Our Greatest Treasures

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Dear Teachers, 

We are now at the end of the year.  The boxes are getting packed and the room is getting bare once again.  The anchor charts are coming down and some books are left unread.  Pretty soon, it will be empty of children and all the things that come along with them. The smiles, the tears, and everything in between, has come to an end as the 2014-15 school year comes to a close.

But, the memories are still there.  And your impact is there.

I was a classroom teacher for 14 years before I became a literacy coach.  The biggest obstacle for me continues to be that I don't have a group of students to call my own.  I don't have "my kids."  But, for all the years that I did have my own class, they were my school children.   And, like all scrapbooking moms out there, I wanted to document the memories.  Just like my own 2nd grade teacher did years and years ago with me, I always had them make a memory book.  It was always bound (sometimes with a book binder, sometimes in a report cover) but made every single year.  The pages changed, but I always told the kids that I expected them to save it, just like I saved mine. I wanted them to remember what they have accomplished, and by looking back on your work as a second grader when they were in high school or beyond, the progress would be great.  It was also filled with pictures to help them see themselves as children, too.

As the years progressed, so did technology.  So, we kept making the memory book, but I started making an iMovie around 6 years ago and gave the kids a copy.  It had our class projects, our photos of field trips, our best memories from the year.  I always hoped that they would go home and watch it with their families and be proud of themselves.

Well, this year I don't have a class.  And, this year, my son did.

My son just finished his first year of kindergarten.  Being a teacher is so different than being a mom of a school age student, at least for an emotional person like me.  It has been amazing seeing him grow up, but at the same time it has been hard for me to come to terms that he is growing up.  But, I (almost) held it together on the first day of school, and at his Christmas program, and during the events I was lucky enough to attend as a working mom.  I even got through his end of the year program and picnic with a smile on my face.

And then I saw the video...

It turns out, my son's teacher is someone who also believes that every student should have their memories preserved.  She has been his school mom this year, I'm sure wiping his tears and helping him grow independent.  She has invited the families in and made us a part of her classroom, because she knows that they are our treasures.  As the year came to a close, she documented it into a video for us to watch together.

Somehow, through the well chosen songs and photos of kindergarteners and families alike, I came full circle to my own wishes for my students of the past.  I had always wanted them to do this with their families, and now I got to do it with my own son because of the thoughtfulness of his teacher. I just never expected the tears.  I sat there and struggled to keep my composure as he grew up a year right in front of my eyes, with some of my favorite sappy songs as the soundtrack.  And, all I could think about was how lucky we were to have had her as a teacher this year.

And, stapled to the report card, was the letter.  And, it started:
"I give your child back; the same child you confidently entrusted to my care last fall.  I give you your child back pounds heavier, inches taller, months wiser, more responsible, and more mature than before.  Although your child would have attained this growth in spite of me, it has been my happy privilege to watch this personality unfold day by day."

I was all tears after that.

Mrs. Jarz, thanks for everything that you do.  Your impact is great, and we appreciate you very much in the O'Donnell household.

His own self-portrait, from his very own kindergarten memory book.
Teachers who treat their students like members of their school family, know that your efforts are very much appreciated by the families.  We trusted you with our greatest treasures, and they are leaving you shining even brighter.  Thank you.

Leah O'Donnell (Mom, not Literacy Coach)

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