Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Slice of Life: What We Want for Our Students

Last week, I had the opportunity to go to Washington D.C. for some NCTE work and meetings. It was a good few days but one highlight stands out. During NCTE's Advocacy Day, I went into one of my congressman's office to meet with the congressman and his education policy aide.  I had scheduled the appointment a while ago. I am always a little frazzled when I am in DC--the buildings confuse me and I am always worried I'll be late. But I was early to this appointment, so I was waiting for my meeting after checking in at his office.  As I was waiting, a young woman walked out and said, "Mrs. Sibberson, Hi! You were my 4th grade teacher!" Of course I recognized her the minute she said, "Mrs. Sibberson." She had seen my name on the schedule and was excited to come out and say hi before my appointment.  I was soooooo happy to see her and to spend a few minutes hearing about her work and her life.  I hadn't seen her for years and it was so fun to see her all grown up, happy, and doing work she loved.


Over the past few years, I have run into several former students. I started teaching 1st grade 25 years ago so those 6 year olds are now about 31 years old!  Lots of my past students are in their twenties.  Every so often I bump into a student or get invited to a graduation party and visit with lots of past students and families  It is always such fun.  I have to say, the first few times I saw these amazing people all grown up, I felt a little old (actually, a lot old).   After all, I remember these kids dressed in Osh-Kosh overalls and it doesn't seem like that long ago that they lost their first teeth. To see them all grown up made me feel a little bit old at first. But only for a few seconds because the fun of seeing them now makes being a little old so worth it! 

It is a gift to run into a past student and catch up with how life is for him/her now.  I actually teach with a few past students and I love that I get to keep up a bit with their lives when I run into them at meetings, etc.  I ran into a few former students last year at a graduation party. And I've run into a few who have recently started jobs they love. I run into students planning weddings and students who are new parents.  I remember running into one student who had just discovered a passion for social work while another had discovered that she loved robotics.  I was able to see a few of my students in a high school musical last year and the talent was amazing.  One student has gone back to school to become a nurse and another student I ran into shared photos of her toddler son.  Last month, I ran into a student who not only filled me in on her own life, but on the lives of all of her friends that she knew I'd want to know about.  It was fun to hear about all they were doing, but even more fun to know that the kids in that class were still such close friends years later. 

Running into these students is always an important reminder of my role as an elementary teacher.  I want my students to learn at that level that they have lots of choices about what to do with their lives. I want them to know what is possible and to find work that they love and live a life that they love. I want them to be happy. I am realistic enough to realize that most adults won't remember much about their elementary years. They'll remember a few highlights, certainly, but maybe not the day-to-day events of the school years. What they will remember is the feeling of being part of an elementary school and part of a classroom community. I want that feeling they remember to be one of joy and possibility. I want them to spend those formative years of their lives knowing that anything is possible and I want them to realize that  learning and thinking with others is an amazing way to spend your time.

Seeing former students reminds me what it is that is important in my work with students.  I am reminded that before I know it, these little children dressed in Osh Kosh and with missing front teeth,will be all grown up.   This month, which is testing month for so many of us, is a great time for this reminder.  Of course I want my students to pass these tests. But I want so much more for them than that.

Tests!

19 comments:

  1. I'm a bit older than you are Franki, and now I'm really teaching some of my students kids. I love when I get a chance to see them....at least they recognize me ! Okay, and I love the last cartoon....as I am getting into the testing season....I hope I can do a good job teaching this skill. :) xo nanc

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  2. Welcome to the Slice of Life community!

    How fun that you ran into a former student in DC. I love your reminder of what you want students to take away from their elementary years. A perfect reminder for me as I head to work today.

    And I just love this cartoon as well.

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  3. Yay Franki! Welcome to Slice of Life! I too love running into former students. I love hearing how they are doing and what they've become interested in as adults. Thanks for sharing!

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  4. How unexpected and neat to run into a former student in Washington DC! It's rare for me to run into a former student now that I live so far away from where I taught, but you never know...

    Welcome to the SOSLC Community.

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  5. Welcome to the community, Franki. I too run into students, am on Facebook with them & it's such a pleasure to find out what they're doing & who they 'are' now. What fun that you had this moment, totally unexpected.

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  6. Welcome to SOL! It's amazing to see what they do with their life. How fun to run into a student so far from home.

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  7. "I want them to be happy." Such a simple statement, yet filled with power. Teaching from early age that the students have choices and possibilities, that learning and thinking in a community is an amazing way to spend time, and then running into your former students to see that they have seized the opportunities - that is wonderful. I like how you wrote with passion.

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  8. I love this post, Franki. I love the cartoon and I love the overall message. I don't know that we spend enough time thinking about what we really want students to remember about our classrooms--I wrote a post about this last week. Last night I saw the seventh grade teacher I talked about in the post and I shared it with him. It was great for him to hear that he was an important player in my development as a lover of reading!

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  9. Welcome to the SLice of Life community, Franki! I love running into old students, too- it's such a rush to learn about the choices they've made, the lives they've lived, and think about how the young adult in front of me connects to the sixth grader who spent a year in my classroom. What a nice surprise for you!

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  10. How wonderful to run into former students. I love it especially when I can also place them.
    DC, what a great place to meet. How was the meeting?

    Bonnie

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  11. Welcome to the slicing community -- you will love it! How fun that you ran into a former student in such a faraway place. I love the way you used that as a jumping-off point for reflecting on what you hope students to take away from your class. Your highlights of "joy and possibility" are such a perfect way to capture the mood of an elementary classroom! While I was never actually in your class, seeing you always reminds me of SCE and all the teachers I loved (after all, they were your colleagues). I know your classroom would have had the same feeling of "joy and possibility" that theirs did!

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  12. I wanted to thank you for such an awesome idea I found on Choice Literacy. We are having such fun in fifth grade re-reading a book each day. A wonderful way to celebrate literacy! Thanks!

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  13. Your post about running into former students resonates with me! I recently ran into one of Thames at the gas station-funny thing was she has a 1 year old and so do I! I also identify with your comic about tests! What can we do to challenge the purpose?

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    1. Them one of them... Not sure where Thames came from. Sorry!

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  14. Your last line is just perfect. So glad you committed to joining us on Tuesdays!

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  15. What a delight to run I to a former student in the Congressional offices! Your reminder that students will remember how we made them feel brings me back to my own high school classroom--empowering students for success and helping them see and feel it matter especially during testing season. Thank you!

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  16. Our lives are stories and they are interwoven. How fun to see how some stories are unfolding.

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  17. Seeing the fruit. A wonderful story.

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  18. Welcome to slicing, Franki!
    We see many former students at portfolio sharing nights at our elementary school. I agree with you, I feel old when I see them (my first 5th graders are HS grads this year!!), but then I get over it. Really love this piece!

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