This time of year a certain amount of planning is focused on next year. Well, next year is my last year at the school where I’ve worked for 26 years. So, as we lay the groundwork for next year, it’s my last go-round.
Today I filled out my last course preference sheet. This is the form our leadership uses to solicit input about what classes we would like to teach next year. I didn’t write down anything too surprising, but it was still a little eerie knowing it was my last time to think about the way our courses are arranged and what best fits my skills and preferences.
Although I’m retiring from my current school district, I have no intention of fully retiring. I can no longer work in Illinois public education after I retire, but I still have plenty of other options, or at least I hope that’s true. Still, it’s an ending, and it sort of started today with that course preference sheet.
If I’m counting correctly, I have 271 days left with students at my school, plus odds and ends of institute days. I don’t know if that sounds like a big number or a small number to you, but it sounds small to me. I can count the number of times I will go through certain lessons and activities, tell favorite jokes, and report various report-y kinds of things.
This is all a long way of saying I don’t want any wasted days, class periods, or even minutes. As much as I can, I want every student in every class every day to have a joyful, interesting, rewarding experience. If it can’t be joyful every moment, I want it to at least be relevant or productive.
I can’t stand the thought that even one minute will be wasted on things that don’t really help students become better readers, writers, thinkers, or the kind of person you want to have some day for your neighbor or nurse or doctor or mechanic or your child’s life partner.
You may be saying, Why are you waiting for now to have such lofty goals? That’s not really what’s going on here. I’ve always taken pride in how I work with students, conduct classes, and promote literacy, but it now feels even more urgent. These opportunities never seemed finite until now.
What am I trying to say? I think it’s this. Those of us who are teachers do noble work, and we have great responsibilities. Our truest results are not measured by any test. They are measured by how we affect students, how they are better equipped for life because they serendipitously ended up on our roster during a particular year or semester. I’m not sure I’ve always appreciated the opportunity to do this work. I’ve always liked it, even loved it, but I’m not sure ever I’ve truly appreciated it. That perspective is now coming into focus.
My goals for students are stated in the paragraphs above. My goal for myself? Appreciate this.