Tuesday, July 5, 2011

From Dusty Boxes to Emotional Memories

I got an e-mail at home yesterday from the secretary of the school I worked at as teacher, counsellor, vice-principal and principal.  For 20 years this school was my "home".  She told me it was time for me to come and take away the "stuff" I left when I left the school 2 years ago.  If you know Sheila, you know that you don't mess with her when she makes a "request".  It was time.  She had taken all my "stuff" from the back room where I had stored it not knowing when I left if I would be returning.  So many years at "my" school.  So many roles. So many projects.  So many wonderful students.  SO MUCH STUFF!

I wasn't quite sure where to start so I picked the boxes that I knew were full of files I had collected.  Some of it dated back to my teaching practicum. For the first few years I taught in tentative positions which sometimes involved teaching many grades.  After only five years of teaching I had taught from Kindergarten right through to grade 12.  Having "stuff" to take to a new position each year was very important.  However, I haven't taught Kindergarten since that first year and for most of my classroom years grades four and five were where I spent most of my time.  Most of the files were safety nets "just in case".

The files were easy to throw out.  They were lessons passed on to me.  Some were useful in the early years and some were never useful.  I just couldn't throw out the work of people who had so lovingly passed them on to me as I began my career.  At any rate, they were all full of worksheets and projects which I had used sparingly or not at all and they hit the recycling bin at full speed.  Next were the binders.  I'm a very organized teacher and my binders covered all of my subjects from September to June for a number of years.  I loved going through them remembering how much enthusiasm and time had gone into preparing lessons that I hoped would engage and challenge all those eager kids.  The challenge then and now was to keep them eager:)  I was proud of many of my projects but what really moved me were the student samples that I had kept to go along with the lessons. 

The student samples I kept reflected so much effort, so much creativity, so much care and time.   Many projects included a self-evaluation and peer evaluation.  These students were so proud of their accomplishments.  Their peers were so supportive and appreciative in their comments as well.  I was flooded with memories of students who had put their hearts and souls into these projects.  Their strengths shone through, in their work and in their evaluations.  The artists, writers, fact-finders, problem-solvers, mathematicians, scientists, musicians, athletes, comedians, anthropologists, organizers, challengers and so many more came into focus as I sorted through their work. 

There was the illustrated poem done by a young boy who got to school too late every day to get on one of our two computers.  He showed a full parking lot and the clock showing 8:35.  The details of his agony were everywhere; in his pictures and in his words.  There were many books of photographs the students had written beneath chronicling the many events of the years they were there.  We did a wonderful project on heavy machines while the school was under construction.  Our yearly trip to Green Point to gather moss, lichens, pine cones etc to picture frames with was a highlifht reflected in pictures.  Each of those picture frames included a class picture and each student enjoying their day at Green Point.  Three years ago a young man came into my office at Kent School to show me that he still had his picture.  His son had just been born and he had come to introduce me to his baby.  He talked about how much fun he had had at Green Point that day and left his picture with me as a gift.  I came across a Gold Rush game board that was so beautifully done I just couldn't throw it away.  That young lady just published her first book:)  The number of amazing works I came across today could be a book on its own.  I wished I could get in touch with each child whose face crossed my mind today.  I wish they knew how they had touched my heart and made me proud to be a teacher, not just "then" but today as well. 

I am quickly coming to the end of my career.  I probably have just a couple of years left before I transition to that next phase of my life.  I came to teaching late but I came passionate.  I am proud to say that I still have that passion and I know after today that the passion comes to me from the students.  The kids I taught this year challenged me, entertained me and touched my heart the same way that first class did 22 years ago.  I am so glad Sheila called me.  My day was full of plans before that e-mail but not one thing I would have done today would have been as enjoyable and as emotional as going back through 22 years of memories of such wonderful young people and the amazing work they did.  I wish I could say thanks to each and every one of them and to let them know that I think of each of them often.  Thanks kids!  Thanks Sheila!


  1. It was a pleasure sharing some of your experiences at Kent School. I had the best teaching partner!

  2. I got a little misty eyed myself, reading this. I've been going through eight years of family pre-digital age photos, organizing and filing in albums - a labour of love! I'll never forget the welcome both you and Sheila gave us that first day way back in 2003. It was warm and eager. I know who Transformer Gramma is now :)

  3. Touching, Mom...if only all teachers had this passion! I am sure so many students were affected by you than you will ever know. Thanks for sharing your love of teaching with us...ALL of us!