In June of 2019, I was searching for something new. I started looking for a new teaching position, especially one at the 5th grade level. I was looking at the Diocese of Cleveland website for teaching positions and I saw a position for a 5th grade homeroom position at Communion of Saints School. Well, I figured I had nothing to lose and everything to gain! I submitted my resume and all that fun stuff and within an hour I had a phone call from the school secretary asking me to come in for an interview. Well, that’s where the fun begins! I was leaving for a vacation soon after I received that phone call, so we quickly organized the interview and I started to prepare!
The interview day came along and little did I know that it was also Field Day for the school. So I walk through a group of students engaged in so many awesome activities! I’m wearing a blazer and dress pants and everyone else is wearing shorts and t-shirts! I’ll never forget walking through the parking lot seeing all the great students interacting so positively together…and from that point on I knew that this was going to be a special place!
The interview went great and I knew right after that it was going to happen! I went on vacation much more relaxed knowing that my future was taken care of, but I was also a bit nervous starting at a new school!
In early August I was able to get into my classroom for the first time…Room 210! The great thing about the room number is that it is the same room number that I was in at my last school! Room 210!
As I was setting up my classroom, one thing kept sticking in my mind….”How am I going to deal with 28 students?” My room is a similar size to my last school and I had 18 students! Where are 10 more students going to fit? I tried to be creative but there was one thing that I was soon going to discover…my students are so great that it didn’t matter where I had them sit, they were going to get along with everyone they were by!
I start each school year off using Play-Doh and have students create something out of it to explain who they are. When I saw the creations of my students, I knew that this class was going to be something special. They were so creative with what they made; they shared Play-Doh to allow students to add extra elements to their creations; and when they shared what they made, they did it with so much passion.
As the school year continued, this class continued to grow as a family. They learned together. They supported each other. Best of all, they cared for each other. Each student found their “group” yet everyone was apart of the larger.
One amazing thing I found this year is actually how easy it is to get to know each student individually. I had 28 students…20 girls and 8 boys! When I first heard that, I was very overwhelmed! 20 girls?? 20 girls is more in one class than I had total students in one class! I do recall telling the boys that they would always win a disagreement because I’m one of them! Yet, I never had to do that since they all got along so great!
The school year continued…and my excitement for everything kept increasing! I knew something about each student that just made them unique. Some examples are pickles, math, memes, jokes, stories, FRIENDS, Annie, Nugget, “Well, what had happened was…”, Rubik’s Cubes, a horse on the ground, and so many more! These are the memories that I will hold with me forever!
Now, here comes the hardest part of this past year…Thursday, March 12th, 2020. This was an early dismissal day, so students were to be dismissed at 1:30pm. At 12:45 teachers were informed to have students start to pack up their materials just in case schools were closed due to the pandemic. I told my students to do just that. There was confusion. There was uncertainty. We didn’t know anything except that the coronavirus was just beginning to be present in Ohio and that the possibility of closing was there. I knew that we were probably going to close, but I didn’t expect it so soon. There was no school for students on Friday, March 13, so I told students as they left on Thursday that”I’ll see you Monday!” Monday never happened…
Soon after we left school, it was announced that all K-12 schools in Ohio were going to close. This became a time to scramble and figure out the next step in the school year. Here is one thing I have to tell you that some of you may not understand…March, April, and May are the best months to be a teacher! Kids are fully understanding who they are and students are in their zone! It is a great period of growth in so many areas…academic, social, spiritual, and emotional! Yet, it was ripped away from me, my students, our class! I was hurting.
One advantage that I had was that my class was already using Google Classroom. They knew the system because we jumped into it early in the school year. Students were eager to learn Google Classroom and I was able to work seamlessly with my partner teacher to implement Google Classroom for all of our students! In addition to Google Classroom, my partner teacher and I were always on the same page, so it made for an amazing year working with her! Back to the Google Classroom…when the school year had to be quickly changed over to distance learning the students were easily able to adapt to the change. This says so much about my students! They were able to see learning happening everywhere they were. I don’t mean this as technology was available everywhere so they were learning, but that they are able to see how the environment around them is their “classroom”. So proud of these students!
As we moved forward with distance learning, the students progressed through by creating routines. We had our weekly class meetings with a strong attendance rate! We shared stories of the events of the week, caught kids up on the lessons they will have, and was just present for them…and they were there for me! While this continued, I felt like it wasn’t enough. One thing I found so great about this class wasn’t how close they were as a group (which they were!) but rather how close the families were! At school events, at sporting events, in the stories they shared, it was always involving the families being together. A true community! I needed to find a way to keep that connection! So I created a long distance game night!
Our Game Nights consisted of playing Kahoot! through Zoom! Families competed against each other, challenged each other….but more importantly, kept the connection that they had before distancing! We would have these Game Nights every Thursday. When we got towards the end of the school year I would ask each week, “Is this the final one, or do you want to have one next week?” The answer would always be, “Let’s play again next week!” Little did I know that we would go 7 straight weeks of playing Kahoot! and I couldn’t have been happier doing this for my families!
As the school year wrapped up, I felt so bad saying “See you Monday!” and then never seeing my students again for the rest of the school year. I knew that it wasn’t right…and I needed to make up for it! So I decided that I wanted to visit each student in someway so I contacted parents and informed them that I would be coming to each house to drop off a small gift for each student. On Wednesday, May 27, I was able to visit 25 of my 28 students. Laughs were had…and even some tears were shed during my visits. It was a bit of closure…but it’s still not the same as being in the classroom with them. It was such a powerful experience though.
Now that the classroom is closed up and we are in “summer break”, I can safely say that this has been the most unique school year I have ever encountered. I don’t like to say that this was my best school or class ever because each group has made me better in some way, but I do know that this group has surely taught me the most about myself and has pushed me to be even better than I was before. They challenged me socially, emotionally, and spiritually….but all positively! I just hope that I left half as much impact on them that they have left on me. I am going to miss this class, but I am going to support them all the way through 6th grade and beyond that!
My special message to this class is this…”Take your rose with you everywhere you go; take care of it, nurture it, and watch it grow. It is your rose, and only yours! Make it the best rose ever!” I’m so proud of you!