It’s the End of the Year as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)
My oldest son is ending his elementary school career this week and I've been taking some time to reflect on his life and on my experiences as a teacher and educator. The end of year celebrations are a huge time drain and struggle as a teacher, but as a parent, it's one of the few times we are able to peek into the world own kids live in on a daily basis.
Don't get me wrong, my wife and I have seen activities, exhibits, showcases, and have been mystery readers and other roles as parents, but the candid photos during that end-of-year slideshow are pure. Kids are being kids and fortunately for us, they are almost always happy. I remember as a tech savvy teacher the days of slogging through thousands of digital photos taken through the year and selecting the right balance of subject matter—even making sure we had at least three photos of each student (as a middle school teacher with 140+ students, that's a lot of work). It was exhausting, but worth it. Parents, grandparents, and students loved those collages of memories and it left everyone with a great feeling at the end of the ceremony.
As I sat and listened to my son's principal talk, she had some wonderful advice for the students. It wasn't the same feeling as a commencement speaker at a high school or college graduation (thankfully). They were even careful to not call it a "graduation," rather a "promotion ceremony." Her message was full of pride and caring. Her final wish for these students was that they would come back and serve somehow. "Don't forget us when you want to work on the spring fair, the school play, or when you're ready for your Eagle Scout project. Whenever you want to help, you'll always be a Jamestown student, you'll always have a home here." It was a touching tribute and a call to action simultaneously. Other students have done this, so why not these 5th graders? And truthfully, it was the closest I got to tearing up in the 90-minute ceremony.
One of the best perks of Facebook to me since I left the classroom has been the ability to keep in touch with former students. While there are times when I feel very old as I watch them graduate from college, earn masters degrees, and become professionals, I also feel so proud. On several occasions I have received personal messages out of the blue thanking me for pushing them to work harder, gratitude for teaching them to love a subject, and even going as far as saying, "I'm becoming a teacher because I loved your class and want to teach because of you."
As the school year closes and many of you reading this are taking a little time to reflect, remind yourselves that your smallest actions sometimes make the biggest differences. We hear so much about the negatives in education on a daily basis—don't forget the good work you're doing and the joy you bring to the community you serve.
Kevin Scott is a strategic advisor for Constituent Programs at ASCD, facilitating its programs and initiatives created for younger educators, such as the Emerging Leaders and ASCD Student Chapter programs. He also provides services and consultation to ASCD affiliates. Before coming to ASCD, Scott served as member services manager for the Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) at the National School Board Association (NSBA), where he facilitated meetings with members, wrote CUBE's Urban Edge newsletter, provided content for NSBA's BoardBuzz blog, and maintained CUBE's presence on Twitter. Scott spent seven years teaching 7th grade history in Fairfax County Public Schools and has worked for other associations as the education director.