready to teach is also not easy.  Both teachers have done a fabulous job for us!

This September brought 40 new, unanticipated students to our school.  These new students were welcomed with open and loving arms.  However, again, we had to hire a new teacher and reconfigure classes.  This meant shuffling students from four classes into five classes.  Student’s, parent’s and teacher’s anxiety levels were high.  My role was to calm some of the anxiety and ease the transition.

This September brought 3 expecting teachers.  One teacher, who is expecting twins (yay!) had to begin her leave much earlier than anticipated.  She was so upset to be leaving her little students behind.  We calmed her and told her to go and put her feet up, she would be busy soon enough with her own little ones.  More hiring…

This September brought tragedy to our little district…twice.  Two grade 10 boys passed away suddenly within weeks of each other.  These tragedies greatly affected our high school students, families, teachers and staff.  I am so proud of our school district and how they have worked through these difficult days.  We have been blessed with outstanding  support provided by our Superintendent, Assistant Superintendents, Director of Inclusive Education and Director of Religious Education.  The tragedy also reached four other schools as we all feed into the same high school.  One of those four schools was ours.  One of the boys attended and his younger sister still attends our school.  It has been a difficult time for the students, families and staff.  Being new to the school, I did not know the boy, his sister or his family… I do now.  I found it challenging to navigate my way through each day as I had never previously dealt with the death of a student.  Ensuring that the right supports were in place for the right time and for the right person is a difficult task.  I am proud of our school.  We pulled together to support our students and each other.  When his sister returned to school we had to work closely as a team.  These were difficult days.  Each new day seems to get a bit better for her, her close friends and the staff.

This September brought the death of our much loved family dog, Nutmeg.  She was with us for 13 years and was loved by each of us.   She always made things easy for us, her death was no exception.  She was not well, she could not see or hear well and her back hips were getting worse by the day. So, instead of forcing us to make a difficult decision, she went peacefully in her sleep.  We all spent time petting her and saying good-bye before we decided to bury her close to where my childhood dog is buried.  It was an extremely difficult day for all of us.  Watching my husband and children hurt broke my heart over and over and over again.  Nutmeg is missed everyday, but we are confident that she is at peace, happier and healthier where she is.

This September brought me to reflect on what is important, and what is not important right now.  I find myself spending more time with my children at the end of the day, doing homework, playing a game, reading a story or listening to their stories.  I find myself spending more time in classrooms, in the hallways and outside with students.  I have let go of some committees and commitments for right now.

And that was September…(and I very briefly wondered why I was so tired at the end of it!)

As much as I have gained through my experiences this past month, I am looking forward to October, hoping it may be a little less “eventful!”

:)S

Building relationships…

“Before people decide what they think of your message, they decide what they think of you.”

The importance of building relationships allows you to get to know the students, parents and staff you are working with, but it also allows them to get to know you.  The above quote speaks to me about the importance of building relationships.  I believe that building positive relationships is critical to being an effective administrator.

The more I read on twitter and the more  course work that I do, I am affirmed in my belief about the power of building relationships.  I have spent time thinking about and reflecting on the importance of building positive relationships with students, colleagues and families of our schools.

This summer I have been thinking about the best ways to do this as I will be moving to a new school (have I mentioned that?:)) These are some of my ideas, from the past and from the present…

Students

Being present:   In my experience, the best way to build relationships with students is to be present.  Be present in the hallways, in the classrooms, on the playground, during sport events and extra-curricular activities. Be present before, during and after school.  Be present during recess breaks and lunch time.

Learn their names: At my current/former school I was so proud to say that I knew each student by name.  Students and parents would often ask me, “How do you remember all of our names?”  This was one thing that students wrote about in my beautiful year end keepsake.

Ask questions: During classroom visits, I always ask students to , “Tell me what you are learning about today” and “Can I help you in anyway?”  Quite often, this is the best part of my day. During recess breaks and lunch break I often ask students, “What do you love to do outside of school?” or “What do you enjoy doing with your family?”  Through these informal conversations I learn a lot about a student.

Share stories: Students also like to hear what I do outside of school.  The smaller the student, the more surprised they are that I don’t actually live at the school. :)  They like to know about my kids, my family and what I like to do besides work.

Families

Be present: Be present and available during Meet the Staff evenings, Open House, Family Fun Nights, Parent Teacher Interviews, sporting events…

Share a positive story:  All too often when I have to phone a parent it is usually for discipline of their child.  As often as I can, I like to share positive stories as well.  Taking the time to share the good as well as the bad, lets parents know that you care about their child.

Listen: When parents/families contact me, they have something important to say.  I need to take the time to listen.  Sometimes it takes awhile to truly hear what they are trying to tell me, other times, it’s just a quick chat.

Return phone calls: I understand the busy-ness of everyday, however, if a parent or family member has called, I do my very best to return that phone call in a timely manner.  Parents appreciate the time it takes to return the phone call and they feel valued and respected by this simple courtesy.

Colleagues

Be present: Be present and available through out the school day, during instructional time, during recess and lunch breaks, before and after school, during Parent Teacher Interviews and Professional Development days.

Listen: Similar to parents, I try to ensure that I listen to staff.  They are in the “trenches” and know their students so well.  When they come to me to share a story, celebrate a success, vent, cry or laugh I need to take the time to truly listen.

Offer Support: When and if I can, I offer support.  I often say, “What can I do to help?”

Share stories: I am a pretty open book with colleagues.  I share stories about my family, my life experiences and my teaching experiences.  Over the past 16 years, I have learned a lot and I have stories to share.  Sometimes I have an idea or suggestion to share.  Other times, I share a failure and what I learned from that experience.

Taking time to build relationships demonstrates my dedication to each individual that I encounter.  When relationships are built, people have a better idea of what I am about and they are more willing to listen to my message.

I know there are many more ideas to build relationships and I would love to hear from you…what did I miss???

:)S

Moving on…

Back in May, I wrote a post about change.  Read it here.

When I wrote that piece I knew I would be facing a change come the end of the school year.  A transfer to a different school in our district.   I felt I was ready for the change.  However, little could of prepared me for the roller-coaster ride of emotions I found myself on for the final two weeks of June.

At times, it seemed as though everything was moving in slow motion.  I could not figure out the new timetable/schedule.  With our school housing a separate Sports Academy program our schedule is complicated.  It took me days longer than it had taken me in the past.  I would sit and stare at it, no answers coming.

Most of the time though, I felt like things were moving at a hyper-speed.  Year end meetings, meetings for students, interviewing new teachers and new students.  There were also final meetings, final staff meeting, final professional development day, final school council meeting, final parent meetings.  During these final meetings I found myself thinking…”This is it, my last meeting at St. Pat’s for …”  However, it still wasn’t real to me.

Then we had our year-end staff social.  I haven’t wrote a lot about the staff at St. Pat’s, but I could write a book.  I have been so fortunate to work with a group of people who care deeply about students, work diligently and with integrity to meet the needs of  students and families.  I have had the pleasure to work with amazing teachers and staff!  At our year-end social, which I thought was just like every other year, our amazing staff presented me with a beautiful gift and kind words.  Staff members had written me beautiful messages which touched my heart, making my transfer seem a little more real…

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Beautiful words by amazing people!

The final week of school was extremely busy.  It is busy every year, and this year would be no different.  I finally figured out the timetable/schedule.  By figuring it out, we were able to complete a number of other jobs.  However, at our school, this last week of school is a time of crisis for a number of our students.  As they look forward to the summer months, they realize the stability of school will not be available to them.  Students begin to feel stress and anxiety.  I met with a few students who were feeling anxious about moving to the High School next year.  While they are excited to be moving on, they are nervous about the unknown.  We work with our school liaison workers to encourage and assure these students.  I found myself feeling true empathy for these students, excited about the change, anxious about the unknown.

On our final school day we begin with a celebration.  We celebrate our accomplishments through the year.  I love this celebration!  Students are recognized for a variety of reasons, too many to list.  We feel there is value in showing students how far they have come during the school year.  So, we take this time to celebration.

The poem...I felt like they were writing about someone else! :)

The poem…I felt like they were writing about someone else! :)

During this celebration I was surprised with an amazing gift!  The students and staff had taken the time to create an acrostic poem for me.  Each class had then taken the time to write a special message to me/about me, and they put them all in a book.  Each student had signed the book.  A student from each class read me the messages, infront of the school.  Students who I had worked with, students who I had helped, students who had taught me so much more than I could ever teach them.  What they wrote and said was thoughtful and encouraging.  While they were reading it I was thinking, “I did that?” “They are talking about me?” and “Wow! They have me confused with someone else!” :) If ever I needed affirmation or encouragement, this was it!!!   I know that I will forever treasure this special gift.  

One page of my beautiful book!

One page of my beautiful book!

On this last day of school there were tears, hugs and kind words.  Many parents and families wished me well on my journey & students came by my office for one last hug.  Looking back on that day, the change still didn’t seem real.

In our school district we often have an organizational day after the students are done.  During this day, we sort, organize and clean.  We fill out paperwork and clean, sort and organize for the next school year.  :) At the end of this day, many teachers came by to tell me to have a nice summer and to wish me well at the new school.  When everyone (except for one teacher) was gone, I decided to walk down the hallways of the school.  Hallways that I have walked many, many times in the past five years.  As I walked, I found myself looking in classrooms and smiling a little at all the memories.  And the realization that I was moving on hit me… 

After reflecting for a few days, while I am sad that I am leaving behind a wonderful school, I know I am moving forward with wisdom gained through the experiences I have had over the past five years.  St. Pat’s is an amazing school, full of wonderful people who have taught me each and every day!  I feel so blessed to have had the experience!

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As I was leaving on my last day…with 3 monsters!

:)S