Unlike my fellow Reality 101 bloggers, who have been on summer vacation for a couple weeks now, I am just starting my first week. The last couple of weeks for school seemed to get longer and longer. I have never felt so burnt out from teaching before. I think that the stress and climate of the year seemed to have really caught up with me. Even being tired and ready for the year to be over, I still managed to get in a couple really cool projects and activities at the end of the year.
A new end of the project I did this year was a novel unit called, “Not My Disability, But My Abilities.” My students and I read different novels about people with disabilities. They loved The Acorn People by Ron Jones, Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick, and My Name is Brain Brian by Jeanne Betancourt. We read, discussed, and kept a reading journal. My students told everyone they saw that we were reading novels, and that the novels were really cool.
As a culminating project, my students got the opportunity to write their own stories about their abilities. I took their pages and bound them into books. After everyone had finished we spent the morning having a book launch event. The students took turns reading their books and sharing how some things are hard for them. My quietest student who only talks about once a week, volunteered to read his story. He was one of the only students who didn’t need help or assistance from my teacher’s assistant when reading his story.
This unit really took on a life of its own. The students and I had wonderful conversations about what it’s like for someone with a disability. My students came to some realizations about their own abilities and really started to understand the importance of advocating for themselves.
We weren’t allowed to have end of the year parties this year, so to give my students something fun we had a book raffle. I turned the raffle into a review of the math concepts of probability. My students had all of the raffle tickets that they earned throughout the school year and we discussed how they should put their tickets in the raffles.
My students quickly realized if they wanted a particular book, they should put more tickets into that raffle. We had so much fun as I pulled the raffle tickets out for each book. In addition to having a math review, all of my students went home with four or five books to read this summer!
While the novel unit and book raffle were new end of the year activities I did this year, I have one tradition that I do with my students every year. On the last full day of school, I gather all of my students and read them “Forever Young” by Bob Dylan. It’s a fun way for me to share a bit of music that they have never been exposed to before with a great message. My students really enjoy the book’s rhythm and repetition. They especially like the fact that they are a part of something I’ve done with all of my students.
The last day of school this year was a little bittersweet for me; I said goodbye to my quirky bunch of fourth graders—both on my caseload and in my co-teaching class. I also had to say goodbye to the 4th grade team.
My principal informed me a couple weeks ago that I am being moved to the seventh/eighth grade self-contained classroom. I am both excited and nervous about my new teaching placement. It means that I’ll be moving classrooms again (this will be four classrooms in four years) and working with a new team. I am ready for the new challenge.