It was a few days after the school year had ended and I was in my classroom. I was working on finishing up my preparation for the first few weeks of the upcoming school year and gathering materials and resources for summer school when I noticed it. At first I thought, “oh I don’t want to have to purchase another cart,” which flew to the thought of “now I have to take everything out already packed in it,” which moved me to think of what that cart had been through over the past ten years. I distinctly remember buying the cart the summer of 2008 fresh after completing my teacher certification and masters program. During student teaching, this was the it item to have. Think of the time…pre Thirty-One bags, no teacher laptops, or teacher Instagrams to follow. I thought if I had this cart it would solve all my needs as a first-year teacher…including grading?! In many cases, it did save me and my back as I would lug items back and forth to school. I would fill it on the weekends with a pile of laminated items and bring it back on Monday with freshly cut decor or student work to post up. I used it to take home the teacher’s manuals for Reading and Math, reviewing the notes of the next day’s lesson each night. I used the cart consistently my first year and I stopped using it. In April of my first year teaching, I was RIF’d, part of the Reduction in Force that occurred all over Arizona in the Spring of 2009. I was told that I would be reconsidered for jobs as the district sorted out what the budget would look like and what positions would stay and go. I used the cart to pack up items every day in May before the final cleanout of my room after the last day of school. I then used it to cart in materials to teach Title 1 Math Summer School, the first year my district office offered it, but when summer school ended I packed up the cart and all of my teaching supplies, took a new job at Arizona State University and spent the next few years there. I didn’t pick up that cart until I decided to go back to the K-12 setting because my provisional certificate needed another year of teaching on it. This time the cart was used to go back and forth to two schools, as I split my time teaching English Language Learners in a small group, pull-out setting. The following year I was back at the school I student taught at, the school I knew when I student taught at I wanted to stay at. I was fortunate enough to have a group of 35 4th graders that year and I used the cart less and my teacher bag more. Over time that cart has seen me go to 5th grade, my favorite and current grade and it has seen me teach math summer school each summer.
As I was throwing away the cart this June (I fixed it only to have it last a few more weeks into summer school) I reflected upon how I have changed as a teacher. In my time as a teacher, I have seen the state assessment change, a change to the Common Core, and now to the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards. I have seen myself adjust more readily with my students and how they are learning during a lesson. I have gotten at building relationships and community with my student. I have learned that my voice as a teacher extends beyond my classroom walls and I have learned to advocate for my students more effectively. Since the time that I have used that little cart has passed, I have had the privilege of teaching hundreds of students. As I reflect upon all of that I look forward to continuing what works well for my students but also being ready to adapt to their needs as I learn about this new group of scholars in my room. At my school’s Back to School Pool Party, I spoke with a parent who complimented me by saying that she could see my class was a well-oiled machine. I appreciated the praise in that statement, it made me reflect more on how I continue to grow year after year as a teacher, but also how I am not yet done. Like my students, I have new goals for this year on where I want to improve and I am sure that along the way my students will expose other areas I need to continue to grow.
As you walk into this new school year what are you reflecting on? What are some of your goals?