I’m about to finish my 16th year teaching with the Board. Sometimes it amazes me that I’ve been teaching for so long, and had so many opportunities to connect with students, parents, extended families, and staff members at multiple schools within Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board. Yesterday, I was reminded of how lucky I am, when I ran into two former students with their moms: one that is about to graduate Grade 8, and one that is getting ready to go to Grade 12. These interactions really made me stop and think about how much I’ve learned from my former students over the years.
There’s something special about every child and every teaching experience. I have memories of all 16 years. But today, I’m thinking back to my experience teaching Grade 5. There was something extra special about this class.
- I taught many of these students in Kindergarten, Grade 1, Grade 2, and then, Grade 5. When this happens, you truly become a family.
- This was the class that helped me embrace and love play-based and inquiry-based learning. These students inspired me to start teaching Full-Day Kindergarten with a Program Document that truly supports these approaches.
- This was the class I was teaching when I found out that I was one of the recipients of the Prime Minister’s Award For Teaching Excellence. It was an experience to remember, and one that I got to enjoy with these wonderful Grade 5’s.
These Grade 5’s are the same Grade 8’s that will be graduating on Tuesday. It is in thinking about all of them, that I raise a toast to these “firsts”: special memories and experiences that happened with them first.
- Here’s to our Murder Mystery that was like a culminating task without a culminating task.
— Aviva Dunsiger (@avivaloca) December 16, 2013
- Here’s to our Big Body Bonanza that helped me feel like Ms. Frizzle for the first time in my teaching career, and allowed us to go deeper with the human body than I ever thought was possible.
Great to see the Gr. 5's engaging the K's. pic.twitter.com/JSRKWYwYYn
— Aviva Dunsiger (@avivaloca) February 18, 2014
- Here’s to our first television news experience — that quickly led to another one — and resulted in an unexpected, and wonderful, connection with Sunnybrook Hospital.
- Here’s to our first game of Challenge that led to many, many more. Here’s to an environment where questioning was always welcomed and encouraged.
- Here’s to the “operator”: the child that gave himself the job of answering the phone every time it rang, and took responsibility and showed maturity in a way that was truly special for him.
- Here’s to The Energy Grinch play, a wig that I thought I’d never wear, and getting me up onto a stage at a year-end assembly because this is what mattered to kids. Here’s to me learning how to embrace the “uncomfortable” thanks to these Grade 5’s.
- Here’s to Michael Kors shoes, babysitting solar-powered S’mores, musical organ systems, and daily discussions over digestion.
- Here’s to the year I learned what the “environment as a third teacher” really means, and being responsive to kids in a way that I haven’t been before.
- Here’s to my introduction to Stuart Shanker’s work, and my growing understanding of Self-Reg: Calm, Alert, and Learning was the book that truly changed me as an educator.
To all of those Grade 5’s (now Grade 8’s), here’s to a year of “firsts” and a lifetime of many more “firsts” to come. I’m so proud of all of you. The sky’s the limit! Continue to work hard, play hard, think hard, and question lots: there is NOTHING that you can’t do! And “thank you” for teaching me so much over the years. There’s a little bit of each of you in all that I do, and I look back on and think about these special memories often. You have each made me a better teacher, and for that, I’m incredibly grateful.
Here’s to the almost graduates, and amazing new adventures to come! To think that I ended the year before this Grade 5 one wondering if I should stay in junior, and to now be so very thankful that I did. We all need to find a way to preserve these special memories. Blogging is my way. What’s yours?