20 June 2012

In my last days at this school, my students gave to me...

8 friends requesting
Since our district's policy strongly discourages friending current students, graduation is a time of adding teachers--strangely only 1 that I taught this year.

7 grades surprising
Of course there's the one who needed a good project and to make up time. One needed an A to pass his second round of Spanish 2--and by golly, he and his partner had the best presentation in the lot! Another needed a miracle--and by golly, his blogs were just not showing up on Blogger for some reason! Two got Level III's on their EOC tests, thus rounding them up to passing. Two needed solid projects and spoke more Spanish than they had spoken in the previous three years of Spanish combined.

6 students trying
Two were required by state-policy to re-take their English EOC, and they did fine. Two just re-took the Spanish I exam to get a passing grade on the final, even though they were already guaranteed to pass the class given their quarter grades. Two were long-shots for passing the course, but they came in when they didn't have to, and I applaud them for taking the time to prepare and taking a risk.

FIVE HOURS OF SPANISH!
Between Spanish 2 and Spanish 3 presentations, there were about 5 total hours of my students speaking (almost) nothing but Spanish. Sure, some had previously recorded Voicethreads do the legwork for them, and a little English slipped in here and there. But there were kids talking for 20 minutes without flinching! There were kids stringing together sentences, grasping questions--kids that acted like they would never be able to do either!

4 photo tags
Me playing cello with "the band" for Pomp & Circumstance.
A tearful hug when I presented an all-time favorite, brilliant student with her book (and after graduation--again with cello--after all, she used to be in "the band" too when it wasn't her graduation).
And my graduating salutatorian debater getting her book from me, with this caption:
I held back my tears until this moment.What will my life be without debate and this wonderful lady? 

I gotta confess, I held back the tears until she mentioned their first 9th grade orientation--my first at this school. I could hardly remember seeing any of them there, but I remembered the same feelings she described as I came to the school.

3 "thanks" texts
"Thanks mrs S. See you around." from the kid who did a bang-up job on his final project and so bargained with his truck and classroom moving abilities for a chance at enough "seat time" (after many an unfortunately scheduled orthodontist appointment and illness) to officially pass the class.

"Lilly and i would like to say thank you for teaching us spanish so well. Our fellow employees are all hispanic and some speak limited english. Our boss was really impressed with our knowledge ability to communicate with native speakers. :)"

"Thanks For Everything You Have  Been Doing It Really Means A Lot To Me." Remember "Jenny"? Once again, I was glad she had my number when her parent succumbed to the illness, and Jenny just needed someone to visit or something to eat. Nothing I could do could be enough, but for this hard-as-nails girl to text that...there are no words.

2 special gifts
I hadn't taught her since her sophomore year, and apparently she did it for all of the teachers she'd had. She gave each of us a pen engraved with our names and a character award from our school's standard list. Mine says "Gary Phillips," which our school officially defines as follows:
Named after the noted Psychologist who blessed our school in its first year as a “healing place” for kids, this award recognizes students who have reached deep into their own souls to find who they are and have responded to school support with positive personal changes in their role as students. These are students who have looked in the mirror and found the truth about themselves, and in finding that truth have grown in wisdom and understanding.
The second special gift? Was the letter explaining why she chose this award--and zebra stripes--for me:

The coolest parts are when she says...
But instead of getting frustrated at us, you instead replied with, "How can I do it differently?" I will never forget the effort you put into our learning, and that's why I chose to give you the Gary Phillips Award.[...]one thing I completely agree with that my pastor taught me was to never pray for God to change someone else before you pray for him to change you first. I feel like that is what you have always done with yourself. You have never stopped looking inside yourself to figure out what can be changed in you before trying to change it in someone else.
...and...
[...]I know that while I continue growing, you will, too. And I know that just like me, you'll never stop, either. 

And a hug from the kid who didn't fail
He tried to call his parents after his final presentation, which, admittedly wasn't awesome, to tell them he wasn't graduating. Fortunately, he had actually engaged the last quarter (got really into the Afrolatinos unit discussions), so with his fourth quarter grade, all he had to do was enough to pass. And that he did. Aside from the during-ceremony hugs during book presentations, he was the only kid to seek me out for a hug. This metalhead who frequently traded jibes with me about how little he liked my class and how little work he did. He was genuinely happy. And he genuinely earned it.

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