Monday, December 17, 2012

Moving On

I am sure that this was a very difficult day for all of you who are still in school. I spent the weekend with family and friends full of hugs and tears. This tragedy opened up some terrible memories for me at my Elementary School in Anchorage , Alaska. On May 7, 2001 a deranged man carrying a knife slashed the throats of 4 boys, 3 on the playground before 8:30 am and then entered our building and stood 4 feet from me trying to get into the room across the hall. I managed to get my door locked as he headed to the class next to mine and attacked one more boy. Miraculously they all survived because of the heroism of teachers and we started the healing process.

I would like to share my thoughts about lessons learned from my experience. There were many teachers at my  school who didn't know how to connect with their students. They didn't know anything about their students lives outside the classroom. Their focus was on how to get them to be proficient on State Benchmark Tests. In this time of High Stakes Testing and the pressure of making AYP teachers sometimes need to be reminded that we can only do so much with the students we are given each fall. When I began teaching in Alaska someone told me to have a vision of what I wanted my classroom to be. I wanted my classroom to be like a family where there was love, kindness and respect for each other. I wanted my students to feel safe and not be afraid to take risks for fear that someone would make fun of them. I wanted them to know that they could never fail as long as they tried their best. Every success was celebrated and for many they were baby steps.I worked  in a Title I school with limited English learners where we had failed to make AYP 4 years in a row. When the bell rang I closed my door and embraced my students and started from where they were academically and scaffold their learning in order to get them to where they needed to be. I took time to listen to their stories and connect with them. I set aside my lunch time a few days a week so they could come and have lunch with me or get extra help. They blossomed and achieved far beyond what I thought was possible.

There is no getting around teaching standards and high stakes tests but don't lose sight of why you became a teacher and your love for your students. Make learning fun and exciting. Make connections by getting to know them. Don't be afraid to let them know that you are human, too. Find ways to make all of them succeed. Try not to listen to all the negative people around you - focus on the positive. Make sure they leave each day with kind words.

Thank you for letting me share my experience with you. It has been very healing for me and I'm ready to move on. Thanks for all you do to make a difference for your students.




12 comments:

  1. Arlene, I can't imagine going through all that your students and teachers went through...talk about PSTD. Today was a hard day for a bit, and then we got back into the groove of the day and things went as planned. God made us all to be survivors...and there is the saying that God won't give us more than we can handle. Hugs to you!

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    1. Thanks so much Jennifer. I also believe that God doesn't give us more than we can handle and someone we find an inner strength to find more meaning in our lives.
      Arlene

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  2. This is an amazing story, Arlene. Thank you for sharing it with us.

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    1. Thanks Kristin. I hope it will help others.
      Arlene

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  3. HUGS!! That's about all I can say after reading that!! LOVE YOU!

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    1. Thanks DeAnne. You are such a special friend.
      Arlene

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  4. Arlene,
    Wow - a very moving story! Today must've been twice as hard for you as it brought up painful memories from the past. Thank you for reminding all of us what is truly important.
    Diane

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    1. Thanks so much Diane. I'm retired now but I thought about all of the teachers who returned and those in Alaska who were with me on that horrific day.
      Arlene

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  5. I can't imagine how awful that must have been for you and your school. These are good reminders for all of us. Connections are so important! Thank you for sharing your experiences.

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    1. Thank s so much Michelle. You are such a wonderful friend.
      Arlene

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  6. What a great post! Thanks for reminding us of what is really important!
    Susan in NC
    susanlulu@yahoo.com

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