As I walked by classrooms, an unexplainable sense of warmth started to bubble from the inside and emerged as a smile as I passed my first-grade classroom on my way to the portables. My nerves were immediately eliminated as I started to catch up with my former teacher during the end of his lunch block as he asked about my family, my current classroom, and as we reminisced about some of the epic football games he quarterbacked during our recess as sixth graders many years ago. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have spent the afternoon revisiting some of my favorite childhood memories.
The second event happened shortly after my trip back to my elementary school but was planned months prior at our last parent-teacher-student conference. One of the families in my class had a vacation planned to Hawaii over the holiday break and had hoped to meet up if I were returning home for the holidays. I happily agreed at the time but began to get a little nervous as the night approached. I love running into families and students outside of school, but I had never pre-arranged a meeting like this before!
Just like walking through the familiar halls of my elementary school, my nerves were eased as soon as we sat down for dinner. I heard every detail of my student’s stay so far--all of the places she visited, foods that she tried, and activities to still conquer! As many teachers do, I spent the first couple of days of the school year building our classroom community by sharing about each other...myself included! I love sharing about my home state of Hawaii and the experiences that I’ve had because of it, and it was the most unique feeling to be able to share that experience first-hand with one of my students, despite being thousands of miles away from where we lead our daily lives!
It absolutely blew me away that this student would spend the days leading up to our dinner asking her Aunt when dinner was and I will forever cherish that time with her and her family and the trinket she picked out for me to commemorate it!
While these two events occurred independently of each other, I’m glad they happened when it did because it reinforced what is truly important in our classrooms. I will continually strive to emulate an educational experience for our students similar to the one that I’ve had--one that will be memorable for our students because of the relationships built and experiences shared, rather than because, “we covered it.” With state testing silently approaching, it is so easy to fall into the trap of test prep and review. As educators, we are aware that these standardized tests only measure a fraction of our children’s abilities. It doesn’t measure their kindness when they reach out to a new friend, their perseverance when they fail at a task, or their bravery as they fearlessly take risks. So while we will give it our best to show what we know during that designated time, our experiences leading up to it won’t change...because at the end of the day #KidsDeserveIt.