Saturday, January 5, 2013

Open the Eyes of My Heart...

This past week, our community lost two 16 year olds at our high school. Both of these students attended my elementary school. I taught one of the students in 5th grade, and my best-teacher-friend taught the other. It has been a very hard week for us all. Since we are year-round, we have not yet returned to school (start on Monday), but the other schools have. All week I have been thinking (among a MILLION other thoughts) about how the friends of these students (my former students and all the other nameless-to-me students in our community) have been coping and how they can even begin to focus on school work and studying.

I went back and forth about whether or not to attend the funerals, but I finally made up my mind that I should certainly go. For an entire year, this child was in my care. He was part of a community, he brought us laughter, smiles, and friendship. I can still remember exactly how it sounded when my other students would call his name. His face, smile, and huge brown eyes will forever be present in my memories.

At the second funeral, as I waited outside the church for traffic to clear with my best-teacher-friend, I had the opportunity to say "I love you" and hug and catch up with a few of my former students. While I was telling them to "be smart" and "be safe" and playing mommy to them all, they were telling me how much they still remembered 5th grade and our classroom. They told me how they had been meaning to come back and visit, but how time just flew by. They told me that this week, they had found some comfort in pulling out the Spy Reports we had made and reading what this student had written to them. One said, "I hope we are friends forever." I find some comfort in knowing that every child in my class that year has a letter from him, and that his parents have a whole book of spy reports from his teacher and every classmate that will serve them as a reminder of the great things everyone thought and felt about their child. It's a snapshot of who he was in 5th grade, how much joy he brought to the class, and how much everyone loved him. Last night was the first night that I was more at peace.

Hearing about the spy reports and how those assignments had brought my living students comfort in a time of tragedy brought tears to my eyes and reminded me that these things we choose to squeeze in during our invisible time are so IMPORTANT. We say we might never know how we have made a difference in our students' lives and we probably shouldn't expect to hear from them all, but there are these moments in time (fleeting and intermittent) where we are reminded of the impact we have made.

We have to hold on to those moments when a kid or a parent actually tells us that we have made a difference, we have to hold them tight and not let go when the days get tough, when the paperwork piles up, when the test-test-test comes, and we have to let those moments DRIVE us.

Through a tragic event, I have had a HUGE reminder of this and I beg that the "eyes of my heart" are open-wide and do not ever shut again. I beg that I am not cynical when a parent or a child tells me I have mattered to them, but that I am able to let that touch me deeply, let myself cry, find a way to make those words stick and carry me through those tough days with my students, so that I can continue to give all to this profession that I have wanted for so long and plan to stay in for much longer.

As we always do, I had ambitious plans for next week. We have a huge writing and reading project to begin this week, a math test to review, and I always feel like 3rd quarter is the last push before the craziness of testing begins.

Some can say we should have divided a few more fractions or had more independent reading time, but I can't let it be said that this was a year that I should have spent more time on our classroom community and showing that we care about one another. No matter how much time passes, what friends we make later on, or how long it's been since we last saw one another, for one or two years we created the kind of family that when you see one another again, it feels like home, it feels like the old feels like not a moment has passed since we were all together sharing the same space, day in and day out.

So, next week, I will finally make the time to start Spy Reports with my current class. I have made my Spy Reports TPT file free. You can read about it here for more info in this old post or go straight to download it.

In honor of these two precious students, this file will be forever free in hopes that you or some other teacher that you pass it along to will use this idea to create a LIVING, WRITTEN record of your classroom community or be inspired to find other ways to ensure that your students have the opportunity to love one another and show appreciation for the memories they have made together. 

With love and prayers for all of us who carry students with us in our hearts and minds,



  1. I am crying as I type this comment. Thank you a million times for this post. I teach inner city and today was a tough day. I needed to read this. I needed to find you on THIS day. Thank you for sharing this tragedy and the lesson it brought to you. Thank you for reminding me of why I teach. Thank you.

    Teaching to Inspire in 5th

  2. Jennifer, this makes me so happy! I'm tearing up. I really hope this message continues to spread to other teachers. My kids are so easy to love, but I hadn't been taking the time to really enjoy them. Having students die was a REAL wake up call. I am so glad that this touched you and you took the time to share it.

    By the way, when I saw you were following my blog, I couldn't believe it. You are super-famous in my mind. We use your materials all the time in my classroom!



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