Wednesday, 14 December 2016

End of Term: Last Day with Students and Big-Time Reflection

Today was full of mixed emotions.

It felt good to be so proud of my students and the prizewinners. Felt good to observe another kaiako working with the same students I struggled with this year. Felt good reminding myself, through his teaching why I love having the honour to be in this role.

To be so instrumental and inspirational in my students' lives. To know the power I have to help guide and mold our future generations. To be the frontline in identifying issues and helping students to make the first steps in overcoming and managing their problems.

Today I read the reflections that I'd had both junior classes write this week. The same kind of things popped up: their love for choice and group work, their love for helping to guide the learning programme and their love for my caring nature and support. On the other hand: their frustration with my lack of discipline, the noise levels created by the disrupters in class and the lack of self-management on their part and their need for more guided and structured learning.

All things that I know and try to work on each year.

However, I read one of the last reflections and realised I should have read it earlier.

This student wrote something in the answer to the question - what will you be doing in five years time? And I didn't see it til today.

If I'd taken a mere moment between the moment he'd finished typing it and the moment when he was in his next class, choosing to do something incredibly stupid - I might have been able to potentially stop it. He's okay. But we, his teachers and his peers, his whanau and his support network are incredibly concerned for him.

I've also been thinking about the peaks and valleys that has been my year this year. Big highs, big lows. Finding it difficult to keep the energy high while being pulled under by the weight of the job. Finding it difficult to keep the passion flowing with continuous setbacks and issues keeping students motivated. Struggling to keep going in spite of the incredibly awesome stuff my students have done and achieved this year.

Today I contemplated opening the letter an old friend sent me from prison earlier this year. When he'd sent it, he'd sent it to school. I found it in my pigeonhole. It felt like an electric shock when I'd turned it over to see who the sender was. Chucking it back in my pigeonhole, grabbing the arm of the Principal's PA, as I led her away from it as if it was a bomb and explaining why I reacted that way.... I still don't think I'm ready to read it. In fact I had a dream a few nights ago where I literally told him I wasn't ready yet. My subconcious gets it. The psychological trauma of that event and the underlying issues continue to plague my thoughts.

Perhaps the thought of opening it today after getting myself down about the texts I'd taught this year with my students and the impact that could have had on his overall decision... perhaps if I'd read it there and then it would have been like ripping off a plaster. But to be honest, having dealt with the fact that I know what that old friend did and that he's in prison and that he'd sent me a letter... has been enough to seriously make me rethink my love for teaching.

But at the end of the day... I'm not like him. I never will be. I may still need to get some grief and trauma counselling to truly deal with it... seeing as it seems I'm finally ready to talk about it properly...rather than just through the blank faced shock that I was in at the end of last year and beginning of this year... but I know the boundaries.

My students are amazing. I'm their support at school and often the role model for many students. They care about me and I do my best to care about them. Unfortunately, the events of that old friend has really tarnished the way I interact and engage with my students. I have kept a larger distance this year and my students have noticed that I haven't been as happy or bubbly this year. Heck, I've noticed it.

I've been searching for something else this year. Something to make me feel like myself again. Conferences haven't helped really, I was sick and/or busy with other things on my mind to fully engage. I applied for three different jobs this year. Two of which I didn't get and the last I'm still waiting on.

I'm happy at Heights though. The staff I work with are all amazing in their own way. I have a strong support network that wraps around me when I need. But I have to remember to ask for help when I'm struggling, to help lighten the load or discuss what I'm feeling.

Our students are crazy incredible. Students would be awesome wherever, for sure. But at Heights, they're something special.

I gave out certificates and hand written post cards to each one of my junior students. I gave small thankyou presents to a select few who had truly pushed themselves this year.

In return, I recieved happy, thankful students. One class of which who spent the weekend desiging me a certificate, a board of thankyou notes, chocolates, gifts and thankyou smiles and hugs. My other class were kind of quietly blown away and all took their certificates home. Which  said something really powerful and respectful, particularly for those who need to put more effort into their learning next year.

I still have a handful to give out, post or drop off at people's homes. But I'm just thankful to have been part of these students' lives this year.

Whatever comes my way - I'm just thankful that I have people backing me, supporting me and helping to guide me further. I just must remember to look back and see them there pushing me forward. Because, as always I stand on the shoulders of giants and am proud to have come as far as I have. Thankful to those who have always been there for me and thankful to those yet to begin being part of my life.

Ngā mihi nunui ki a koutou katoa.