Last year was the most challenging year I’ve ever had as a teacher.
It was my second year at a new school in a new district. I looped up to 6th grade with half of the 5th graders I had the year before. It was going to be amazing because the group of 5th graders was one of the best groups of kids I’d ever had. But 9 newly enrolled students really changed the dynamics of the entire group and it ended up being the year that made me seriously consider quitting teaching.
I ended up with a roster of half of my 5th graders from the previous year, 4 new students, and the rest were a mix of other students. I also took the special education cluster of students and was co-teaching. 3 of my new students ended up turning my whole world upside down.
The behaviors and emotional needs of these 3 students wrecked me. They yelled at me, ignored me, tried to fight with me, stole from me. They broke me. Day after day after day. It took a toll on me and it ruined the second year several of those other kids got to spend with me. But every day, I came to school and started fresh. It didn’t matter how badly the day before went; I wiped the slate clean every day.
On the last day of school, I passed out notes I wrote to each my students, as I always do. I handed them out with the help of my co-teacher. She tapped me on the shoulder and asked what the notes said–AJ was crying. Rylan started to cry, too. These two boys. Everything that had happened the whole year just melted away. They both came to me and hugged me and we cried, with all the other students around us starting to cry too. We cried as the rest of the school clapped out the 6th graders. We cried taking pictures. We cried as we hugged our final hugs and said our final goodbyes.
I didn’t think I’d make it to that last day. But I’m so glad I stuck it out for them. Because whatever I did all year to get through to them, it must have meant something. And I’ll never forget those kids.