The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Veni Vidi Vici

Veni. August 17, 2011.  We came.

Vidi. For the next 280 days, we saw. We weren’t together every day, but we were still a group working together toward a common goal, even when we were apart. 280 days between August 17 and today. That is the equivalent of 9 months and 6 days. It can also be thought of as 40 weeks, 6,720 hours, 403, 200 minutes, or 24, 192, 000 seconds. (Thank you, timeanddate.com!) Of course, there were only 179 days of student attendance days (if my records are accurate). There were days that dragged and days that went by so quickly I could hardly believe it was the weekend. There were days of great success and days of not-so-great success. There were times that, quite honestly, we fell flat on our faces. But that happens in life, and we did what the greats do each time they fall: we got up and kept on going. We never gave up, we never surrendered. We faced our fears, we honed our strengths, we overcame our weaknesses. And we worked. Goodness, how we worked!

I told my students on the first day of school that I was going to make them worker harder, think longer, and stretch their minds further than they ever had before. I think this was an accurate summary of the year. We explored the depths of the oceans, we delved into the meaning of literacy, we pondered the great questions of life. While we were doing those things, we also had fun. We played quiz games, we challenged one another in epic battles of Connect Four, Chess, and Uno. We kicked back and relaxed as we read our books. We had a great time finding pictures on Storybird to inspire great tales of epic journeys. We discussed community engagement and how to make the world a better place. We comforted our classmates when they were confronted with the realities of mortality and we cheered for each other when we won writing contests, math competitions, Battle of the Books, soccer matches, and kickball. We got upset when others did not give their best, but we encouraged and bolstered rather than discourage and put down. We were, and are, a community of learners and a fourth grade family.

Vici. Today was our last day together as a fourth grade family. We won the race. We persevered and we did the hardest thing anybody ever has to do: we raced against ourselves and we won. We conquered.We are better than we were at the start. All of us have learned. We will go forward armed with knowledge and wisdom. In three months, I will see the boys and girls of room 31 as fifth graders. They will be in new classrooms, have new teachers, but they will still be my first fourth grade class. I will teach fourth grade again. I’ll have new students, too. We will come, we will see, we will conquer. We will learn and grow and then move on, never forgetting. But no class will ever be my first class again. Each class is special, each class is unique. Each class will learn to take ownership of their lives, their identity. What I do next year will be different from what I did this year.

In four years, I will see my students from the 2011-2012 school year graduate middle school and move on to high school. In eight years, I will see them finish their public education careers and move on to colleges, universities, and trade schools. I hope we will continue to keep in contact with one another. There is a passage from Educating Esmé: Diary Of A Teacher’s First Year that I have shared more than once, but I feel it bears repeating, albeit in a slightly modified manner:

People snicker, “Those who can’t do, teach.” But, oh, how right they are. I could never, ever do all I dream of doing. I could never, ever be an opera star, a baseball umpire, an earth scientist, an astronaut, a trapeze artist, a dancer, a baker, a buddha, or a thousand other aspirations I have had, while having only been given one thin ticket in this lottery of life! As I watch [my students], I overflow with the joyous greed of a rich man counting coins… I experience a teacher’s great euphoria, the knowledge like a drug that will keep me: [Twenty-six] children. [Twenty-six] chances. [Twenty-six] futures, our futures…. Everything they become, I also become.

It has been a good year. Actually, scratch that. It has been a great year! And now that it is over, it is time to take a break, relax, reflect, and then get back to work! I have an exciting summer planned, with lots of professional development opportunities and time to plan out the coming year. I won’t be posting every day, but I will be posting from time to time, so come back and see what’s new! If you don’t want to come back every day, follow me on Twitter (@alextvalencic) or subscribe to the blog. In addition to writing about what I am learning, I’ll be keeping a record of the books I will be reading this summer, both professional and just-for-fun books. (Of course, I think it is fun to read professional books…)

Finally, a few thank-yous:

To my principal: Thank you for interviewing me, hiring me, coaching me, and letting me learn and grow! And thank you for the books to read!
To my colleagues: Thank you for the support, the encouragement, the collaboration, the suggestions, and the willingness to listen to me blather on about geeky things. (This is especially true for my fellow Whovians and Browncoats!)
To my family and friends: Thank you for pushing me to keep pursuing my dream and thank you for asking me what it is I do and why I do it.
To the family and friends of my students: Thank you for trusting me with your children this year. Thank you for allowing me to spend seven hours a day, five days a week with your young scholars. And thank you for supporting me in my decisions and encouraging your boys and girls to listen to and trust me!
And last, but certainly not least, to my first class: Thank you for learning with me. Thank you for coming to school each day, ready to learn, and eager to work. Thank you for putting up with my geekiness, my lame jokes, my steadfast refusal to spell words or tell you what something means, and for showing the ability to learn how you learn so that you can learn without me telling you what to learn. Truly, you came, you saw, you conquered. You won the race and you earned the gold medals because you got up each time you fell!

The year is over, but the adventures in teaching fourth have just begun! Enjoy the summer! Read a book, play in the dirt, stare at the clouds!

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2 responses

  1. tntval

    congratulations to you and your students!

    May 23, 2012 at 7:03 pm

  2. What a sweet post! From your words I can understand you are wonderful teacher. Glad that the journey was a successful one. Glad to come across inspired, passionate teachers like you. All the best for the next academic year!

    June 15, 2012 at 8:46 am

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