It’s the end of the school year and it has been 3 months since I’ve had a chance to work on this danged blog. There has been so much going on lately with testing, assemblies, special projects, testing, report cards, SNAP, Mother’s Day, testing, PLCs, Field Day, observations, PGPs, testing, special programs, conferences, TCTs, testing, writing portfolios, ARCs, committee meetings, active shooter training, awards day, PD, mapping, cleaning, CPR training, packing up the room, and a smidge more testing. Teachers are pooped. Students are pooped. Administrators are pooped. The entire school staff is pooped. The bus drivers are pooped. We’re all pooped. But our poopedness is required—comes with the territory. It’s expected of all of us. School employees get paid to be pooped. Students don’t get paid, but they do get to become brainier.
Who is just as pooped as all of the above, but receives absolutely no compensation for all their hard schoolwork? They are offered no salary as employees, nor do they acquire any newly connected brain synapses as students. Anyone who has ever been in a healthy and functional school community knows who I’m talking about—it’s the dedicated family members of our PTSO (aka, PTA, PTO, PTSA, etc. in other necks of other woods). We could never do all that we do without them doing all that they do. In my experience, I’ve witnessed dads, grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. volunteering to help out with school projects and activities. But, mostly, it’s a group of amazing MOMS who give and give and give. If you’ve never seen them in action, I can assure you that they are a sight to behold. Definitely, they are some of the most generous and giving people I’ve ever met, spending hour after hour, volunteering their time in our schools. There always seems to be a large handful of mothers who donate endless hours of their time to make sure that their children and all the others in the school have special learning and celebratory experiences. Whether they are full-time moms or not, SOMEHOW, they manage to fit us into their own hectic workdays.
Based on some conversations I’ve had with folks who aren’t in education, I’m pretty sure that some of you think the entire staff of a school arrives each morning with the students, leaves when the afternoon bell rings, hangs out in a teachers’ lounge at will, socializes on teacher work days, vacates the school right after the kids leave for the summer, and shows back up just before the first bell the day school resumes in August. Sounds wonderful, doesn't it? Yeah, sounds good to teachers too. Let us know if you find a school like that so we can all apply! That type of school could only exist if teachers had fairy godmothers who came in to do all of our work to plan, prepare teaching materials, assess learning, etc., etc., etc.
Still, though, regardless of the number of hours we spend at school or on schoolwork at home, there is never enough time to accomplish all that needs to be done. NEVER. So, fortunately for us and for our students, there are real-life fairy godmothers who step in to close some of the gaps at the school-wide level, making sure our learning communities are more effective and include some fun. Our PTSO moms plan and implement numerous special events each year; they decorate for holidays; purchase t-shirts for 500+; they organize picture day; create learning materials; make copies; they help out in the office when we're short-staffed; they cut, count, and submit the zillions of Box Tops we collect each year to earn more money for instructional purposes since our budgets are always being slashed; they organize fund-raising nights at local restaurants so we can have more money for classroom supplies; they manage Field Day stations; help out with the book fair; pop popcorn; serve popsicles; and much, much more. After a while, it begins to seem to me as if some of the PTSO moms are school employees because they put in so many hours right there with us and their kids. Their friendly faces are in the building nearly as much as our own. I'm extremely grateful for these families and absolutely in awe of them for their generosity. There is no way our schools can be successful without their support.
Also, at the classroom level, families help out by sending in extra supplies, donating additional field trip money for those who need it, sharing their culture, decorating classroom doors, creating bulletin boards, designing class pumpkins, chaperoning field trips, organizing classroom celebrations, sending in special treats, helping with holiday crafts, and on, and on, and on. I am so thankful for all this. There is no way I could manage all I must do without them.
I first started thinking about this blog post a few weeks ago, in the midst of Teacher Appreciation Week, which always occurs early in May. That week, the PTSO moms really pull out all the stops to thank the teachers and other staff who teach their kids. During past Teacher Appreciation Weeks, I have been gifted with an embarrassment of treats, flowers, massages, luncheons, breakfasts, gift cards, keepsakes, school spirit gifts, etc. Over the years, I have received so many thoughtful notes, treats, and gifts that I can’t begin to list them all here. Generous parents and students have absolutely spoiled me rotten and touched my heart with their kindness. I so appreciate everything they do and, often the gifts can make me a little emotional.
This is the second best Teacher Appreciation Week gift I have ever received: a used stuffed dog, dirty old ruler, used zipper pouch, empty Subway gift card, and a handful of weeds, all wrapped up in a plastic Food Lion bag and topped with a red Christmas bow. Somebody loves me enough to give me her treasures. She's been proudly carrying around that Subway card for a week (and I will carry it around for a lifetime).
This is my first best Teacher Appreciation gift ever. Remember when rubber band balls were popular, many years ago? I had a boy, then, who told me he was sorry that he didn't get me a gift when he saw so many other kids bringing in their generous gifts that week. Of course, I told him not to give it a second thought, that gifts were nice, but not necessary; his coming to school every day was the best gift I could receive. But, he was determined and, about 2-3 weeks later, he presented me with this medium-sized rock, covered in rubber bands he had been scrounging up, and it took him that long to get enough. Today, the bands are dry rotting, so I need to put it in a plastic bag, but I will always have that rubber band rock in my desk, wherever I go. He was only with us for a few short months, but I'll never forget that boy. So darned sweet
By the end of the year that I received the bag of gifts from the little girl, I managed to get the stuffed dog back to her, as I knew it was special, because she brought it in earlier for Stuffed Animal Day. I told her that the custodians would be cleaning the floors of my classroom over the summer and that they would be carrying all my stuff out into the hall. Since I didn’t want anything to happen to the dog, I needed her to keep it safe. That worked and she seemed happy to get it back.
Today, even though I’ve changed schools, I still have the Subway gift card and the rubber band rock. Both are in a cup from my old school, in an often used desk drawer, right in the front, so I see them every time I open it. Those gifts are constant little reminders of the wonderful years I spent with students and coworkers who will always be precious to me. I’m afraid to touch the rubber band rock too much, because, every time I do, the dry-rotted bands break a little more. I guess I’ll keep it until there’s nothing left but the rock.
For Teacher Appreciation Week, yesterday was designated as a day to gift teachers with fruit. One student handed me a lovely little carton of deliciously ripe strawberries. In the afternoon, as he was leaving, he asked, "Hey, Mizz Ellis, you gonna let Mr. Ellis and Rachel eat summa dem strawberries?" Jokingly, I replied, "Maybe . . . but, only if they’re nice to me." "Good," he said, "’cause I didn't buy 'em for dem."
For the most part, elementary age kids seem to love their teachers and are always showering us with gifts, all year long. Whether it be freshly picked dandelions from the playground, crunchy leaves snatched up from the sidewalk on the way in from the bus, art projects, classroom supplies, gift cards, lotions, flowers, newly dropped pine cones, homemade treats, apples, or sweet notes, students are always so proud to present their teachers with gifts. Every year, my desk area includes spots designated for a delightful plethora of artwork and notes.
One of the perks of teaching is an endless supply of wonderful art . . . and the artists usually make me thin! Crayons are a wonderful weight loss secret!
A few mornings each week, a couple of sweet girls gift me with simple art projects. Usually, I get drawings, coloring pages, or construction paper shaped into all kinds of interesting things. They work together to create all these projects during the time they spend in our Early Arrival Program, before school. Of course, I keep them all neatly tucked in a bin by my desk and won't throw them out until the end of the year. But, yesterday, they each proudly handed me an armful of torn pieces of construction paper and told me it was their new "Scrap Art." After praising their creativity and admiring that trash for what seemed like an appropriate amount of time, I had to break it to them that "Scrap Art" is a little too voluminous to be a keeper.
Feeling good about yourself? Ask a kid to draw a picture of you.
Special gift I received today—a whole stack of Pokemon cards. The one on top is "Legendary." Of course, I'll leave them on my desk until he NEEDS them again. Update: He needed them back after a couple of weeks.
Whenever I momentarily begin to think that, maybe, perhaps, another career would be less stressful than teaching, I remember that I wouldn't get sweet surprises like this everyday.
Of course, it was too good to be true. There are a few kids who don't actually think I look like Twiggy with a perfect Marlo Thomas flip.
This week, he took back the ripped up Minecraft toys he gave me, along with his Rubik’s cube. I got a couple of extra days out of the latter, though, because I told him I was still playing with it. He must have forgotten about the rock he gave me with the eyeball painted on it—still on my bookshelf. Ha!
Thanks to my wonderfully generous students and our amazing PTSO for another great school year!