A Rock, A Piece of Mulch, & A Photo

Today’s a big day in Pinellas County. It’s our public school’s first day back.

I do not need to restate all of the obvious issues with this year’s return. Nor does it seem right to share all of our first week’s accomplishments.

Instead I’d like to share a message I shared with my students on the first day.

My cohort began virtually. Our first day together wasn’t really that. You see, I’ve had almost 70% of these students before two years ago. Since then they’ve still been a part of my everyday life. Even my new this year students and their families have been in contact with me for the past 4 months. We’ve had our in person orientation, the kids have been set up to communicate with their peers, and we’ve emailed enough that the traditional, “This is who I am,” message didn’t seem relevant.

Instead, I began sharing a few objects.

Handmade cards that some of those students wrote me at the end of our year two years ago.

Messages of gratitude from their families.

A rock that they helped me create when I took on the challenge to compete in a pitch competition and took 3rd place with most of them in the audience. A name badge from my trip that year to the Ron Clark Academy with our teachers for our professional development day that eventually led to the next trip where we would take 5 of our students that same year. A photo of some of them at the leadership conference that our students created that same year as a result of that trip. Then a piece of mulch that I took from the set of the Hallmark movie that we got to be a part of that same year.

As I pulled out each item, I could see the kids who were with me that year lips turn towards a smile as they remembered the memories. I could also see the new students eyes widen in an, “Are you serious?” type way.

It wasn’t meant to exclude the rookies from the memories, but to remind them at the beginning of that year, that I had NO IDEA that any of those things would even happen.

Opportunities presented themselves. We remained open to them. And we went for them.

The same rings true this year and every year.

We have no idea how this year will turn out. But if we remain open to it, I’m hopeful that there will be more beautiful memories that we can make together.

To the teachers out there who are being forced into a different situation. One that I am honestly nervous for, I hope you find your silver linings too. This is not ok. Teachers are never treated the way they should be and this is another glaring example. Know that there are people who are watching and rooting for you. Even in what seems like another impossible situation for you to rise to.

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