winding down and winding up

Yes I know I have been less than wonderful at updating everyone on several points. I have spent the last week up at school working on my new classroom. I say new, because I am moving rooms. Last year I was in one of the smallest rooms in the building with no window! So I requested a change and got it. My room is bigger, and brighter with a (small, but present) window. I was busy all week moving, sweating, rearranging, decorating, organizing etc. It is incredible how much easier this has been for me this year. Mainly I think it's been easier because I actually have what I need, but I think it has been good for me too because it has forced me to really sort through things and figure out ways to better organize. When I came in last year, green as all get out, I just wanted to have what I needed, who cared where it was! As I unpacked I couldn't believe the mess I created! It was great to really sort through things and know how they should be arranged in my room for best use. I think this is a sign that, although I know I still have a lot to learn, the second year proves to be slightly easier/better. Arranging a classroom is difficult and interesting work for those of you that have never done it though; as one of my friends put it, "This is my Everest!" I think I've reached the peak, but now I need to focus on the details of those oh-so-important first days of school.

One jewel I got this week though was when I checked my stuffed mailbox in the teacher workroom. I saw the manila envelope and thought it was more paperwork that I needed to fill out...but it was something FAR better. It was the "Crystal Apple" nominations letters that 8th graders wrote last year. The Crystal Apple is awarded to any teacher in the middle school based on the nominations that are received. It is not a majority vote, it is based on the content. Whether teachers win or lose, it is one of their favorite moments to receive the nominations that were written about them. I tucked them in my bag and later snuggled up on the couch at home and read through my letters. It brought tears to my eyes to remember the students, to read their kind words, and to think about how I can be even better at what they say I'm good at next year. It was helpful in refocusing me for the upcoming school year (which I haven't mentioned is Aug. 12, a week from Wednesday. Prayers please!)

I read a few of my favorite parts to Brent. Here are a few I cherish:

" When you enter her room everything just seems so safe. She reaches out to her students and builds trust between them; a trust in which you have no doubt that it will be broken. I have never had a teacher with as big a heart as she has... She has a poster in her room that has a promise to all her students that she wrote. She starts off by saying that she believes in us, and she knows that we can handle life's situations. She goes on and says that we are cared for, and we are listened to. I have never had a teacher make that promise to me before. It meant something to me, and I can honestly say she has kept her promise."

"She is honestly my role model, and I aspire to be as good of a person when I grow up."

"She has opened my eyes to the details in life that can make all the difference in
the world. She has motivated me, inspired me, and encouraged me to write to my maximum and show who I really am and what I believe through my writing...She has made me want to write a story about my move to Kentucky, which is already 24 pages long. "

"My hopes and dreams of childhood were rekindled, all because of Mrs. Irwin. We didn't just learn in her class, we explored...She enforces the rules, but is nice about it...Her passion for writing is contagious, and I'm glad I caught the bug!"

"Up until this
year I had never met a teacher that I thought was truly amazing. For me, she was that teacher. She was the one I wanted to impress. Hers was the class I enjoyed. She was the one that made learning fun for me."

"When I came to 8th grade I thought I was going to have one of those older teacher that are very strict and don't like to have fun. Fortunate for me, it turned out that I had Mrs. Irwin. "

"I would mistake her for a person that has been teaching for many years. When I think of teachers I think of perfectionists. I think of no mistakes or problems. I also though that teachers were only at the school for money. This all cha
nged when Mrs. Irwin became my Language Arts teacher. She started off taking new and different approaches to the days' lesson plan. She has fun writer's notebooks which really got me excited about writing. She even asked questions and shared her writing, which proved to me that teachers are only human too, and are no better than the students they teach... The only reason I worried about setting my alarm for 7 am was so I could make it to school and so I was able to sit in Mrs. Irwin's class. "

"In Mrs. Irwin's room, everyone is comfortable enough to be themselves. Therefore, we're like one big, somewhat cra
zy and messed up family. This is because she is so kind and welcomes anyone. I've grown as a person because of her. I've come to accept people for who they are, and I know it's okay to make mistakes."

"She is someone her students can relate to. She isn't exactly one of those teachers who tells stories more than actually teaching; but whe
n she does, they mean something. Not just to her-- but to us. She's taught me so much more than just being a good writer. Everyday we had a routine. As soon as we walked through the door we knew to sit down and soon we would begin Writer's Notebook. While we were etching our thoughts away, Mrs. Irwin would select her latest arrangement of relaxing songs. It was an easy habit to adapt to-- knowing that everyday we would have some time away from our busy lives to stop and think... You felt comfortable in her classroom. IT was a safe environment. You didn't have to worry about being laughed at for a stupid question; that just wasn't how our class was. As students, we respected her and each other, and as a teacher, she respected us. I realize that this is how school should be, and I am forever grateful to Mrs. Irwin for allowing me to experience that."

Okay, so I got a little carried away, but I told my mom I would share those with her awhile ago and I thought some of the rest of you may want to read them as well. Although I feel somewhat undeserving of many of their compliments, I am so thankful they felt loved, cherished and safe in my classroom. I think if that's in place, if students trust their teacher, that they will learn something.
Unfortunately with school winding up, this means summer is winding down. I am soaking in my last days of sun at the pool, cleaning (I cleaned and organized all our closets today, and several cupboards), and spending time with Brent. We had a "date night" last night: we went to one of my favorite places-- BORDERS! We perused books and then sat and drank some coffee together (well, he had something other than coffee...but I indulged in my raspberry white mocha! Yum!)

One other thing I got to do last week was a little shopping. We are trying to be very frugal right now, so I didn't get much, but I did find a GREAT deal on these awesome sandals (I've wanted some in this style all summer):
And I was able to get 6 new books for my classroom at a garage sale this morning, and found Candyland for 50 cents! I also finished up a project for my soon to be nephew (Brent's sister, Beth). I can't put up pictures yet because I haven't gotten it in the mail, but as soon as Beth gets it I will show you all... so get excited :)

Now, if you don't mind, it is time for Brent and I to do our P90X workout for the day. I believe we are almost to day 40. Of 90. I think it may never come.


Elizabeth said...

i was hoping you would be the one to comment on the "you are my everest!"
do you remember that episode of friends? joey with the turkey?

well, i miss you kels. i wish i was in 8th grade language arts with mrs. irwin. dang.
my favorite part was the 'i set my alarm to go to class' one. so good.

*carrie* said...

Awesome words from your students--I hope they will fuel you for the year ahead!

Elizabeth said...

well, that picture is actually not from preschool this past year...it was from my student teaching. i didn't get a chance to take a picture with my kids from this year.

and yes...bless your compassionate loving heart for teaching the horny teens.