Two years ago, when I left Robinson for good (and teaching, or so I thought), I remember looking at the many boxes full of books, classroom supplies, records, and decorations that I had packed up. Is it worth taking all this stuff with me? I remember thinking. I don’t plan on teaching again. Maybe I should just leave this stuff here and let the masses fight over it.
Well, I’m glad I didn’t.
Last night, coming to the realization that we had probably put it off long enough, Jess and I set about the herculean task of going through the walk-in closet in our spare bedroom that doubled as our storage unit while we were here. It started off organized enough when we moved in, but over time it’s become the area everyone has somewhere in their house, where stuff gets thrown in and then the door is shut as quickly as possible to fend off the avalanche of crap that has accumulated over the years.
As we extracted the boxes, we went through each one and decided if the contents of the box should be entirely or partially chucked. After a couple of hours, we finally got to the very back of the closet, where we put the things we deemed the least likely to be needed. And there, untouched for nearly two years, were the boxes containing the contents of my classroom.
While the process of packing and moving makes me incredibly cranky – moving is a pain in the ass and I don’t recommend it for anyone ever – the prospect of looking at some old teacher artifacts had me a little giddy. As I’ve begun going through boxes, here are a few of my favorite things that I’ve found.
– A classroom observation write-up from 2005 (my first year of teaching), wherein I got mostly good reviews but was taken to task for using a whole minute of class time to take attendance. With all due respect to the assistant principal who wrote that up, I didn’t lose sleep over that little critique.
– A Concord/Kannapolis Independent Tribune clipping from 2006 detailing my quiz bowl team’s recent trip to compete in a tournament at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. A team picture accompanied the writeup; they looked so young.
– Speaking of quiz bowl… a trophy I won at the 2009 Cave Spring (Va.) Invitational for placing 3rd in their coaches’ tournament. I was beaten by Raleigh Charter’s then-coach Eric Grunden. No matter who was competing, Robinson struggled with that school.
– Six or seven AP U.S. History test preparation books. I’ll keep them for the content, but by the time I’m teaching APUSH again, the test prep part will be obsolete.
– A bunch of museum maps, brochures, and tickets from the trip Jess and I took to Washington, D.C. in 2010, during which I proposed. Jess wanted all of that stuff for a scrapbook. I worried that I had thrown all of it away by accident, but it looks like it was just packed in the wrong box.
While those things were all fun and neat to find, one last artifact served to reinforce my decision to return to teaching. First, the back-story: In 2009 I had a student in U.S. History (non-honors) who was struggling mightily. He generally did his work but it didn’t always appear to be well thought out, and he struggled mightily on tests. During his senior year, he signed up for APUSH. I’ve always said that I’ll happily teach up any student who decides to take my class, but I have always felt obligated to make them fully aware of the rigor and fast pace of the course, and gently suggest that it may not be for them. After that little talk, most of the students I had doubts about would run for the hills, but this student didn’t.
So he stayed in the course, and I had never been more impressed with a student’s work ethic. Compared to most of his classmates on paper, he had no business being there. But he worked his tail off all semester, participated in discussions, did all of his homework, and thoroughly enjoyed himself (always a goal I had for my students). He got a very hard-earned, well-deserved B-minus in the course, and even though he didn’t get college credit from the exam (he got a ‘2’), he outperformed my initial expectations. I still keep up with him from time to time; he’s gone on to college and is doing well.
Anyway, as I was going through one of my boxes marked “CLASSROOM,” I found a thank-you card that was given to me by this kid and his mother at the end of the school year. They were thanking me for pushing him to be a better student and helping him succeed in a difficult course.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I’m going back into teaching. Working in athletics could be fun at times (and awful at others, to be fair), but I could never shake the feeling that I wasn’t effecting change and making a difference the way I was when I was teaching. Teaching the super-smart, super-talented students is really fun, but helping more marginal students to reach the next level is just as rewarding.