Some years come with more of a sense of renewal and ceremony than others, and this past year was a big one for me.
The end of my first year at PWHS actually begins with a look back to my previous teaching position at SFHS. I was honored to be an invitee once again to the Top Ten celebration at Sheboygan Falls, where high achieving students speak about their most influential teachers. (You may remember my posts about the memorable students who invited me last year and the year before that.) This was a really special occasion, since I got to catch up with a brilliant former student and his family. This particular student was one whom I continued to support this year in his college recommendations, and the one who helped me start Shakespeare Club last year. The degree to which this kid understands me was evident from his send off gift–the collection of sharks and flowers that you see in the collage above. I was truly touched by his speech (you can read it here), which reminded me that sometimes the students who are most impacted by an English teacher are the ones who come into their English class dead set against it. This particular student was captured not at first by my love of literature, but by my strange infatuation with sharks and satirical running commentary. This same young man informed me that one of his most recent purchases included Plato’s The Republic. For this reason, ladies and gentlemen, I say, “Whatever it takes,” with a smile of pride and confidence in this young man’s bright future, not only as an engineer-to-be, but as a lifelong reader and writer.
Thinking back to my three years at SFHS and the relationships that I was able to build with students and colleagues make me all the more excited for the years ahead at Port Washington High School. I’ve already started to build some bonds (and the ever-important sense of lore) with many students. I’m particularly grateful to my photography students, for supporting me in my interim art teaching apprenticeship, as we made new discoveries in the darkroom together. One of my students was sweet enough to give me the vintage camera that you see above, a spectacular Kodak Pony 135 from the 1950’s, as a thank you gift, accompanied by an earnest hug. My AP Literature and Composition students were also excited, eager participants in the journey of my first year in the community, willing to come along with whatever difficult or strange approach I devised to engage them in English canonical and contemporary works. Every time I pushed them in their writing skills, they adapted, relishing the work of getting better, sharper, and more precise. My Communications III students, by contrast, were not a highly literary bunch. But one of my favorite moments of the year came when a rough-around-the-edges junior, wearing a size large hunting jacket, turned to me and said, “Ms. H., I really think I’ve gotten better at writing this year. It’s weird, but… I kinda like it now.”
I am thankful to the members of my department who welcomed me with friendship and support. They made it easy to transition and call a new high school “home.”
As I look forward to next year, I’m filled with excitement as I think about building the AP Literature and Composition program even more, forming new bonds with students, and spreading my appreciation both of literature and of sharks to more and more young people.
This is what I adore about teaching:
Every year is a new year.
Every year, I get a chance to be better.
Every year, I get a chance to make a student’s life different than it was before, and to inject their day with a bit of humor, challenge, intellectualism, and a true love for what I do.
Happy summer to all.
P.s. I made the little photo collage that accompanies this post using PicMonkey.com , which is a free, easy way to make cool picture compilations in seconds! Useful teaching resource for projects and presentations!