Dear Future Me:
Hey! It’s Amber, in June, on the last day of final exams, 2018. I have a few “words of wisdom” for you that you will surely forget as you go about your summer of visiting amusement parks, gathering sea glass, going on road trips, and not answering a hundred questions before noon. I think I’ve preached enough on being a “reflective educator” to last a lifetime, but I’m going to get a little preachy here again—just to be sure.
Remember getting married and all the advice everyone gave you? Well-intentioned, of course, but also a bit overwhelming. The only advice I remember 20 years later is “Whatever you start off doing in your marriage, know that it will be the expectation for the rest of your marriage.” You took that to heart, and that’s worked out pretty well! You will not act as a waitress, you will always kiss goodnight, and you will always remember to marvel over the life you’ve made. Now, apply that piece of advice to your classroom in the fall. Don’t start off allowing something that you don’t want to keep up, and don’t make decisions that you don’t want to follow through on. When students ask to hang out in your classroom on your free periods during the first weeks of school (and you let them), it could quickly turn into a habit; then it could turn into stress because students expect you to be 100 percent available all the time, so don’t start off doing so much that you can’t keep up. I’m not saying turn students away, but I am reminding you now:
Set boundaries or you’ll be smothered! You are only human. You have to go to the bathroom, make photocopies, check your mailbox, and simply be “off” for a few minutes every day.
On the flip side of that advice is to make a bigger effort to keep all of the celebrations going all the way to the end of the school year. You are great with praising students on Twitter, updating your website with “star students,” and having parties for all sorts of things. Well, you were fabulous with that until the last quarter. State assessments, field trips, breaks and final exams threw you off your normal game; if you don’t get intentional about finishing strong, it will get away from you. Sadly, I had a student say to me that he’d been “killing it” in English language arts and that he wished we had time to have our end of quarter celebration. He was right. This was the first quarter he was going to get the coveted invite for students who earn a 99 or 100 (because of retakes and revision and remediation, anyone who really wants a 99 or 100 can earn it). I’m sitting here kicking myself for just letting this quarter get away from me. Future self:
Get intentional about scheduling the final quarter around the celebrations instead of letting them fall to the ways. This is your “thing” lady. Don’t let the little things that matter most slide just because someone else defines what should be big for you and your students. You’re better than that!
Finally, after the above two reminders, I’m sure I’ve got to intervene and reassure you that you still rocked your year. Your students are truly going to miss the safe space you’ve created for them, the “available to a fault” personality that you project even on the harder days, and the creative space to pursue their passions. They are going to miss who they get to be in your classroom, and they are going to take their newfound confidence and shine brightly at the high school! So, in the end, the real advice is this:
Do the best you can do every single day—with your faults and imperfections—and it will all turn out just fine because you love these kiddos and this job.
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