Going into the last month of school, I felt like a failure. All year long, I had been trying to juggle teaching my class of kindergartners, while at the same time dealing with an unusually challenging set of behaviors.
I had tried everything I could think of to reach one of my students, but the behaviors just kept escalating. Whether in whole group lessons, small groups or center time, each learning experience proved to be a challenge for this student.
The list of accommodations, strategies and interventions were documented and endless. I tried giving this student choices, timed breaks and visits to the principal for a fun activity but still, this child was not available for learning.
Over the course of the year, I had been kicked and had blocked thrown chairs, all the while doing what was necessary to keep my students safe while teaching. The best strategy seemed to be making sure my body was between the child and the rest of the class. Unfortunately, this resulted in a bruise or two for me.
Most days I went home feeling exhausted and defeated. I was worried about the learning of all my students and couldn’t help but wonder if I made a difference for any of them.
Throughout this very hard year, I was fortunate to have the support and guidance of a wonderful teaching team. My team made me laugh each day and gave me the strength to keep trying new approaches. They were there for me each and every day. If I didn’t have such a support system, the whole year could have gone quite differently.
Teachers Make a Difference in the Lives of Students and Families
On the last day of school, I was filled with many emotions. As my young students walked in, some bearing gifts, I just hoped that they had good memories of kindergarten.
The first card I opened made me cry. It read: “We are so grateful that L. had you as her kindergarten teacher. You have taught her so many things, and she just adores you, as do we! Thank you for helping her learn and grow. You are a great role model. She was so excited to go to school every day—what more could a parent ask?”
Another note said, “Thank you for everything you have done to help J. be the best he can be.” There were a few other notes, too. All of them said the same thing. There it was, staring me in the face: I had made a difference. I had done something right this year.
There were lots of hugs as we went through our last day together. And then I got a big surprise. That one child I thought I didn’t reach just came right up to me and said, “I will miss you.”
It left me thinking. Maybe on some level, I did connect. Maybe somewhere down the line things will click and school will be a little easier. Maybe next year that child will find more success, or maybe, just maybe, that child will remember me as someone positive.
We are always making a difference in the lives of our students and their parents, even when we feel we have failed. Stay positive, rely on co-workers and keep at it!
Photo by Jupiterimages, Canva-licensed.
Lisa Halloran teaches kindergarten at Mohegan Elementary School in Montville, Connecticut. She was awarded a 2016 Fund for Teachers Fellowship to study art in Paris as a means of enhancing oral language development in young children, including English Learners. A 31-year veteran teacher, Lisa earned her master’s degree in special education with a concentration in gifted and talented from the ...