K: K was my little sweetheart this year. She was always the first to partner up with A when no one else wanted to, with the patience of someone beyond her years (sometimes more patience for him than I had). K was a strong reader, but her math and writing skills were below grade-level throughout the year. K did everything at her own pace, sometimes going slower than molasses on a cold winter day, erasing and re-writing, and erasing, and re-writing, and erasing… well you get the drift. I definitely spent a lot of the year cheering her on and encouraging her, butting heads with K when I encouraged her independence and productivity in a timely manner. K was one of the more sensitive children in the class, often breaking down when she didn’t know something or had trouble mastering a concept. K taught me how to find the balance between being stern but also being nurturing. K made me a better teacher, constantly forcing me to find ways to make myself a more effective teacher to those learning below level.
Best K moment of the year definitely happened after she had been sick for a day and came back to school the next day. I told K I was so upset and sad that she wasn’t in school and spent the whole day crying. K looked at me and said, “Ms. Smith, I wasn’t grumpy or sad I couldn’t see you yesterday because I had a beautiful picture of you in my mind all day so I was happy!”
J: Oh J! My little class clown and Spongebob fanatic. J was always the first one to crack a joke or find someone a way to make someone smile. She had an uncanny ability to relate everything to a Spongebob episode and really showed me how purposeful interest-driven instruction can be. Watching J walk into school in the morning for the before-school program was always a show and full of melodrama. I have never seen someone walk so slow or sluggish before in his or her life. Pretty sure I could have done at least 10 laps in the hallway before J got her little butt down to my classroom. J was one of my top 3 strongest readers, devouring books like it was her job. The stories she wrote always included her own little J twist and while reading them aloud, it was hard not picturing J in my mind. Math was more of a struggle for J, often taking her more time and energy. She enjoyed rushing through her tests without asking for help, teaching me the importance of taking the extra effort to read test questions to those who need it. Towards the end of the year J tried to test me and “the system” with her temper tantrums, turning into a statue and curling into a ball when she didn’t get her way. Providing J with an outlet to express herself and feelings before she broke down and had a tantrum worked wonders and she was tantrum free for the last month of the year. While other teachers at first saw it as a way for J to remove herself from the whole group lesson to write down little things, after using it for a week the novelty wore off and J only used it when really necessary, and by the end of two weeks J no longer need to use it, instead seeking me out to tell me how she was feeling to avoid a tantrum. J taught me how to respond to the ever-changing emotions and needs of my students.
My favorite J moment that just truly captured J in all of her glory happened early one morning before school started. I was getting breakfast ready for my pumpkins in the before-program when I turn around to see J passed out, face down on the carpet. After the initial sheer panic and terror left my body (not every day a child decides to sleep face first with her arms and legs spread out on the carpet, emulating a dead body perfectly) I asked J what was wrong. She told me that she had to get up early and was tired, so tired that she fell asleep in the bathroom while brushing her teeth. Yup, that was my J!