Many teachers have to work under less than adequate circumstances, and my hat goes off to them, but today I want to give a great big public thank you from the uttermost bottomless pit of my heart to a team of four great educators: Mr. Bills, Mr. Preece, Mr. Robinson and Ms. Coombs. This team combined forces this year to integrate English, US History, Science and EMT/Life Sports to a group of close to 100 students all day long, every other day. Not only were these subjects taught together, they were taught hands on: going places and doing things like visiting a Japanese interment camp or biking to the river to scoop out water specimens and looking at the variety of life hidden there under a microscope, or learning from a movie or making presentations or living through a day of getting a taste of discrimination. I could go on, but hopefully you get the idea.
I know this year has been stressful, to say the least for these teachers. I'm sure they have second guessed themselves many times or may have felt frustrated that things haven't turned out exactly as they had envisioned. This program was put together rather quickly and there were plenty of kinks to work out, not the least of which were dealing with those who opposed this new approach and wanted to see it fail. I told the administration recently how I felt about these teachers, and on top of it all, I found out that they not only put their reputations on the line and their job security, they took a pay cut. As the administrator put it, they are now on equal ground with the Special Ed teachers who do the same. (Excuse me, I need to interrupt this tribute to complain about why it is that those that are doing the biggest jobs are getting paid the least? I just don't get it. Feel free to send them cash awards!)
So, I just wanted to say to you four teachers that you all are amazing. You are inspiring. Your dedication is incredible. All the praise I am about to heap on you is deserving. (You really deserve a raise, too!). I want to thank you for your patience. Yes, I know you didn't feel patient, for dealing with a big group of teens is a daunting task, but you used a lot of patience because you survived to the end. I know this, because I am a mom and know that dealing with even one can be overwhelming at times. You kept your head above water. Pat yourself on the back. I want to thank you for caring enough to make the sacrifices you made to make this year happen. Thank you for the time and thought and effort and planning that went into setting up a new curriculum. Your enthusiasm was contagious. I appreciate your care in bringing your subjects to life. I'm grateful for your efforts to form a more united group of students and help them appreciate and learn from one another. Thank you for taking the time to teach them more than subjects. Thank you for really caring about these kids as individuals and helping them find themselves and motivating them to do better, for giving them a better vision of what they can be.
As a mom, I am so appreciative of the love and friendship you have offered my daughter, and for having faith in her and truly wanting to help her learn. As you know, she is a wonderful and intelligent (not to mention complex) girl, but with very few exceptions, her educational experience has been disappointing. Few teachers have cared if she learns or not. Let's just crank her down the assembly line and spit her out the other side and who cares if anything productive happened along the way. I watched an enthusiastic child tale a nose dive and not even let me try to help her learn. They made her feel dumb and she gave up. I know most of her feedback has been about her feelings and the bonding with everyone, but this year was the best year she has ever had in school. She came home on a regular basis, excited to tell me about what she had done in school and what she had learned that day (something that rarely went on before) and the conversations she had, and the friendships she had formed, and the difficulties that arose and the fun she was having. I'm sure this was a year she will always remember and many of her friendships will continue.
Maybe some students didn't like the setup or get much out of it, but if that's the case, most likely they were expecting something different and didn't want to adjust or let you reach them. Maybe it wasn't the best style of learning for some, but for a big set of brilliant underachievers, it was spot on. My girl accepted the chance to make a change for the better and there couldn't have been a better set up for her. She never had science in elementary school, was confused and bored in Jr. High and struggled and was utterly ignored by the "teacher" despite requests for help until she failed in her first high school experience with science. She came into this year with a very negative attitude towards the subject, which mom took the brunt of while she repeated biology online. Now, she actually likes many areas of science and finds it interesting even though she told me that secretly and she won't admit it openly to the world. She wasn't always as enthusiastic as the teacher, mind you but she noted that enthusiasm and occasionally it was catching!
My daughter is also a walking accident and the PE teacher was very helpful and patient teacher and friend with all her little injuries. She learned to love so many new things, and is more likely to try more things after hiking, biking, cross country skiing and the like. I'm glad she learned some of these activities that can get her out into the fresh air and help her get some exercise throughout her life. She often shares with pride that she knows how to take care of different injuries and what to do in different emergencies as well.
Thanks for bringing history alive with trips and movies and discussions. My daughter learned interesting and relevant lessons about our past while she was in this class. Her awareness and sense of how things ought to be increased through the experiences shared in the class.
Thank you for your patience and care in bringing great reading material to her, for believing in her abilities and encouraging her. This year, for the first time, she read a book all on her own, cover to cover. No one had taken the time to find the kind of book that would motivate her to do this. She learned, quite by accident through a recommended book that the format it was printed in was easier for her to follow. This discovery has been invaluable. She also wrote out projects and papers and started typing some of them all on her own as well. Thanks for the thought provoking activities and discussions that inspired her to come home talking about what she learned.
Most of all, thank you for the life lessons and the examples you gave to these kids. You might not have realized it, but you taught the students important lessons about not giving up, working through difficulties, facing and accepting responsibility for mistakes and making things better. You might not realize how much of that was observed, and while I know she didn't articulate it to you, my child noticed and respects each one of you for your character. My hat goes off to you and I wish there were more like you out there. Good luck in the future and carry on!